We are previewing the different position groups as the Chicago Bears inch closer to the start of training camp. First up are the tight ends.

We are getting closer to NFL football. Teams like the Chicago Bears start camp on July 28th, less than two weeks away. Of course, with all the additional problems the nation is having with the Covid-19 virus, all that could change in a heartbeat.

For now, however, we have the 28th of July as the return of football. We still don’t know officially if there will be a preseason, though. Players don’t want to have it so teams could concentrate on preparing for a safe 2020 season.

If the preseason is indeed canceled, that makes training camp much more important. Coaches won’t be able to see how players perform in actual games until the season begins. The position battles the Bears have come down to camp performances. That certainly helps incumbents.

We have a new series taking a look at different position groups on the roster. First up are the tight ends. We’ll look at additions and subtractions, and look at which players likely contribute. Let’s dive in.

The Chicago Bears had awful performances from the tight ends unit. Combined, they had 46 catches for 416 yards and 2 touchdowns. No tight end reached 100 receiving yards.

The tight ends are very important to head coach Matt Nagy’s offense. They are big targets and are security blankets for the quarterback. They are especially important in the red zone, where they could use their size advantage to get into the end zone.

Let’s take a look at the players who likely contribute the most in 2020.

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Jimmy Graham

Graham is the most experienced and the leader of this new-look unit. He s a five-time Pro Bowl tight end and a former All-Pro First team. The other players will lean to him for help in their own game.

Many criticized this signing, saying that Graham is over the hill. Yes, there is more behind him than ahead of him, but he can still contribute to this team.

Graham signed a two-year, $16 million deal, with $9 million in guarantees. Don’t expect him to in 2021, however. His guaranteed money all comes in 2020, with a $6 million signing bonus and $3 million in base salary. That means they can cut him in 2021, which is likely what happens.

The Bears drafted Cole Kmet out of Notre Dame (more on him later) so Graham’s job is to make sure Kmet learns how to be a professional and what to expect so he can start in 2021.

Graham will still be of great help on the field. The Green Bay Packers don’t utilize the tight ends as much as other teams so Graham’s numbers suffered a bit. In Chicago, though, he’ll get his chances to show doubters that he still has enough in the tank to help the offense.

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Demetrius Harris

Demetrius Harris serves as the main backup for Graham. He signed a one-year, $1.65 million deal. In 2019, he celebrated a Super Bowl LIV win with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was on the Chiefs in 2017 when Nagy was the offensive coordinator. That means he has experience in Nagy’s offense. He’ll be a valuable asset in helping the other tight ends understand their roles in the system.

Harris won’t light things up but he is a dependable backup. He has six touchdown catches in the last two seasons so he can sniff the end zone. that is something the Chicago Bears offense desperately needs.

With the one-year deal, the Bears could part ways with Harris after the season. They could also re-sign him if they feel he did a good enough job in 2020. He won’t cost the Bears much if they decide to keep him and he could be an effective player for them.

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Cole Kmet

Kmet is the Chicago Bears’ second-round draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He is the future of the team’s tight ends unit. The Bears knew how bad the unit was in 2019 and wanted to strengthen it not just in 2020 but beyond.

Kmet was the highest-rated tight end in this year’s class and a hometown kid so they scooped him up with the 43rd pick. With the additions of Graham and Harris, the Bears don’t want to put too much on his plate. He’ll contribute in 2020, but the coaches won’t expect him to shoulder the load for the unit.

The addition of Graham really helps Kmet. Graham will play the role that Danny Trevathan did in helping Roquan Smith. Trevathan played the role of Smith’s mentor. He taught Smith how to play linebacker in the NFL and Smith credits Trevathan for helping him.

This is what Graham will do for Kmet. He’ll take the rookie under his wing and instruct him. That way, Kmet is able to step up and be an effective starter beginning next season. Kmet has the tools to be an excellent tight end and the Bears hope that’s exactly what happens.

Photo by Jim Mone/AP photo

Adam Shaheen

The Chicago Bears keep waiting for their faith in Adam Shaheen to pay off. So far, however, it hasn’t. He is a huge disappointment, recording only 26 catches for 249 yards and 4 touchdowns in three seasons.

Injuries played a part in his play. He played in only 27 of a possible 48 games over three seasons. He cannot be effective if he can’t find his way to the field.

Additionally, Nagy appeared to question Shaheen’s work ethic. This is what he said when Shaheen was a healthy scratch in Week 10.

We want all of our players to be able to be completely detailed and play hard and do everything they can to be the best player they can be.

Shaheen didn’t play again in 2019.

Shaheen is still on his rookie contract so he is still a cheap option. Because of that, the Bears give him another shot to succeed in Chicago. This is his final chance, though. If he falters in training camp, the Bears won’t hesitate to find a trade partner or just cut him. Just as it is cheap to keep him, it’s also cheap to get rid of him.

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If Shaheen finally puts everything together the Bears have themselves a unit that is a strong point in the offense and no longer a weakness. They’ll be able to use a double tight end formation to make the offense a strong one. Shaheen’s back is against the wall. Let’s see what he does to fight back.

Yes, the Chicago Bears have other tight ends. They have a small village of tight ends on the roster at the moment. Players like Ben Braunecker, J.P. Holtz, Jesper Horsted, Eric Saubert, and Darion Clark fighting for a spot on the team. That’s nine total! The first four are the ones who figure to be the biggest contributors (unless Shaheen falters again). One or two of the others might make the team, but they’re most likely special teams guys.

Hopefully, the tight ends unit plays much better than it did last season. If the players do well, the Chicago Bears offense will take a big step forward.

2 COMMENTS

  1. You are really selling D Harris short, Carlos! But then, like most, you also seem to have forgotten that one of the original jobs of the Tight End was to Run Block, and some of them Actually still do! D Harris, for example was the 9th best blocking TE in the league last year…in Cleveland, BTW, where he shamefully got less targets than OBJ.
    So, young Cole Kmet will learn blocking from a hot-shot and pass catching from a hotshot. You know that Kmet grew up with an Urlacher FatHead on his basement wall, don’t you? And that he likes to hit guys? The faster a Tight End gets taken seriously in the run game, the faster he becomes a threat as a receiver.
    Remember George Kittle’s mentor? Garrett Celek. A Great Blocking TE.
    With the help of Graham and Harris, Kmet could easily put up a year like George Kittle did as a rookie. If he **does**, this team is nearly unbeatable with that defense.

  2. I would temper the expectations on Kmet. Yes, he will be a very good player but the number of tight ends who contribute in a big way right away is small. Kittle? 43 catches for 515 yards. Less than half of what he’s done the last two seasons. Kelce played in just one game with no catches. Witten – 35 catches for 347 yards. Graham had 31 catches for 356 yards. I’d expect Kmet to get between 250-350 yards as a rookie. Remember, also, he is still a little raw. He played baseball for a while at ND before concentrating on football.

    I like Harris but he is a blocking tight end and a dependable backup. You know he got more targets in Cleveland in 2019 than he did in KC in 2018? He gets between 25-35 targets, which is good for him.

    One thing is clear, though — the tight ends unit is stronger than the mess it was last season…

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