Mike Tice is getting his first chances to play with some of his new toys, and the Bears offensive coordinator is discovering he has some fast cars and big trucks.
Isn't that every boy's dream?
Through the course of offseason workouts, Tice has been able to see 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall and 6-3 Alshon Jeffery tower over their fellow receivers — and the cornerbacks who try to cover them.
Tice, a former tight end who stands 6-7, is used to big. When he was the head coach of the Vikings from 2002-05, his favorite receiver was 6-4 Randy Moss. He knows how to use big targets.
"Go back to the Minnesota days," he said. "When you have two big wide receivers, you expect them to go up and make plays on the ball in the air. Passes don't have to be perfect. They don't have to be exact. That's what big receivers do for you."
After watching Jeffery practice at rookie minicamp in Lake Forest for the first time Friday, Tice joked the second-round pick was "picking peanuts off some guys' heads … so I think he's going to have the ability to make plays."
That's an old line Moss and Cris Carter used to use.
Tice's new Bears offense isn't only about jump balls, rebounds and blocked shots, however. Like his predecessor, Mike Martz, Tice wants to utilize the speed of his weapons.
He believes providing players with clear assignments and timely play-calls to the quarterback will help them play fast.
"We're going to make sure they know what we're asking them to do so they can play fast — not … thinking, but … being athletes and athletic," he said. "We have to put them in a position to show their athleticism and their explosiveness. We want to be explosive, we want to be able to get the ball down the field, we want to be able to run the ball explosively and we're going to do those things."
Tice noted he has seen some of that explosiveness in Jeffery and Marshall, who has taken part in offseason workouts. And Tice already is familiar with his fastest toys — Devin Hester and Johnny Knox, assuming Knox is healthy enough to play.
General manager Phil Emery also has given Tice a tight end who should be able to outsprint the other tight ends on the team. The rookie-camp performance of fourth-round pick Evan Rodriguez has been a little uneven, but he has shown a dynamic quality.
At 6-2, 239 pounds, he might be the closest thing to a waterbug-style tight end you ever have seen.
"We are happy to have a different (type) tight end in the building," Tice said, while adding that holdover Kyle Adams also can play the hybrid end-fullback position. "That's going to be a good tool for us in our offense."
Tice also noted he will not forget the speed of Hester, for whom a special package has been devised. He said as of now, Hester remains the starting flanker. Marshall will be the starting split end.
It is possible Jeffery will take over Hester's starting spot. In a perfect world, the Bears would like to have Hester taking offensive snaps only when he has a chance of making a play. Having him running 70 routes a game and catching only three passes takes away from his return ability.
Tice will have some interesting decisions to make. He said it's not new to him though.
"I've been blessed to be a head coach before so I've had to manage people," he said. "You're talking about taking a bunch of ideas from a bunch of guys who have a chance to have some input.
"Filtering through that information and deciding what the Bears are going to look like based on the skills of the players we have is what we're trying to do right now."
Tice still is figuring out exactly what he has. And part of defining his offense is playing with his new toys.
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