Tight end is one of the toughest positions to learn in the NFL. Rookies who make an instant impact for their teams, like Kyle Pitts has in Atlanta, are exceptions to the rule. So when Cole Kmet finished his rookie campaign, which began without a traditional training camp due to COVID-19, with only 28 catches for 243 yards and two touchdowns it wasn’t surprising. What has been surprising for some however, is that Kmet had a slow start to this season as well.
It’s clear Kmet has developed this season, but so far it hasn’t been as much as some fans hoped for. Halfway through the season, Kmet has already surpassed his total yardage from last year, and is tied with 28 catches. But he’s been shut out of the endzone. The beginning of the year was rough too, as Kmet racked up only 81 yards on 10 catches through the first five games.
Tight ends coach Clancy Barrone believes some of the factors leading to Kmet’s slow start were out of his control, however.
“A lot of that growth process is having time on task with the same quarterback,” Barrone said. “This is一 and is for a lot of people in this offense一 it’s their fourth starting quarterback in 20-something weeks... That’s also a major part, trying to get that chemistry between tight end and quarterback and that’s really true for all of them, not just Cole.”
And as Kmet has started to develop some chemistry with Justin Fields, he seems to be turning a corner, with 203 yards on 18 catches over the Bears’ last four games. Outside of the production and chemistry, Barrone says he’s noticed another difference with Kmet on the field recently.
“I think his confidence is evident,” Barrone said. “You watch his confidence as a route runner and his feel for the offense and knowing what routes should be open vs. what coverages and how to adjust certain routes against certain coverages and that type of thing. With that I think he has grown quite a bit.”
That growth paid off most in Week 9 against the Steelers when Kmet set a career high with 87 yards.
“We certainly hope that it’s something we can build on,” Barrone said.
Kmet will have a great opportunity to build on his success against the Steelers coming out of the bye, when the Bears take on the Ravens. Baltimore’s defense has been one of the worst teams defending opposing tight ends, surrendering two 100-yard games and six total touchdowns to tight ends already.
If Kmet can continue his upward trend, it will go a long way in helping the Bears offense improve as a whole over the back half of the season.