Big receivers give offense huge boost
In the third of nine position previews in advance of training camp, coach Darryl Drake discusses Bears wide receivers with ChicagoBears.com senior writer Larry Mayer:
LM: How big of a boost did the addition of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery provide?
DD: ďAnytime you get players of that caliber, itís a boost. Both of them have an awful lot talent. Brandon Marshall has proven himself in this league; heís been a Pro Bowl player. Alshon is a young and upcoming guy. So anytime you get guys with that kind of size and ability, itís definitely a boost for you.Ē
LM: What have been your impressions of Brandon Marshall?
DD: ďHeís a dynamic player with a great deal of ability. The skyís the limit for him ability-wise, but Iím more impressed with him as a person than I am as a football player. Put the football aside. Iím just totally impressed with him as a man. You hear all the rumors and different things about him. But heís been a great addition and a joy to work with for me personally.Ē
LM: You already touched on it, but could you expand on what type of guy Brandon is?
DD: ďHeís just a good person, a good man. He understands his faults and is continually working on them. We all have them; sometimes we donít recognize them or care to recognize them. He recognizes some of the things that have plagued him and heís done something about it. As far as being a good man, heís doing all those things to be that kind of person. Once his legacy is set he wants to be known as a guy who was a good player but more importantly a good man. Like I said, Iíve been extremely impressed with him more so as a person than as a football player.Ē
LM: In April you said that Alshon Jeffery had the best hands of any receiver in the draft. What are your impressions of him having worked with him during the offseason?
DD: ďI feel the same way; we all saw examples of that. He still has an awful long way to go as far as being pro and understanding and learning and route running. But heís got a great deal of ability and heís shown some of those things. The thing we have to do is get him in a situation where he can consistently do those things we think he can do against the top players in the world. Iíve been impressed with his size and ability to catch the ball and his ability to handle some different situations. Sometimes you try to take guys and put as much pressure on them as you can and heís handled things really well. Weíll continue to do that and hopefully heíll continue to grow.Ē
LM: Youíve always been a strong supporter of Devin Hester as a wide receiver, but everyone seems to want to debate his skills on offense. How would you assess Devin as a receiver?
DD: ďEvery time I give my assessment of Devin as a wide receiver, I take a lot of flak for it. So Iím not going to do that. My thoughts on Devin have never changed and never will. I know what he is. I know what he can be. Itís a matter of putting him in those situations.Ē
LM: Thereís been a lot of talk this offseason about a special package of plays for Devin. What are your expectations for him in terms of his role this year?
DD: ďMy expectations for him are the same as they always are. We need to put him in a situation that he can be successful, get the ball in his hands and let him do the things that heís capable of doing. I feel good about the plan. I feel good about what coach [Mike] Tice is trying to do and how heís going to try to implement Devin. Players donít become great unless you put the ball in their hands. Devin gets the ball in his hands on returns and shows his greatness. Weíve got to get the ball in his hands at receiver and let him show what he can do. If we donít do that, thatís on usóand itís been on us because we havenít done it.Ē
LM: Earl Bennett isnít flashy, but he seems to be incredibly reliable, especially on third down. What is your assessment of him?
DD: ďHeís very underrated because of the things that he does. Heís going to do all the dirty work. Heís going to make the catch that some guys canít make. Heís a security blanket for the quarterback in crucial times. Heís a football player; thatís exactly what he is. He defines that because he does so many things that go unnoticed. Heís going to get that first down. Heís going to make that tough catch over the middle. Iím just glad that we have him. He continues to improve. I think that he will really flourish in what weíre trying to do with this new offense and Iím very excited about watching him play.Ē
LM: Marshall and Jeffery arenít the only receivers the Bears added in the offseason. What have been your impressions of free-agent acquisitions Eric Weems and Devin Thomas?
DD: ďBoth of them have an awful lot of ability. Iím ecstatic about what Eric Weems brings to the table not only as a returner and a special teams guy but as a receiver. Heís shown the ability to play any position, which gives you a lot of flexibility. Heís very smart; just a good football player. Devinís got good size and strength and he too has shown the ability to be a very good special teams player. Heís not as nifty as Weems, but he has good straight line speed and heís strong and has some size.
LM: Where does Dane Sanzenbacher fit in with this group?
DD: ďDaneís in the mix. Heís a great route runner and [Jay Cutler] feels comfortable with him. We know everybodyís not going to make the team. But itís going to be a good battle. Dane does some good things in practice every day. He overcame odds last year; heís a guy who was a free agent. You canít count him out; donít do that. Heíll find a way. Heís had a good offseason. We just need to continue to let him do that and weíll let the chips fall where they may in training camp and the preseason.Ē
Editorís note: Because assistant coaches generally donít comment on injuries, Darryl Drake was not asked about Johnny Knox, who continues to recover from a serious back injury.
AJ's a rookie and it's hard to expect a lot out of them. I want to see him in shape more then anything else.
I know I'm in the minority, but I think as a 3rd or 4th WR DH CAN be something special; along w/the return duties. And this is his year to show it; he's not longer the "#1" and teams now have to worry about 2 or 3 other WR's besides him, AND worry about Forte. Hester should be left a lot more open a lot more often, and teams should end up getting burned for it.
Bennett is probably the best Possession guy in the game, but he's no game changer like Marshal is or how the team hopes Jefferies will become. But he's still going to be very important as an outlet, and his yards should improve as he's not swamped by every def on obvious pass plays.
Weems/Thomas/Dane: Really hope this coaching staff isn't trying to find "steals" w/Weems and Thomas and they really are as good at the position as they claim. As for Dane I'm glad he still has a chance to be in the mix. I think he's the best option as a possession guy behind Bennett, and I would rather have that then another big bodied WR behind AJ or BM.
Hester playing in the slot should really give him opportunities to make more plays. I'm hoping Bates working some with the wr's should help out with ol' Drake. Bennett, Marshall, and Hester playing well should help out Jeffery and make it a bit easier for him finding his way.
I'm only expecting ST things from Weems and as for Thomas I don't know how good he actually is. I'm hoping Sans can win that last spot.
Arguing on the internet is like winning the special olympics, even if you win your still messed up.