Read Options: Marquess Wilson is filling Alshon Jeffery’s void
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Adam L. Jahns’ “Read Options” column appears in Chicago Football Weekly, which is available Thursday or Friday in the Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Herald, Rockford Register Star, Northwest Herald, Kankakee Daily Journal, Peoria Journal Star and on ChicagoFootball.com.
Who needs Alshon Jeffery? OK, that’s a bit strong. But even though the Bears do miss his talents, they’ve won two games in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion without him.
And one reason is the emergence of Marquess Wilson.
The third-year receiver had 12 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown in the Bears’ wins over the Chiefs and Raiders. The timing of Wilson’s production also is noteworthy. He had two catches during the Bears’ game-winning drive against the Raiders and hauled in a beautiful 22-yard touchdown catch in the final minutes against the Chiefs.
Quarterback Jay Cutler always has had a belief in Wilson, a standout during the past two training camps. But now, there is a hard-earned trust. Cutler admitted that there’s a need to be hard on Wilson, whose maturity was a question mark when he was drafted in the seventh round out of Washington State in 2013.
“He’s growing up, and he kind of has to grow up,” Cutler said. “He doesn’t have a choice.
“I’m kind of hard on him during the week. Saturday we kind of love on him a little bit to get him ready for Sunday.”
The Bears need Wilson to continue what he’s doing. Jeffery’s hamstring injury is problematic and Eddie Royal is working his way back after getting his ankle twisted against the Raiders.
Coach John Fox said he sees an improvement in Wilson’s swagger since the win over the Raiders.
“That wasn’t really a line when I was growing up; I’ve kind of learned that word,” Fox said. “But you can see that confidence, that swagger, just that belief in themselves. That’s contagious.”
It will be interesting to see if Wilson’s emergence affects Jeffery’s long-term future with the Bears, especially if Jeffery misses more time. Kevin White isn’t going anywhere, and Royal is signed through 2017.
For the past two weeks, Wilson has been the Bears’ No. 1 receiver.
“We’re all receivers,” Wilson said. “I’m not going to take anything away from my guy [Jeffery]. We’re expected to make those plays. I don’t think they were his spectacular catches. They were just catches.”
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General manager Ryan Pace’s offseason continues to look good, especially for a defense that now ranks fourth in total yards.
Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee’s impact on and off the field has been exceptional. But the strong play of end Jarvis Jenkins, outside linebacker Sam Acho and cornerback Tracy Porter — three one-year signings — also is worth mentioning.
Lineman Eddie Goldman and safety Adrian Amos, two draft picks, also continue to improve and play well.
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Kyle Long’s ability to learn and improve on the fly may be his biggest asset in his move to right tackle. He was considerably better against Chiefs rusher Justin Houston than he was against the Raiders’ Khalil Mack a week earlier.
As they say, he passed the eye test.
Press-box statisticians had Mack down for one sack, four tackles, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit. Houston was credited with just two tackles.
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