"Where is Adam Shaheen?"
It was a fair question and one that was uttered often by Bears fans through the first 11 weeks of the season.
The rookie tight end — a second-round pick (45th overall) this spring — had little impact on the 2017 season through 10 games, playing only around a quarter of the team's offensive snaps.
But Sunday's loss at the hands of the Detroit Lions marked the best game of Shaheen's young career. He caught all four of his targets for 41 yards and a touchdown.
That total doubled his season yardage line, and his four catches were more than he had in the first nine games combined (three). Two of those three catches — and 39 yards — came in the Week 10 loss to the Green Bay Packers, one game prior to Sunday's.
He even made an impact as a blocker, too:
P good block by Adam Shaheen on that Howard 16-yard run.— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) November 19, 2017
"These last two weeks, playing with the starters has been a big confidence-builder for me," Shaheen said. "Getting those early catches. Hopefully continue to build on it."
Shaheen has gotten his chance to show what he can do in a Bears offense that's missing veteran tight ends Zach Miller (out for the year with a knee injury) and Dion Sims (who missed Sunday with an illness), and he's taken a common sports trope — "next man up" — to heart.
"I feel like I've gotten better every game in the receiving role," Shaheen said. "Taking advantage of the opportunities I've been given.
"The more you rep it in games and the more you're actually out there running around, catching the ball, you build up some confidence."
And with that confidence comes more comfort in the offense and on the NFL gridiron for a raw tight end who played Division-II football at Ashland.
It's a cycle the Bears need to continue as the year moves on and delves into a focus on the future with the 2017 playoffs an extreme longshot at this point.
Even with Shaheen's big game and a clear rapport developing with quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the rookie tight end wasn't in the game on the final drive when the Bears were running their two-minute drill.
It still comes down to how raw Shaheen is, along with fellow inexperienced players (running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen).
"In a two-minute situation, not everybody on the team knows all of that," Bears coach John Fox said. "We have Adam Shaheen, we have Mitchell Trubisky, we have Tarik Cohen — they are playing in their eighth games in their NFL careers, as rookies.
"They have a lot on their plate as it is, and they can't do everything. They're definitely good, young players, for sure."