Tight End Kellen Davis showing he has tools to excel in Bears’ offense
SEAN JENSEN ON THE BEARS August 21, 2011 9:48PM
1/16/11 Chicago,IL Chicago Bears tight end Kellen Davis (87) collects his 4th quarter touchdown behind Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas (29). | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 16, 2011 1:28AM
The Bears didn’t anoint Kellen Davis the starting tight end after they traded Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers last month.
“We said we’d give him the opportunity,” Bears tight ends coach Mike DeBord said, “and then he’s got to own that spot.”
Good luck wresting it from Davis’ mighty mitts.
“I’m going to go out there and do what I do every day,” Davis said. “I feel if I do everything I can do, then it should be my spot just because I should be the best tight end. That’s what I want to be.”
Those are bold words from a fifth-round pick in 2009 who caught one pass for 19 yards (albeit a touchdown) last season.
But the Bears traded Olsen, a 2008 first-rounder, for a third-round pick because they weren’t convinced he was the ideal tight end for their offense.
“We’re really not looking for Kellen Winslow,” Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said last month. “We’re looking for Mike Ditka. And so, the tight ends we have now really fit more of the profile we want for our offense.”
Ready to shine
So why are the Bears so enthralled with a player who has 10 catches in 48 career NFL games?
Because Davis is a specimen, and he’s a playmaker. Four of those catches went for touchdowns.
Olsen is known for his athleticism. But Davis is two inches taller and at least 10 pounds heavier, without giving up much speed.
“When you look at him, he’s physically imposing,” Bears tight end Desmond Clark said. “He can do everything you ask a tight end to do — go in there and block those defensive ends — but he also runs a 4.5 [in the 40-yard dash]. You’re getting the full package.”
Much was made of Olsen’s ability to handle defensive ends on his own. But Davis has the requisite strength, although he must show consistency.
Besides, Davis actually played some snaps for Michigan State at defensive end, recording two sacks.
“That’s something I pride myself on, being a good blocker and being a complete tight end,” Davis said. “I’ve always been a good receiver. That’s just the way it is.
“But blocking is something I’ve learned, and it’s about toughness and wanting it more than the other guy.”
Just like this opportunity.
Clark, who hopes to play in his 13th NFL season, mentored Davis and Olsen. Davis said all three players were “real tight,” but he debunked any notion that he learned from Olsen.
“Everybody keeps asking about Greg, but I listen to Dez,” Davis said. “He’s got 13 years in, and he helped me assimilate the first couple of years.”
Clark encouraged Davis to keep improving and be ready for a break. To that end, Davis has worked to improve his footwork while blocking instead of relying on his upper-body strength.
When he arrived for training camp, Davis had a quiet confidence that Clark hadn’t seen before.
“He’s not questioning himself or thinking, ‘Maybe I should have done this, maybe I should have done that?’ He’s just going full speed ahead,” Clark said. “Whatever they told him before they started camp helped him out because he’s playing like he belongs at that No. 1 position.
“Now, he’s finally in that spotlight position, and he’s not going to let it go.”
Tight end role
Given the assortment of issues along the offensive line, the Bears often fielded one or two tight ends last season.
They didn’t get what they were looking for from Manumaleuna, whom offensive coordinator Mike Martz was familiar with from his time with the St. Louis Rams (2001-05). The Bears made Manumaleuna their highest-paid tight end, signing him on the first day of free agency to a five-year, $15 million contract that included $6.1 million guaranteed.
He was, in essence, supposed to be an extra offensive tackle. But Manumaleuna struggled as a blocker and receiver (five catches for 43 yards), and he has remained unsigned since the Bears released him last month.
Olsen ended up playing nearly 82 percent of the offensive snaps last season, while Manumaleuna was on the field 56 percent of the time.
If training camp is any indication, Davis and free-agent signing Matt Spaeth will be on the field together often, and they’ve each had their share of passes thrown their way.
But Davis is the more dynamic receiving option, capable of generating highlights.
Early in camp, during a red-zone drill, Davis ran across the back of the end zone. Jay Cutler darted a pass, but it ended up behind Davis, who made the catch anyway.
“He had to shift his shoulders all the way around,” DeBord said. “That was true athleticism.”
In his mind, Davis has been ready for this chance for a while.
“It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time now, and to finally have the opportunity is awesome to me,” he said, “I’ve been waiting to take that next step, and here it is.”