Bears Tight Ends: From Zeroes to Heroes?

  • Chicago Bears
  • Cole Kmet
  • Jimmy Graham
  • Matt Nagy
  • NFL
  • Training Camp
By Sam Stevenson August 25, 2020 0 Comment
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The training camp all-stars for the Bears seems to be the tight ends. Can this group turn things around for the offense?

The 2019 Chicago Bears had abysmal production from their tight ends. Trey Burton was hurt, and when he was healthy was a total non-factor. Injuries plagued the spot all season. The team had to even rely on undrafted rookie Jesper Horsted to produce. In a perfect Matt Nagy offense, the tight end spot helps open up the short, horizontal passing game. This leads to openings deep down the field. Unfortunately, this dream hasn’t come true yet for the Andy Reid disciple, but 2020 could see that change.

The team signed Jimmy Graham to fill the void left by Burton. They then selected Cole Kmet in the 2nd round of this year’s draft. The message was very clear: the tight end spot would no longer plague the team. Every since trading Greg Olsen, it just seems like this spot has always been an issue for the team. This off-season came with a flurry of jokes towards the teams eleven rostered tight ends. It seems the jokes have ended as training camp videos reveal this position firing from all cylinders.

Graham’s Leadership and Swagger

The former Seahawk, Saint, and Packer is fitting in nicely with the team. Reports have been coming in on how well Graham has been performing. Graham had a mediocre 2019 season for Green Bay: 38 receptions for 441 yard and three touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference. He’s expressed his mentality to prove he can be a factor on offense.

From ESPN’s staff writer Jeff Dickerson: “I have a lot to prove,” Graham said Thursday during a Zoom call with Chicago media. “I mean, I have a big chip on my shoulder to do as best as I can with this new opportunity. I’m extremely blessed to be here with such a young group of guys that are so hungry. I know you guys aren’t in this locker room, but you can feel the buzz. You can feel the buzz in this building. There’s no excuses. No one is looking around and saying we got to do this, we got to do that. This organization has done a great job to keep us all healthy, to hold us all accountable. And to make sure that on these off days, we’re accountable.”

Graham may be past his prime, but he’s still finding a considerable role on this team’s offense. His leadership will also help spark some fire from the team’s younger tight ends. It may only be training camp, but the constant storylines and videos point towards Graham fitting in quite well in the Windy City.

The Rise of the Rookie

Rookie tight ends often take a year to really get a hold on their position. The position requires both blocking techniques and running passing routes. For Cole Kmet, the team is counting on him to be their “Y” blocking tight end. An efficient blocking tight end can help open up the run game; something the Bears struggled with in 2019.

It seems that Kmet has been transitioning faster than expected. He’s done a great job learning the offensive schemes and understanding his assignments. The mental half of the position seems to make total sense for the Notre Dame product. What has been even more impressive is how Kmet has been in the passing game. Clips from camp have shown Kmet frequently winning 1-1 drills. He’s running crisp routes. He’s beating defensive players with his hands and big body.

Kmet’s teammates have taken notice to the rookie. Newly acquired Tashaun Gipson stated how he’s been impressed with the tight end group. When asked about Kmet, Gipson stated that he thinks the rookie will be a star in the NFL. Of course, he could just be gassing up his teammates, but Gipson is a seasoned vet. Getting praise from a successful NFL safety is a good sign for the rookie.

The Underrated Guys

Graham and Kmet aren’t the only ones impressing coaches and fans. The team has a few other guys who are stepping up at tight end.

J.P Holtz was signed from the waivers last season. The former Washington Football Team player found a solid role contributing for the Bears. He served as a fullback and helped open up the run game. Holtz is a solid blocker who brings physicality to the Bears offense. Keeping a guy around like that could be very beneficial for the team.

Meanwhile, it seems Jesper Horsted has continued to shine in the moments he has had. For starters, the undrafted rookie added on some weight to build into his role. The former Princeton receiver switched to tight end for the Bears back in 2019. Horsted has also been seen as a passing threat in some situations during camp. According to reports, he was credited with Mitch Trubisky’s best throw of camp.

The road to the active roster will be challenging for Horsted. His connection to Trubisky is a factor going for him though. If he can continue to show his value in the passing game, the team may almost have too many tight ends to choose from. That problem is something the Bears haven’t had in a long time. The revamped Bears tight ends may be exactly what this team needs on offense, and as the regular season comes closer and closer, we’ll soon get to see if all this retooling has paid off.

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