Bears

Bears grades and needs: Improved depth necessary at tight end

Bears grades and needs: Improved depth necessary at tight end

2018 depth chart

1. Trey Burton
Usage: 16 games, 80 percent of offensive snaps
2019 status: $8.675 million cap hit

No skill position player not named Mitch Trubisky was on the field for more offensive snaps than Burton (860, 30 more than Taylor Gabriel), and 54 catches for 569 yards with six touchdowns represented solid production from the “U” tight end spot in Matt Nagy’s offense. He didn’t drop a pass until Week 12, and Mitch Trubisky and Chase Daniel combined for a 111.2 passer rating when throwing his direction, per Pro Football Focus. He may not have had a spectacular Travis Kelce-like season, but he was an important part of the offense in the first year of his four-year, $32 million deal. 

The issue with Burton was what happened after his groin locked up less than 48 hours before the Bears kicked off their wild card game against the Eagles. His absence was capitalized on by Philadelphia’s defense, which shifted its focus to Tarik Cohen and largely took the versatile playmaker out of the Bears’ offense. Worth noting: During the regular season, only 89 of Cohen’s 495 snaps came without Burton on the field (18 percent). 

Burton still may have some upside to his game, especially as Nagy’s offense evolves beyond the “Football 101” foundation it laid in 2018. But the Bears have to be able to better deal with losing Burton on short notice going forward. 

2. Adam Shaheen
Usage: 6 games, 14.9 percent of offensive snaps
2019 status: $1,611,965 cap hit

Shaheen’s 2018 wasn’t a completely lost year in his development, given he was able to learn Nagy’s offense through OTAs and training camp. But the foot injury he suffered against the Broncos — after two days of joint practices in which he looked good against Denver’s defense — wiped out the first nine games of the season. When he returned, he suffered a concussion converting a two-point attempt against the Vikings, which held him out of another game. 

That leaves Shaheen’s outlook in question heading into an important 2019. The upside is there, but he has to improve as a blocker and a route-runner, with this next round of OTAs and camps critical in that development. A healthy and effective Shaheen would give Nagy the option of running more two-tight personnel groupings, which could help aid the run game. 

The Bears, though, may need to bring in some insurance behind Shaheen at the “Y” (in-line) spot given he’s missed 13 games in his two-year career.

3. Dion Sims
Usage: 8 games, 18.1 percent of offensive snaps, 15.1 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: $6,333,334 cap hit

The Bears will save $6 million in cap space by releasing Sims, per Spotrac. He’s been ineffective with the Bears, and only stuck on the 2018 roster thanks to the team having enough cap space to keep him. 

4. Ben Braunecker
Usage: 15 games, 11.1 percent of offensive snaps, 56.2 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: Restricted free agent

Braunecker was the next man up at both the “U” and the “Y” spots, giving him the important trait of versatility as a backup. He played 21 snaps on offense in Burton’s playoff absence, and from Weeks 9-11 (when Sims was out and Shaheen was eased back into the offense, only to suffer a concussion) he took most of the “Y” snaps. He also was a core special teamer, with only Josh Bellamy and Benny Cunningham playing a higher percentage of special teams snaps. 

OverTheCap projects the 2019 original round tender — which would be what Braunecker, a former undrafted free agent, would receiver — would be $2.035 million. Is that money worth it for a team that, after releasing Sims, will only have about $11 million in cap space? The Bears could try to not tender Braunecker and bring him back on a cheaper deal after he made $630,000 in 2018. 

5. Daniel Brown
Usage: 14 games, 2.1 percent of offensive snaps, 52.5 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: Unrestricted free agent

Brown showed some receiving upside in 2016 and 2017, catching 29 passes for 253 yards while playing a little over 500 snaps for the Bears those two seasons. He only appeared 23 times on offense and wasn’t targeted in 2018, and while he was a part of the team’s special teams units the Bears may look to replace him with someone who can specifically back up Burton. 

Level of need (1-11, with 11 being the highest): 6

The Bears need to improve their depth behind Burton and Shaheen, making this a sneaky position of need despite the money and draft capital already committed to it. 

Previous unit needs/grades: QB | RB | WR

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People actually thought that Garth Brooks was wearing a Bernie Sanders Lions jersey

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@jasoncvincent

People actually thought that Garth Brooks was wearing a Bernie Sanders Lions jersey

Karens everywhere are officially Mad Online. 

The latest -- and probably dumbest -- example yet? Let's check in on country megastar Garth Brooks. Sports! 

Garth was playing a concert in Detroit recently, and decided to butter up the home crowd by wearing a Barry Sanders jersey. As far as in-concert statements go, that's about as innocuous as it gets. Surely nothing could have ruined a night of Garth belting out the lyrics to his most recent song about truckbeds and moonshine and American Values while wearing the jersey of *the* great player in Lions' history? 

Ha ha ha actually no, of course things were ruined. People IN DETROIT somehow thought that Garth Brooks, of all people, was supporting Bernie Sanders. Garth Brooks! If you asked 1000 random people -- apparently they can't be from Detroit though -- what political candidate they thought Garth Brooks supported, not a single human being asked would say Bernie Sanders (although maybe they should?). Not one.  AND YET: 

I can't quite put my finger on what everyone who's making a fool of themselves on Garth's Facebook has in common, but I'm sure there's some sort of connective tissue. We'll probably never know! 

Anyways, get 'em, Barry: 

No easy answers: How Matt Nagy, Bears will try to fix run game

No easy answers: How Matt Nagy, Bears will try to fix run game

Let’s start with a pop quiz: 

You’ll get the answer near the bottom of this article. Anyways, let’s get to it: 

There’s no simple fix for the Bears’ run game in 2020. There’s not much room to dramatically improve the offensive line, with 80% of its starters returning. David Montgomery isn’t going anywhere. A new tight end or two may help a bit, but the point is, the core of this offense that averaged 3.7 yards per carry in 2019 (fourth-worst in the NFL) will be back in 2020. 

So the only place for the Bears to really go in search of a run game fix is with their coaching. And Matt Nagy’s firing of offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride Jr. and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand (and replacing them with Bill Lazor, Clancy Barone and Juan Castillo) felt like a tacit acknowledgement of where the problem can be fixed. 

In talking about not having a run game coordinator, the first name Nagy brought up was Castillo, who previously coached with Nagy for the Philadelphia Eagles. 

“(Castillo’s) expertise in football is second to none,” Nagy said. “And so I have a lot of respect for him and how he does things. Just the last several weeks that we've been together talking scheme-wise, it just feels really good. I just appreciate a lot of simplicity of where he’s at and the consistency too. So it will be fun to get going on that.”

It’s notable the only coach Nagy hired this winter who he’d previously worked with was Castillo, who’s had stints as a run game coordinator/offensive line coach with the Eagles (1998-2010), Baltimore Ravens (2013-2016) and Buffalo Bills (2017-2018). Perhaps Nagy believes he’ll be less likely to abandon his run game if he has more trust in the guys overseeing it. 

Barone, too, has coached tight ends all over the league but also has experience as an offensive line coach, including with the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos a few years ago. Lazor’s experience is with quarterbacks but the Cincinnati Bengals did rank eighth in rushing yards per play (4.7) in 2018, his last year as offensive coordinator there. 

“I’m doing a lot of listening and I think now is the time to do that so we can collaborate, figure out what went wrong last year and let’s fix it,” Nagy said. “Let’s be about solutions.”

Those solutions, though, are neither simple nor obvious. Remember that question at the top of the article? Here’s the answer: 

A (David Montgomery running from the shotgun): 115 carries, 478 yards, 4.2 YPC, 3 TD

B (David Montgomery running from under center): 127 carries, 411 yards, 3.2 YPC, 3 TD

The Bears’ run game needs a complete overhaul, not just a few tweaks, and there’s not a clear solution with the roster currently in place. Can Castillo & Co. give Nagy the run game he needs, and then can Nagy trust it on gamedays when he’s calling plays? 

We’ll find out in September, but those are two of the most important questions for this team to answer in 2020. 

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