The Chicago Bears are trying to contend for a Super Bowl championship in 2012 and in order for that to happen they need a boost to their offense. That offense needs to be efficient and balanced and needs multiple receiving threats in the passing game.
Those factors weigh in heavily as to why rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is the most important Bears draft pick in recent memory.
With apologies to Shea McClellin and regardless of his development, Jeffery has the most pressure on him to come in and produce right away. McClellin has struggled early to find his footing, but he has improved during the second week of camp. Fortunately for McClellin there are two solid veteran starters ahead of him who can be counted on, and Corey Wootton and Chauncey Davis can be counted on primary backups while McClellin develops.
Jeffery is not afforded any such luxury with the veterans ahead of him in Devin Hester and Earl Bennett. While Bennett is a solid receiver who makes a lot of tough catches and is a consistent player, Bennett is nothing special.
Bennett may never be anything special because of his limited play making ability. He has good hands and can run tough routes, but he's not going to be the play maker on the other side of Marshall that can off set the coverage that will be rolled Marshall's way.
Bennett is a slot receiver, PERIOD. Jeffery has to be that outside receiver on the other side of Marshall that can be that play making threat. While Bears fans have been rightfully concerned about the Bears having a number one receiver, in today's NFL it's already been proven that there's a need for a second receiver who plays at the same level as a number one.
Even a brief examination of NFL rosters confirms how important Jerfery is to the Bears chances this season.
Look at the Packers with Jennings Driver and now Jordy Nelson, look at the Cardinals who at first had Boldin then added Fitzgerald. The Cardinals now have added Michael Floyd to take heat off of Fitzgerald after trading Boldin. The Falcons traded up into the top half of the first round to add Julio Jones last year to off set the pressure on Roddy White. There's Nicks and Cruz with the Giants who helped bring a title to the NYC last year.
Jeffery must step up and contribute almost immediately, regardless of how well the coaching staff talks up Devin Hester. There are no more false illusions surrounding Hester's potential as an outside receiver and there shouldn't be.
Regardless of how everyone waxes on about how great Hester can be, the bottom line is Hester has been horrible with a few brief flashes of play making ability. Jeffery needs to take Hester's job much sooner rather than later.
The journey to supplant Hester as a Z receiver starts tonight against the Denver Broncos in the first preseason game. There is absolutely no excuse for Jeffery not to step up and be the starting receiver by week one against the Colts. He will have veteran NFL QBs throwing the ball to him each and every drive on the field.
Veterans' reps in preseason games are extremely limited and the level of competition Jeffery should be fellow rookies and players that may not even make the roster.
There has to be a major sense of urgency shown by this rookie and he needs to know just how important he is in the Bears offense. Winning the rookie of the year honors for Jeffery may be more hype than good, but Jeffery's production needs to be at that level.
Perhaps no other player in the NFL needs to come in and produce immediately like Jeffery is expected to. He needs to dominate this preseason, there is no reason for him not, to. That is the expectation, dominance-playing at a high level these next four weeks and taking hold of the starting spot and not relinquishing it for the next decade.