Alshon Jeffery receives PFWA honor

The extra effort put in last offseason paid dividends in 2013 for Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery, who on Friday was named Most Improved Player by the Pro Football Writers of America.

The honor comes on the heels of Jeffery making it to his first Pro Bowl, in addition to being named to the NFL Nation All-NFC North team.

A second-year pro, Jeffery has racked up 1,788 receiving yards over his first two NFL seasons, which ranks as third-most in franchise history for a receiver's first two years in the league. Jeffery produced two 200-yard receiving games in 2013 (Week 5 against New Orleans and Week 13 at Minnesota), making him one of just eight players in NFL history to put together two 200-yard receiving games in the same season; the feat has been accomplished just nine times.

“I’ve said it all year that what we’ve seen in games is what we’ve seen in shorts, in OTAs, and what we saw in training camp. You never really know -- you never really know until you put the pads on and you play in these highly competitive environments,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He’s given our football team balance. He’s given us a big-play threat. He’s given us another option for our quarterback, and takes some of the heat off of Brandon [Marshall], and he gets that single coverage a little bit more. He’s been a great teammate, consistent. If you’ve had a chance to get to know him in this time, you’d see how consistent his demeanor is. He’s not a flashy guy, you know, when he walks off the field. But on the field, he certainly flashes.”

A major component of Jeffery’s improvement in 2013 was his decision to spend the offseason working out with fellow Pro Bowl receiver Marshall in Florida. During Jeffery’s rookie season, he played just 10 games because of hand and knee injuries, which limited his production to 367 yards and three touchdowns on 24 receptions. Headed into last offseason, Marshall asked Jeffery to join the veteran receiver in training.

In addition to wanting to help Jeffery hone the finer points of his game, Marshall hoped to teach the young receiver how to take care of his body and prepare it for the rigors of a grueling 16-game season. With Marshall seeing so much extra coverage from opponents in 2013, an improved Jeffery was able to take advantage of more one-on-one situations.

In 2014, it could be Jeffery seeing the extra coverage. He’ll certainly be prepared for it, according to Marshall.

“Right after we cooled down a little bit in the locker room [after the season-ending loss to Green Bay], we huddled for a little bit and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to stick to what we know.’ That’s what got him here, as far as statistically this year, and we’re going to build off of that. It’s not done,” Marshall said. “It’s only his second year in the league, and what I always tell him is that what got him here is his humility and his hard work, and we’re going to continue that. No matter how much money you make, no matter how much they’re talking about you, you’re going to continue to work. Maybe another year or two down in South Florida with me, and then maybe he can go on and do his own thing. But he still needs at least another year with me, and then I don’t care where he works out, because he’ll have it all figured out.”