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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Bears offensive line stonewalled Von Miller in Week 2

Bears offensive line stonewalled Von Miller in Week 2

Denver Broncos superstar pass-rusher Von Miller is one of the most feared defenders in the NFL. He can single-handedly destroy an offense's gameplan, and in Sunday's Week 2 matchup against the Chicago Bears, it was up to Charles Leno and Bobby Massie to make sure he didn't make a game-changing sack of Mitch Trubisky.

Mission accomplished.

The Bears' offensive line wasn't perfect in Denver, but they checked one of the biggest boxes of the week by keeping Miller away from Trubisky all afternoon. According to Pro Football Focus, Miller made no impact -- literally none -- as a pass rusher.

Miller entered the 2019 season with five-straight seasons of double-digit sacks, including 14.5 in 2018. His rare talent, combined with the defensive genius of Vic Fangio, appeared like a mission-impossible in Week 2. But Leno and Massie answered the call in dominant fashion. They both finished the game with top-10 grades on Chicago's offense, per PFF.

To be fair, Miller registered an elite grade against the run in Week 2, but his 49.3 pass-rush grade was the worst on the Broncos defense. You read that right; Miller was Denver's worst pass-rusher Sunday.

Kudos to Leno and Massie for a job well done. 

John Fox says Eddy Pineiro's Bears career was on the line in Week 2

John Fox says Eddy Pineiro's Bears career was on the line in Week 2

Former Bears coach John Fox knows a thing or two about getting run out of Chicago. He won just 14 games during his three seasons with the Bears and was fired following the 2017 season when Chicago finished 5-11.

Now an analyst with ESPN, Fox was like every Bears fan watching Week 2's game against the Broncos. And he had a pretty strong opinion about the ramifications of Eddy Pineiro's game-winning 53-yard kick moments before the ball split the uprights.

According to Adam Schefter, Fox said Pineiro's Bears career was on the line.

“I’m watching [Bears vs. Broncos] with John Fox later in the day,” Schefter told ESPN Radio on Monday. “He goes ‘Do you realize how massive this kick is for this one individual and the team?’ He said this before the kick, ‘If this guy misses this kick, he probably can’t kick in Chicago again. If he makes it, he’s a hero with confidence and momentum.’ So that’s all that’s riding on this one kick at the end of the game.”

That seems like a pretty extreme hot take. A 53-yard field goal is hardly a layup, especially for a young kicker who before the game-winner had never been in a situation like that. Would it have been another gut-wrenching loss because of a missed kick? Sure. And would it have magnified the kicker drama Chicago's been living with since last January? Of course. But it's highly unlikely the Bears would've cut Pineiro loose had he missed.

Fortunately, we'll never know. Pineiro's clutch performance not only has his confidence at an all-time high, but it's also put to rest any concerns about Chicago's kicking situation. In fact, an argument can be made that Pineiro has been the NFL's best kicker through two weeks.

Pineiro and the Bears will have a fantastic opportunity to build off of Week 2's momentum when they travel to Washington to take on the Redskins in Week 3's Monday night showdown.