Why Dion Sims' return may not lessen Adam Shaheen's role in the Bears' offense

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Why Dion Sims' return may not lessen Adam Shaheen's role in the Bears' offense

Dion Sims was limited in practice on Wednesday, but he participated — marking the first practice he took part in since Oct. 27. Sims said he feels “great,” so assuming he’s getting closer to playing on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, that begs the question: What does it mean for Adam Shaheen?

The short answer, according to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains: Not much. 

“We don’t want to slow down his progress,” Loggains said. “And as long as he’s making steps in the right direction — we’re high on Dion Sims as well — but we do not want to slow down Adam’s progress that way.”

Shaheen has caught all six of his targets the last two weeks, totaling 80 yards with a touchdown and displaying some encouraging chemistry with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (who was his offseason roommate after the pair were drafted in April). Against Green Bay and Detroit, Shaheen played 52 and 73 percent of the Bears' snaps, respectively. 

The Bears didn’t use Shaheen in Sunday’s critical two-minute drive against the Detroit Lions, though, turning to Daniel Brown instead of their second-round draft pick. Loggians explained that he didn’t want to overload Shaheen with responsibilities after his elevation on the depth chart due to Sims’ illness and Zach Miller’s season-ending injury. So Shaheen was tasked mostly with first- and second-down plays, while Brown became the Bears’ third down and two-minute guy at tight end. 

“It was mainly so Adam could focus in on his role,” Loggains said. “And as he keeps growing that way, we’ll  keep expanding that package for him. But that was the reason why.”

The Bears need Shaheen’s role to expand, though, for him to meet the usual expectations placed upon a 45th overall pick. There are going to be some situations, especially running ones, where Sims has to be on the field, possibly at the expense of Shaheen. But if the Bears were to step back and take a bigger-picture look at their offense, there are some good signs of Shaheen and Trubisky growing together, just as the team hoped when they made the pair their first two selections in the 2017 draft. The return of Sims shouldn’t disrupt that growth. 

“He’s earned the play time the last two weeks,” Loggains said. “He’s played better and better and he had some things on the first level in the blocking game that he needs to improve on that Dion is really good at because he’s played a little bit longer. We do want to play him, continue to grow him, continue to grow him and grow the reps that way, especially without having Zach here. So there is a role that — we’re still missing a little bit of a role that we’re kind of splitting between Adam and Dan. 

“But we’ll continue to play him more, and each game will be a little bit different, how it dictates. But yes, we do see him, his role just like Tarik (Cohen’s) to continue to grow weekly.” 

Bears' roster moves create a looming roster hurdle for Kevin White


Bears' roster moves create a looming roster hurdle for Kevin White

Questions have been hanging over Kevin White ever since GM Ryan Pace opted to invest the No. 7 pick of the 2015 draft on a wide receiver with one outstanding college season on his resume. Given Pace’s strike for a quarterback with a roughly similar body of work last draft, this may qualify as a Pace “strategy,” but that’s for another discussion closer to the draft.

But in the wake of signings at wide receiver by Pace and the Bears over the start-up days of free agency, a new and perhaps darker cloud is forming over White. This is beyond the obvious ones visited on the young man by his succession of three season-ending injuries, and by a nagging belief in some quarters that White is a bust irrespective of the injuries.

The point is not that White will never amount to anything in the NFL. Marc Colombo came back from a pair of horrendous leg injuries to have a career as a solid NFL tackle, albeit with the Dallas Cowboys, not the Bears.

The problem facing White now, assuming he comes back able to stay healthy in a competition with Cameron Meredith for the spot opposite Allen Robinson, is whether there is reasonably going to be a roster spot the Bears can use for him.

This would be on top of whether Pace and the organization could bring themselves to cut ties with a quality individual in a move that would amount to admitting a failure in what was supposed to be a defining initial top-10 pick by a regime committed to building through the draft.

White is still under his rookie contract with its $2.7 million guaranteed for this season, so there is little reason to simply give up on him, even assuming an offset if White then signs on somewhere else.

But Robinson and slot receiver Taylor Gabriel account for two of the starting three wideout spots. For the other wide receiver job, Meredith, also coming off season-ending knee surgery, rates an early edge on White based on Meredith’s 66-catch 2016 season.

If White does not start, he then becomes a backup, and backups are expected to contribute on special teams. It’s what has kept Josh Bellamy in the NFL, and what new Bears tight end Trey Burton points to as his ticket to making it through his first years with Philadelphia.

White doesn’t cover kicks, doesn’t return them, doesn’t block them. The Bears have typically expected special-teams participation from their No. 4-5 receivers, although the fact that Meredith and Robinson are coming off knee injuries, and chances that the Bears will keep six wide receivers in the West Coast offense of Matt Nagy, all could tilt a decision in favor of White simply as insurance/depth, even with his own injury history.

It is difficult not to have a spot of rooting-interest in White, a young guy trying so hard to get a career dream off the ground. It’s just also difficult to see a clear fit in the new Bears world that began forming in earnest in the past several days.

Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?


Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?

Not all that long ago, back in the seemingly promising Dave Wannstedt days, something of an annual narrative began around the Bears. All too frequently since then it has been the refrain of more offseasons than not, including last year’s. And if there is a cause for very, very sobering realism in the wake of the heady wave of free-agency signings in the first days of the new league year, it lies in what has so often transpired to put the lie to that optimism.

The mantra then, and now, has been various iterations of, “If these three (or four, or six, or 12) things work out, the Bears are gonna be good this year.” Because the reality is that all those what-ifs seldom, if ever, all come to pass, whether because of injury, mis-evaluated abilities or whatever.

Look no further than this time last offseason, just considering the offense:

If Kevin White can come back from (another) injury, if Markus Wheaton flashes his Pittsburgh speed, if Dion Sims takes that next step from a promising Miami stint, if Kyle Long is back from his lower-body issues, if Cameron Meredith comes close to those 66 catches again, if Mike Glennon has the upside that led the GM to guarantee him $18.5 million, and hey, Victor Cruz, too, if… and so on.

And exactly zero of those “if’s” came to pass, with the result that John Fox and Dowell Loggains became idiots.

The point is not to a picker of nit or sayer of nay. But the fact is that a lot of the offseason moves and player development ALL need to come down in the plus-column for the Bears to be even as good as they were back in, say, 2015, when the offense had Martellus Bennett at tight end, Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver, Eddie Royal coming in at slot receiver (with 37 catches in an injury-shortened season), Kyle Long at his Pro-Bowl best, and Jay Cutler about to have the best full season of his career. And a new (proven) head coach and defensive coordinator, and an offensive coordinator with head-coaching talent.

All those things “worked” for a team that would wobble to a 6-10 year.

Now consider 2018:

The current top two wide receivers are both – both – coming off season-ending ACL injuries;

The incoming slot receiver has never had a season as reception-productive as the one (Kendall Wright) he is replacing (59) or as many as Royal had in just nine 2015 games (37);

The new tight end has never been a starter and has fewer career catches (63) than Bennett averaged (69) in three supremely disappointing Bears seasons;

The best offensive lineman (Long) is coming off missing essentially half of each of the past two seasons with injuries, and the co-best (Sitton) is gone from an offensive line that was middle of the pack last year and has high hopes for two linemen (Hroniss Grasu, Eric Kush) who’ve been largely backups, and a third (Jordan Morgan) who missed his rookie season with an injury;

And the quarterback (Trubisky) upon whom the franchise rests, who needs to overcome any so-called sophomore jinx and improve from a rookie level (77.8 passer rating) that was barely better than Cutler’s worst NFL season (76.8).

All of which sounds negative, but it really isn’t, just a perspective. Offseasons are about hope, but realism isn’t all bad, either.