Happy in Philly, Alshon Jeffery downplays facing former team

By Rob Maaddi - AP Pro Football Writer | November 26th, 2017 7:57 am

PHILADELPHIA — Alshon Jeffery guaranteed his team would win the Super Bowl after the Chicago Bears finished 3-13 last season.

“I never said a team, though,” Jeffery explained with a smile.

His bold prediction still could come true because the standout receiver left the Bears to join the Philadelphia Eagles on a one-year contract in free agency. The Eagles (9-1) have the best record in the NFL while the Bears (3-7) are headed nowhere again.

The teams meet Sunday in Philadelphia.

“Winning championships is most important to me,” Jeffery said. “A lot of players make a lot of money, but some of them never make the playoffs.”

Jeffery had two excellent seasons and went to one Pro Bowl during five years in Chicago. But he never played a meaningful game in January.

The Eagles have a big lead in the NFC East with six games left so Jeffery should get his first taste of the playoffs, barring injury or a monumental collapse.

When he arrived in Philadelphia in March, Jeffery said he believed quarterback Carson Wentz had MVP potential. Wentz leads the NFL with 25 touchdown passes and is the front-runner for the award.

“He’s a great leader on and off the field,” Jeffery said.

Jeffery isn’t much of a trash-talker so he downplayed facing his former team for the first time.

“Obviously, I still have friends over there,” he said. “I’ve just been focused on what we’ve got going over here.”

Jeffery hasn’t been the focal point of the offense in Philadelphia because the Eagles have a lot of depth and use all their players. He’s first in targets (80) and yards receiving (567) and tied for first with six touchdowns .

“Totally unselfish, hard worker,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “You just know these things take time, the chemistry, the opportunities, and so the confidence level grows. He’s made some huge plays, and that’s why he’s here.”

Here’s some things to watch for when the Bears visit the Eagles:

Two-headed monster

The Eagles are first against the run and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. Chicago’s Jordan Howard leads the NFC with 841 yards rushing and rookie Tarik Cohen has 273 yards on the ground with a team-best 33 catches. Sometimes they line up together in the backfield, causing problems for opponents.

“It spreads you a little bit thin,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “You have to be very assignment sound. It’ll test us in the run game.”

Four-headed monster

While the Bears have a dual threat in the backfield, the Eagles use four running backs. Jay Ajayi has 168 yards rushing in two games since joining Philadelphia. LeGarrette Blount leads the team in yards rushing with 561. Rookie Corey Clement is tied for first with six TDs. Kenjon Barner was also involved last week. He scored the first TD in a rout at Dallas.

The next Wentz

Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in 2016, is having a breakout season. The Bears hope rookie Mitchell Trubisky, the second overall pick this year, can follow the same path. Trubisky has completed 53.1 percent of his passes for 988 yards, four TDs and two interceptions in six starts.

“We saw incremental growth with Carson last year, and I think some of these teams are seeing the same thing with their young quarterbacks, especially this one this weekend,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “He’s a talented guy that you can’t fall asleep on him because he can hurt you with his legs, too.”

The kickers

The Bears signed former Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos and released Connor Barth. Santos is 89 for 105 on field goals (84.8 percent) and 6 for 6 in three playoff games. Santos made all three field goals and all 12 extra points for the Chiefs this season before he was injured in Week 3.

“The reason he was available was due to injury,” Bears coach John Fox said. “We were fortunate that he was available.”

Eagles kicker Jake Elliott suffered a concussion last week, forcing the team to go for 2-pointers after touchdowns. Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill kicked off . If Elliott isn’t ready, Caleb Sturgis is eligible to come off injured reserve.

Road woes

Chicago was 0-8 on the road last season and is 1-3 this season. The Eagles have won seven straight home games, including a 5-0 mark this season.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) faces off against his old team, the Chicago Bears, Sunday in Philadelphia.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/web1_Alshon.jpgPhiladelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) faces off against his old team, the Chicago Bears, Sunday in Philadelphia. Michael Ainsworth | AP file photo

By Rob Maaddi

AP Pro Football Writer


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