- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake brought about thoughts of Animal Planet on Sunday when assessing the potential of his position group.
“We’ve got two giraffes outside, and we’ve got some cheetahs inside,”
Drake said. “So I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited about this group because I think there’s an awful lot of talent. There’s an awful lot of potential, and it’s my job to make sure that potential comes out.”
The mix of stalwarts such as Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, and Johnny Knox -- if he’s able to return from his back injury -- could make that easier. Not to mention new additions Brandon Marshall and second-round pick Alshon Jeffery, who actually surprised the staff somewhat over the three-day rookie minicamp by showing “he’s a little bit better getting out of breaks” than the club anticipated, Drake said while adding that “I’ve been amazed how well he picks things up.”
Couple that with a new plan of attack for how they’ll deploy Hester in
2012, and it’s easy to see why the Bears think they could field one of their most talented and deep receiving corps in recent history.
Drake doesn’t anticipate Bennett and Hester being threatened by Jeffery’s presence.
“They don’t fear anybody. Why would they?” Drake said. “I promise you Devin’s not reading press clippings about Alshon Jeffery. Alshon Jeffery’s reading press clippings about Devin Hester. Devin Hester don’t give a crap. He’s gonna go out there and play. And I’ll say this about Devin Hester, and I’ve always said it: all we’ve got to do is use him and you’ll see what kind of player he is, period.”
In the past, the club didn’t sufficiently involve Hester -- arguably one of the league’s most dangerous players with the ball in his hands
-- according to Drake. The Bears plan in 2012 to change that with their newly-designed playbook, which features a package specifically for Hester.
“The talent has always been there. It’s just a matter of not having him play 70 plays and throw to him twice,” Drake said. “Play him 15 (plays), let him touch it 13 (times). In order for him to be effective we don’t need to have him out there playing that many plays. If he’s out there, put the ball in his hands. We need to have that package, and (offensive coordinator) Mike Tice -- I promise you -- he’s gonna do it.”
As for Marshall, apparently he’s already making significant contributions towards elevating the level of play from his peers; especially with his input during meetings. Drake called the veteran “a student of the game.”
“He’s the one that’s forcing Earl and Devin and Dane and those guys to raise their games,” the coach added. “He’s the one that’s forcing them to do that because of his talent.”
Tice called this “a very successful offseason up to this point,” and pointed out he’s “very excited about the draft picks, and I like the change in schemes, the change in philosophy and personality; all of it.”
The key now is to find a way to successfully utilize all the weapons, which will also include tight ends and running back Matt Forte.
“As far as the amount of talent, there’s some depth, and guys (have) got to fight (to play). If you want to play, go out there and make plays, do things the right way,” Drake said. “I see some guys that have that kind of ability. Brandon Marshall, he does that. Alshon Jeffery, even though he’s a rookie, he has the ability to do that. We know that Earl Bennett is gonna be consistent, catch the football and get open. Devin, we’ve got to make sure we play to his strengths.
Johnny (Knox), when he gets back, you let him do the things he does.
So I feel real good about the group. I’m looking forward to those guys doing the things they’re capable of doing.”