Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Bears for WARR; This is the latest in of our series of positional breakdowns of the Bears heading into the 2018 season, check out Ryan’s previous breakdown of the Bears’ receivers.
The Chicago Bears offense is a big key to their upcoming season.
Not as proven as Chicago’s defense, which should again be able to be a solid unit in 2018, the offense was the point of most of the focus in areas where talent can be made in the off-season (free agency, college draft, etc). A lot of work was needed to rebuild the offense and when Matt Nagy was hired to clean up the mess as, the spotlight shifted to what Nagy needs in particular in order to tidy things up.
Wide receivers were a big part of that equation, since the Bears cupboard was pretty empty to begin with. If there was a comparably bare position to the wide outs it was the tight end position, that made it a pretty big key to Nagy’s offensive reformation as well.
In general, tight ends have become a menace to opposing defenses when they are either too fast for linebackers or too big for defensive backs. Travis Kelce was that guy for Nagy and he became a league-wide star emerging as a huge part of the Chiefs attack. The Bears started upgrading the position before Nagy even got here by drafting Adam Shaheen in 2017 and signing Dion Sims in that same off-season. More work was done this past winter by signing one of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl heroes, Trey Burton.
What’s left for the Bears is an interesting group of tight ends — the top three guys have different skill sets that can make the overall position pretty diverse and provide multiple threats. There is also a lot of unproven talent in the group, including Simms who signed a big deal before being left sidelined a lot in 2017 with various injuries. Shaheen is still a raw prospect who’s college record is largely unknown as he went to a Division II school.
And as nice as Burton looks with his measurables, he has yet to preform consistently on Sundays. Overall this should be a fun and interesting position group to watch heading into the season and beyond.
In another way the tight end position is a little boring in this year’s training camp, but boring in a good way. Last year, the Bears were hoping to get something yet unseen out the position after investing money and a high draft pick. Clearly Shaheen needed more time to develop and Sims was nowhere to be found even with all the various city-wide search parties attributed to him. Adding Burton makes the position group fit together a lot more nicely than last year. Burton is big and athletic with obvious pass catching abilities, which is why he will be the starting “U” tight end.
The “U” tight end is primarily a pass catcher but Burton will do some blocking as well. At “U” Burton will line up a bunch outside away from the line of scrimmage. At the top of the depth chart Burton pushes Sims down to play a slightly different variance on the tight end position by playing the “Y,” which is a combo tight end with more of an emphasis on blocking.
Sims should primarily line up on the line of scrimmage and be used heavily in blocking while also being used as a receiving weapon from time to time. For Shaheen things might be much better for him this year by being third on the depth chart. Bears fans may feel cheated by a second round pick not being higher on the depth, but tight ends rarely grow into consistent contributors overnight, especially from Division II.
Shaheen will have opportunities to fill in at either the “U” or the “Y,” with his great size and athleticism to be a blocker. In last week’s preseason game at Cincinnati Shaheen showed off route running burst and run after the catch.
If Shaheen can win the trust of the coaches then he should get even more opportunities, which will build confidence as he continues to develop as a player.
Overall, this position group looks a lot better than last year. Unfortunately, Nagy wasn’t able to bring Travis Kelce with him, but if Burton can somewhat fill those playmaking shoes then the rest of the group should be given better chances to flourish this season, unlike last year when Zach Miller was lost for most of the season and the team’s quarterback play was continually lacking.
The new look offense of the Bears will heavily feature the work of this tight end group.
Nagy has talked about how the tight end position is a mismatch and having a reliable pass catcher and blocker puts a lot of pressure on the defense. Many teams are finding having one good tight end isn’t enough. Trey Burton obviously has a lot of pressure but if the Bears evaluate and develop him correctly then they may have a steal.
Burton can potentially take pressure off of the receivers and Mitchell Trubisky will make this whole offense go to another level with Burton working at full strength. Hopefully Burton’s presence also helps the other tight ends fit into roles they will be more successful at. Whether those roles are for blocking or being an occasional pass catcher.
And do not forget what these great offensive minds can do using Burton or using Burton as a decoy to free up the other tight ends.
Offense is all about match-ups and the Bears have better collections of talent at tight end and throughout the offense to cause defenses a bunch of headache, it just has to come all together.
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