The only big worry I came out of the Bears' 41-3 victory over the Jaguars with yesterday, was the health of rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery exited the game (and did not return) after injuring his right hand while making a touchdown reception (if you're going to get hurt, that's the way to do it) in the third quarter.
Well, it turns out that the hand is fractured, as feared:
Bears rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery will not require surgery to repair a fracture in his right hand but is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks, according to a league source.Source: Chicago Sun-Times
So, that sucks. Jeffery had turned into the No. 2 wide receiver opposite Brandon Marshall, and obviously the rookie was only going to improve with more playing time. On the year, Jeffery has 14 catches, 184 receiving yards, and two touchdowns.
The good news is of course that the Bears are on their bye week, and don't play again until Monday night of week six against the Lions at Soldier Field.
Let's assume that Jeffery is out 4-6 weeks. Here's the games he could possibly miss:
vs. Detroit Lions (Monday night, October 22)
vs. Carolina Panthers (Sunday, October 28)
at Tennessee Titans (Sunday, November 4)
vs. Houston Texans (Sunday night, November 11)
at San Francisco 49ers (Monday night, November 19)
The Lions, Panthers, and Titans are a combined 3-12. They're all teams that the Bears should beat, regardless of whether or not Jeffery is playing.
However, the Bears could really use Jeffery against the Texans and 49ers, who are arguably the top two teams in the NFL right now. So let's hope he can return for those games.
The Bears expect to have Earl Bennett and Evan Rodriguez back for the Lions game, and certainly Bennett's return is key with Jeffery out.
Hester will surely start in place of Jeffery and see an increase in snaps (which could mean more Eric Weems in the return game), with Bennett and in the slot (and he could move outside more than usual, too).
Expect Sanzenbacher to continue to be active on gameday, and remember Weems is a wide receiver as well. So, with Marshall, Hester, Bennett, Sanzenbacher, and Weems, the Bears have five capable receivers. And they can also do things like spread Forte out wide while using Bush at running back, use more of the tight ends in the passing game, etc.
I keep seeing people suggest that the Bears sign a free agent wide receiver, but I personally don't see anybody out there that's worth signing for a few weeks, as long as Bennett is healthy (see a list of Rotoworld's top available free agents for yourself).
Keep in mind, the 2011 Cutler-led Bears went 7-3 with this receiving corps: Roy Williams, Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, and Dane Sanzenbacher (and also keep in mind that the tight ends rarely saw the ball in Mike Martz's offense). Brandon Marshall alone still makes the Jeffery-less group a much more dangerous one.
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