As apart of an ongoing series, Taking Inventory aims to assess every position set on the Bears, taking a peek at the previous season and provide a sneak peek into projections for the certain group. For day four, we take a gander at the tight end crew.
For a young quarterback, tight ends look like a get out of jail free card. Their short route trees make for secure passes, their superior size allows for a large and hittable target, and they sniff out cracks in the defense well to play as this safety valve. Without a spectacular crop of receivers, former second overall quarterback Mitchell Trubisky spread the wealth generously to tight ends in his rookie campaign.
And now for the Bears, the tight ends will become far more valuable than solely a dependable cop out. With the enlisting of Matt Nagy for the head coach, an Andy Reid product with a savviness for tight ends, the offensive system will orbit around the tight end and their production.
He has spent his entire offensive coordinator career developing the All-Pro Travis Kelce for the Chiefs and will look to accomplish the same in Chicago. And it appears he has a suitably deep rotation this season with a couple of potential gems.
Taking Ashland tight end Adam Shaheen in the second round of last years draft gave Trubisky a flashy red zone threat for his rookie season. He looks to put together a vastly improved season in the spotlight, no longer in the backseat behind the lovable yet sadly out of the picture Zach Miller and superior blocker yet inferior pass catcher Dion Sims.
Due for a massive step forward, Shaheen’s bullying frame and soft hands have shades of a Rob Gronkowski. He has good speed and displayed his red zone capability when John Fox had no choice but to use him. After the tragic Miller injury, Shaheen finally cracked the starting lineup and exhibited the skills we can expect to be sharpened and honed in on this upcoming season.
Previously to the fateful New Orleans game, Shaheen had a single two-yard reception to his name in eight games, coincidentally his first career touchdown. However, after having his name called against Green Bay, the numbers spiked up to two receptions for 39 yards in one game. The very next week he had a career-high four catches and 41 yards, with a touchdown.
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Though injuries stalled the momentum and he had his season ended after a career game against the Bengals in Week 14, it seemed as if only inexperience and the gameplan held him back from blossoming into a premier receiving tight end. Now with a season under his belt and the tight end adoring Nagy in town, Shaheen looks like the breakout candidate of the year for the Bears.
Adding onto the hopeful Shaheen, grabbing Philadelphia cult hero Trey Burton after a career year will be an exciting toy for Nagy to play around with, a dependable pass catcher with similar red zone threat potential as Shaheen. With five touchdowns in 2017 and soaking up Carson Wentz’s would-be MVP season, Burton brings Super Bowl experience and a knack for finding the end zone.
And to add to the puzzle, Sims will indeed be sticking around. While he didn’t achieve the full pass-catching upside he flashed in Miami, he still put up 180 yards and a touchdown in a difficult operation that utilized tight ends mostly for pure blocking. Daniel Brown also will find a spot in the rotation, recently signing a one year contract. An athletic “move” guy, Brown will supplement the pass-catching firepower nicely.
“I think we can use all our tight ends,” Ryan Pace explains, “I think the Super Bowl champions are a recent example of that, of using a lot of tight ends. They’re all valuable weapons. They’re all a little different. I think they all complement each other. It fits together nicely.”
Pace looks to construct a very extensive and dynamic tight end crew to give sophomore Trubisky some wiggle room in the passing game. By not forcing him to be a superstar just yet, they allow for natural development and a sound tight end system will be just another weapon for the flowering UNC product.
With the wide receiver crew decked out and the further development of Tarik Cohen in the backfield, the tight ends simply bolster the passing upside of the Bears. Every position builds on one another and the tight ends will be another reason why Trubisky should take a (massive) step forward this season. If Shaheen breaks through as expected, it will be a quietly dangerous company.