Veteran tight end Leonard Pope another big target for Cutler
BY KALYN KAHLER firstname.lastname@example.org August 5, 2013 10:19PM
Washington Redskins v Pittsburgh Steelers
Updated: August 6, 2013 6:42PM
BOURBONNAIS — It has only been three days since the Bears signed tight end Leonard Pope to a one-year deal, but coach Marc Trestman already likes what he sees from the 6-8, 264-pound veteran.
“Certainly, what we see is clear: We see a big man,” Trestman said. “I thought he caught the ball very well today in the little time that we had individually.”
Pope, who has played in the NFL since 2006, was signed after the Bears waived tight end Brody Eldridge. He practiced with the team for the second time Monday.
Although he caught only three passes for nine yards with the Steelers last season, two of those were for touchdowns. Pope, who can be a threat in the red zone, caught five touchdown passes in 2007 for the Cardinals. He had a career-high 24 receptions for 247 yards and one touchdown in 2011 with the Chiefs.
He’s behind everyone on the unofficial depth chart released Monday but could challenge Steve Maneri for the backup spot behind Martellus Bennett. Pope said tight ends coach Andy Bischoff is helping him pick up the offense quickly.
“It’s coming along pretty good,” Pope said. “I’m just coming in fresh and trying to get my feet wet. Andy is doing a great job.”
Pope is another towering target for quarterback Jay Cutler. Bennett (6-6, 265) and wide receivers Brandon Marshall (6-4, 230) and Alshon Jeffery (6-3, 216) already present quite a challenge for secondaries.
Safety Major Wright said working against big guys such as Pope is great practice for what he’ll face when the real season begins.
“He’s a huge guy,” Wright said. “But it has kind of prepared us for big tight ends. We have them in practice, so when we do go against a big tight end, it’s not a shocker.
“We know we can just go out and cover them. [Pope] is already taller than us, so from him, we learn how to fight and go through the pocket.”
When the Bears began camp, they had five tight ends behind Bennett, and those five had combined for 25 NFL starts — 16 by Eldridge. While Pope still has a lot to learn, he brings plenty of savvy from his years with the Cardinals, Chiefs and Steelers. Trestman said he’s giving Pope ample opportunities to apply his knowledge.
“He’s still learning the offense, the snap counts,” Trestman said. “We’ve got a lot of variations.
‘‘We can’t slow down for him, so what we’re trying to do is give him opportunity, within the framework of the practice, to execute a play with the things he does know.”