Bears’ Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White wow each other
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Clues about Adam Gase’s new scheme have slipped out this spring like a running back on a screen pass. Some Bears players have characterized their new offense as fast-paced. Gase, too, has vowed to give Jay Cutler some of the same line-of-scrimmage control as he did for the greatest audible-caller in the game’s history, Peyton Manning, last year.
Press Alshon Jeffery about how it’s different from Marc Trestman’s attack, and the Pro Bowl wide receiver’s eyes twinkle.
“I gotta save that,” he said Wednesday. “It’s a secret.”
Is it up-tempo?
“We’re going to see,” he said, smiling. “We’re going to see.”
One thing is for sure: however the new offensive coordinator manipulates his Xs and Os, the goal will be to get the ball into the hands of the team’s two dynamic receivers, Jeffery and first-round draft pick Kevin White.
The Bears have other options, sure. Matt Forte — who last year caught more passes than any running back, ever — is the final season of his contract. Tight end Martellus Bennett is sitting at home while he asks the team to rewrite the two years left on his.
Eddie Royal, a free agent signee from the Chargers, can fill the slot role better than any player who ever lined up for Trestman.
But none provide the same dynamic receiving threat as Jeffery — or, if OTAs have been any indication, White. In only six weeks as teammates, the two have developed a sincere admiration for each other.
“He’s a great player,” Jeffery said, rare praise for a rookie. “He’s an explosive player. We can’t wait for the season. What he’s going to do on the field is going to be great.”
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Demaryius Thomas has been to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three years and just posted the best season of his life, catching 111 balls for 1,619 yards. John Fox inherited the two-time first-team All-Pro in Denver, the same way he has Jeffery.
“I’m not big on comparisons, other than, (Jeffery) is talented, he’s proved that he is worthy of making plays in this league,” the Bears’ first-year coach said. “What I’ve seen so far in this offseason, is that.”
Ironically, it’s the Bears’ rookie, not the fourth-year Jeffery, who has kept his eye on Thomas. He lists the Broncos receiver alongside the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald and Falcons’ Julio Jones as players he tries to mimic.
“I’ve got a long ways to go to get like that,” White said.
Thomas is staying away from the Broncos’ facility, angling for a new contract. Jeffery could be doing the same — his rookie deal expires after this year — but he and Forte have made it a point to attend the Bears’ OTAs.
His new bosses are appreciative.
“He’s very gifted, no doubt,” Fox said. “He’s got a great catch radius. He’s got a good knack for the game. I think the thing that probably I didn’t know before getting here was how hard he works at it. He’s done everything we’ve asked. He’s had a tremendous offseason thus far.”
After catching 85 passes for 1,113 yards last year, Jeffery used the winter to redouble his workout efforts.
“I just feel like I’ve just gotta be more conditioned,” he said. “A lot more running.”
The new scheme, he said, is built to maximize his skills. Last year’s passing attack turned stale quickly, finishing fourth from the bottom of the league with a 6.6 yards-per-attempt average. Gase’s Broncos, led by Manning, were fifth overall, with 7.9.
Though he’s guarded about the details, Jeffery predicts the Bears have upgraded.
“I love the way the offense is,” Jeffery said. “I think the sky’s the limit for it.”
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Fox can’t remember a single receiver he’s coached — White included — that lined up with the starters from the first day of practice. Defensive monster Julius Peppers did with the Panthers, but that was a rare case.
“I’m a lot more comfortable now,” White said. “Day 1, everything was happening a lot faster. It’s slowing down just a bit now.”
Saying he’s harder on himself than anyone else would be — “I don’t want anyone to beat me up twice,” he said — White is improving simply by playing against better cornerbacks than the ones that tried to cover him last season at West Virginia, when he caught 109 passes for 1,447 yards.
White wishes comfort would come faster, but knows that it’s only June.
“You don’t really want to rush it too much,” he said. “There’s a lot on me right now. It’ll happen, slowly but surely. It’ll all come together.”
Jeffery, who shares an agent with the rookie, has helped him adjust.
“He made a lot of plays in college,” Jeffery said. “We look forward to him doing the same thing here — make plays, stretch the field, do what he does best. …
“He’s a pretty good player. It’s a process he’s learning right now. We’re just staying on top of him, coaching him up.”
The ultimate goal, White says, goes beyond any individual performance. Though if he and Jeffery shine, it stands to reason that victories will follow.
“Definitely lifting each other up,” White said. “We all take criticism in a good way, and we’re all trying to help each other.
“We just want to win some games.”
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