Tight end Evan Rodriguez is playing more fullback these days
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com September 29, 2012 8:36PM
Chicago Bears tight end Evan Rodriguez (88) and Chicago Bears offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb (73) are seen in action against the Denver Broncos during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Chicago, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. The Broncos won 31-3.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: November 1, 2012 6:49AM
On draft day, Evan Rodriguez looked like yet another sign that a new day was dawning for the Bears’ offense.
The fourth-round pick from Temple was billed as an athletic ‘‘move’’ tight end with the versatility to create mismatches and the 4.56 40 speed to stretch the field and give the Bears a downfield receiving threat at tight end that almost every highly rated NFL offense has. Even general manager Phil Emery acknowledged Rodriguez’s self-comparison to Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Three games into his rookie season, Rodriguez is the new Tyler Clutts, playing the much more boring role of blocking fullback and wearing the much more boring No. 48. It’s an important role in the Bears’ offense. But it’s not Aaron Hernandez.
‘‘How do I like wearing 48? It wouldn’t be my first option,’’ the 6-2, 239-pound Rodriguez said. ‘‘But I’m just doing what I’ve got to do for the team. I’m out here playing as a rookie, so I can’t complain.’’
What happened to the move tight end who could stretch the field?
‘‘Things haven’t changed,’’ Rodriguez said. ‘‘I’m listed as a fullback. But I’m still an H-back/tight end. The playbook’s still open. I’m just doing what I’m told to do, basically. I’m just embracing my role.’’
With the Bears’ offense struggling to live up to the ‘‘explosive’’ potential it showed in the opening-week 41-21 victory over the Colts, the Bears already are missing Clutts — whom they traded to the Texans for Sherrick McManis. Now Rodriguez is out for Monday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys with a knee injury he suffered on the opening kickoff against the Rams last week.
‘‘We moved Evan because we felt like he could play on the line of scrimmage and play in the backfield,’’ Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. ‘‘He had a couple of good games and some good plays. When you lose a guy like that you take a step backwards. We have to come up with other way to run other plays.’’
Rodriguez said he played the blocking role at Temple when Al Golden was the Owls’ offensive coordinator. And he’s not surprised the Bears are using him at that position.
‘‘That’s why they brought me in here, for blocking,’’ he said. ‘‘They said, ‘We don’t care if you can catch. Can you block? When they brought me in they made sure — they asked me several times if I could block.’’
As he has proven already, he definitely can. ‘‘He’s an aggressive blocker,’’ running backs coach Tim Spencer said. ‘‘There are some things we need to work on. But I like his aggressiveness.’’
The coaching staff still has plans to use Rodriguez as a pass-catching, downefield threat. But not yet.
‘‘I’m just a versatile athlete. That stuff comes naturally to me,’’ Rodriguez said. ‘‘My time will come for all that. And when it doesn, I’ll be ready for my opportunity. Until then, I’m just going to do what they tell me to do.’’