Eagles brace for prolific duo of Marshall, Jeffery

Eagles brace for prolific duo of Marshall, Jeffery

December 19, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Brandon Marshall (left) has 1,185 receiving yards and 10 TDs. Alshon Jeffery has 1,265 receiving yards and seven TDs. (USA Today Images)

They spent a week game-planning for Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, a week figuring out ways to defend Calvin Johnson, a week watching film of Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams.

The Eagles have spent several weeks this season drawing up blueprints to stop or slow down some of the NFL’s best receivers and wide receiver tandems.

But this week might require more homework than any of the prior ones, maybe the most preparation since their Week 4 showdown against the Broncos.

On Sunday night at the Linc on prime time, they’ve got Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, two Bears receivers who have already cracked the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Actually, they’ve already each gone over the 1,100-yard mark.

“Theres no better group of receivers to challenge yourself than those two guys that they can put out there in Marshall and Jeffery,” coach Chip Kelly said.

The Bears have weapons all over the field, including dual-threat halfback Matt Forte, arguably the game’s most underrated player, and athletic tight end Martellus Bennett.

But the key components of their fifth-ranked passing attack are Marshall and Jeffery, twin towers who are each at least 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds. Marshall, a four-time Pro Bowler, is 6-4, 230.

Marshall already has his seventh straight season of 1,000 yards and his second straight double-digit touchdown year. Only Reggie Wayne, who entered the season with eight straight 1,000-yard seasons, has more consecutive 1,000-yard seasons than Marshall.

Jeffery, a second-round pick last year, caught just 24 balls for 367 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. This year, his 1,275 yards rank seventh in the NFL.

Together, they’ve combined for 2,420 yards and 17 touchdowns. That’s just 283 yards fewer than the entire 49ers offense and more receiving touchdowns than six other NFL teams, including the Giants.

Scary numbers for an Eagles secondary that just got smoked by Greg Jennings (11 for 163) and allowed six pass plays of at least 22 yards, four of which were at least 31 yards.

“Chicago might be one of the most talented offenses we face,” defensive coordinator BIlly Davis said. “Big, physical, Pro Bowl receivers, two of them.”

Only Marshall has made the Pro Bowl, but Jeffery is on his way. He’s racking up yards at a torrid pace this month, with 22 receptions for 405 yards and four touchdowns. He has TDs in each of his past three games, including an 80-yarder in a 12-catch, 249-yard effort against the Vikings.

“He makes those highlight-reel catches,” safety Nate Allen said, “and he’s been making them the past few weeks.”

Jeffery’s 1,265 yards ranks 21st among second-year receivers all-time. His 405 yards are third-most in NFL history for a second-year wideout in Games 13-15.

“Alshon Jeffery is showing that,” right cornerback Cary Williams said. “He’s having a maturation season. He believes he can go out there and do it and he can be dominant. Now that he’s got it, he’s showing his capability off.”

Most receivers rely on speed and separation to stretch the field and move the chains. These guys aren’t outracing any world-class sprinters, but they don’t have to be. They use their length and athleticism to fight off defensive backs.

“The main thing is they compete for the football,” Allen said. “When the ball goes up they’re going after it, and they’re strong guys. They’re big, strong guys and they come down with it most of the time.”

During their five-game win streak, the Eagles faced three of the top 12 receivers -- Jordy Nelson, Pierre Garcon and Calvin Johnson -- and didn’t allow a touchdown to any of them.

“Yeah, but they’re different [from Marshall and Jeffery],” Allen said. “All of them are a different style of receiver and do their own certain things well. It’s a good benefit we’ve already seen the elite guys, and they’ve got got good receivers, so it’ll be a challenge.”