It’s just the beginning for tight ends in Bears’ new system
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org February 18, 2013 11:07PM
IN A TIGHT SPOT
Here’s a look at how the Bears’ three tight ends and fullback Evan Rodriquez, a tight end in college, compare to the averages of the top 10 tight ends in 2012:
Player Rec. Yards TDs
Kellen Davis 19 229 2
Matt Spaeth 6 28 1
Kyle Adams 4 40 0
Evan Rodriguez 4 21 0
Top 10 averages 75.5 820.5 5.7
Updated: March 20, 2013 6:41AM
As coach Marc Trestman and his staff develop a playbook to modernizes the Bears’ offense, what they have at tight end could be scrutinized more than what they have at other positions.
If there has been one league-wide trend the Bears have trudged far behind, it’s what teams are doing with tight ends. And Trestman and Co. seemingly recognize that.
‘‘Football is an evolution, and right now we’re in a stage where bigger, faster, stronger, athletic guys are available at this position,’’ new tight end coach Andy Bischoff said. ‘‘The league is full of them. It’s an exciting time to be a tight end in this league because of matchups, because of versatility [and] because of being involved in the run and the pass game. As you look around the league, it’s exciting.’’
But that excitement has skipped over Chicago. For the second consecutive season, the Bears ranked dead last in receptions by tight ends (29 in 2012, 25 in 2011). This past season, 43 tight ends, including several backups, had more catches than Kellen Davis, the Bears’ No. 1 tight end.
The Bears have to determine if Davis, Matt Spaeth and Kyle Adams are equipped for the new offense or if they were just underused last season. There are very intriguing tight ends in the 2013 draft — notably Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert and Stanford’s Zach Ertz — who could be available when the Bears’ No. 20 pick comes around. There also are veterans available in free agency.
‘‘We definitely see effort on film, and we see guys that are trying to do it the right way,’’ Bischoff said of the Bears’ current tight ends. ‘‘In terms of the future, it’s too early for that.’’
New offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer knows very well what a productive tight end means. He spent the last five years with the New Orleans Saints, where his offensive lines helped quarterback Drew Brees break records, and where tight end Jimmy Graham evolved into a dominant force.
‘‘We utilize the tight end in this offense quite often,’’ said Kromer, who doubles as the Bears’ offensive line coach. ‘‘We’d surely like to be able to throw the football to him. We’d like him to be able to block somewhat [for] the running back. They’re not going to be an offensive lineman blocking. Definitely, the more weapons you have, the better off you are.’’
In Montreal in the Canadian Football League, where Bischoff was part of Trestman’s staff, the Alouettes used ‘‘a hybrid position that would be more of an H-back-type role” in the NFL, Bischoff said.
‘‘We had the skill set of a guy who had to be able to play fullback but also able to stretch the defense,” Bischoff said. ‘‘It really wasn’t a league that consistently put your traditional wide tight end out on the field. But we were certainly able to find production out of that spot.’’
Second-year fullback Evan Rodriguez, a tight end in college, may be able to do that, given the chance.
‘‘Evan appears to be an athletic guy with a lot potential,’’ Bischoff said. ‘‘How we plan to use him is yet to be determined. However, he’s a guy who has a background that would translate to how we used a guy in Montreal similarly.’’
When speaking about tight ends, Bischoff promised a consistency from the new offense.
‘‘I can assure you this: We’re going to try to attack all aspects of the field,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re going to try to make sure that the defense cannot say, ‘That guy is not worth covering.’ We’re going to try to present a package that puts stress on the defense at all levels.’’