Jeffery/Marshall duo could prove deadly

The Chicago Bears passing attack, anemic for years now, was boosted mightily this offseason by the additions of wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

Pairing 6-3 rookie Alshon Jeffery with 6-4 veteran Brandon Marshall will give Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler a dangerous twin threat in the red zone.

Jeffery had 17 touchdown catches over his final two seasons at South Carolina.

"He can be an excellent pro in that area," Bears general manager Phil Emery said. "I've (scouted) few receivers that are as good in the red zone as this guy. There are few receivers that are as good along the boundary with a ball in flight in tight coverage, (or) that come up with a ball as often as he does. It's outstanding how soft his hands are."

Jeffery got knocked in the media for an alleged bad attitude last season when the Gamecocks went run-heavy on offense and his receptions plummeted from 88 to 49 and his yards from 1,517 to 762. But he explained it accurately.

"Our coaches and all of us as a team, we just wanted the best situation to win the game," Jeffery said. "We found that teams were going to double-, triple-team (me) and give us the run, so we were going to run the ball a lot more. We won (a school-record) 11 games, so it worked out for us."

Emery disputes the media criticisms of Jeffery's attitude last season.

"This is a very quiet young man, very centered," Emery said. "(But) he is very confident underneath all that quietness. When you challenge him and push him a little bit, which I did in our meeting about his weight, his answers come back strong. This guy does not lack athletic confidence. He knows he's good, which is a good thing.

"(But) he knows he has to work to continue to get better. The more you watch of his tape, the more you see the competitiveness. This is not a lazy guy. When he gets the ball in his hands, he's working to score. He doesn't give up. I don't see give-up in this guy in any area."

TE Evan Rodriguez
Rob Carr/Getty

--The Bears used their fourth-round pick (111th overall), to select undersized, athletic Evan Rodriguez, who could be the best pass-catching tight end on the roster, but he comes with character concerns.

The North Bergen, N.J. native is clearly a different style of tight end from incumbents Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth. The two veterans shared the job last season and were used mostly as in-line blockers, although five of Davis' catches went for touchdowns. Davis (267 pounds) and Spaeth (260) are both 6-7 and have the size to match up with defensive linemen.

Rodriguez is a natural pass-catcher with good body control and smooth movement skills to adjust to the ball in the air. But he is not a factor as an in-line blocker and is more of a finesse, H-back type or a move tight end who can hit a moving target as a blocker.

"We see Evan as a combination of a fullback and an 'F' tight end (lining up in the slot as a receiver)," Emery said. "We really felt that we had a defined need with system changes that (offensive coordinator Mike) Tice will bring in terms of having a vertical tight end, somebody that can challenge the inside of the defensive structure of our opponent.

"We also were looking for somebody to be that move tight end that could come up and lead (block) up on a linebacker in certain situations - a good enough player blocking, receiving and providing vertical stretch that he can stay in the game in all of our base formations."

Rodriguez, 22, has had off-the-field issues. In 2007, at West Virginia, he had a felony assault charge reduced to misdemeanor disturbance and trespassing charges after an alleged physical altercation with a female residence hall advisor. After transferring to Temple he was arrested for disorderly conduct in April 2009.

"That is precisely why we brought him in (to Halas Hall for a pre-draft visit)," Emery said. "Everybody in this building has spent quality time on him."

--The Bears will play third-round pick Brandon Hardin at strong safety, which will necessitate a position switch from cornerback, but they believe his physical traits project well to the new spot.

"It's concerning that we're moving him into a projection area," Emery said. "(But it's) not a concern because of his physical nature, his toughness. He will strike you. He's not afraid of contact.

"Sometimes you worry a little bit about that with corners. They're kind of skill/finesse guys. What kind of tackler will they be if you move them to safety? I have no worry about this guy. He will come down in the box and strike people."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We feel that Alshon (Jeffery) has the best hands in the draft. We feel he is the best at adjusting to the ball. We feel he is the best sideline and end-zone catcher in the draft. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He is a big man, he's strong, he's tough, he doesn't go down without a fight. He is a good route runner for the routes that they put him in." -- Bears general manager Phil Emery on second-round pick (45th overall) Alshon Jeffery.

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