Bears

Why Trey Burton might be one of the most valuable pieces in the Bears' 2018 playoff run

Why Trey Burton might be one of the most valuable pieces in the Bears' 2018 playoff run

Though he may not be the most important offensive player for the Bears’ 2018 playoff run, tight end Trey Burton may end up proving to be the most valuable. Burton, who signed a four-year contract with the Chicago a little over a month after winning Super Bowl 52, has what the vast majority of this Bears roster does not: experience making plays on the NFL’s biggest stage. 

He was, as you surely know, the quarterback for the infamous “Philly Special” play that’s come to define last season’s champs. 

“I couldn’t give you a percentage, but it will always be part of my life, my family’s life, no one can ever take the Super Bowl away from us,” Burton said when asked about the play’s role in his career. “It was an unbelievable time. But now I’m here. I’m excited to be here.”

That experience -- and Burton’s composure in it -- make up a sizeable part of why head coach Matt Nagy considers Burton one of the team’s (admittedly softer-spoken) leaders. Many of the players who will be playing playoff football for the first time, including quarterback Mitch Trubisky, have already talked with him about what to expect.

“I would say everything is magnified,” Burton said. “People from the outside make every play and every second, they put it on this huge pedestal where in reality it’s just a football game. We’ve been playing 16 or 20 or 21 of them this year, and it’s nothing different than that.”

For Trubisky specifically, Burton talked about how he feels it’s his job to keep the 2nd-year QB loose. Trubisky has talked more than once this season about his battles with early-game adrenaline, and what gets the blood pumping more than the first home playoff game of your career in front of 60,000 people?

“I just tell him to have fun because you can get caught up, especially as a quarterback,” he said. “What people are saying you know, what's going on in the offense, bringing the whole team together, you know what people think about you, you can get easily, easily get caught up.”

“Especially as a young guy and I'm not saying he does but it's something that you easily can do. So I feel like my role to him is just to remind him to have fun.” 

In an offense that’s targeted Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Tarik Cohen more often than Burton, it’s easy to overlook the fact the tight end’s having the best season of his career. He set career-high marks in targets (76), receptions (54), yards (569), touchdowns (6), and yards per game (35.6). 

“[In Philadelphia] His volume of plays was like 25 percent play-time, 30 percent, 33, somewhere around there,” Matt Nagy said. “Now he’s up in I want to say the 80s, 85, and that’s a lot. Everything that he’s done, that’s new to him. So considering that and taking into what he’s doing and the leader that he is with these guys and the calmness that he gives the players in the room, he does everything the right way.” 

“He’s one of the smartest guys in the offense. He always knows where to be, how to run a route,” Tarik Cohen added. 

On Wednesday, Burton noted the (actually uncanny) amount of similarities between the 2017 Eagles and the 2018 Bears.  Both teams, he noted, rely on a strong, opportunistic defense coupled with a well-schemed and efficient offense. There are the trick plays and the well-documented parallels between head coaches, too. Burton wasn’t the go-to option for either team, but one of the similarities he chose not to mention was the profound impact he’s had on both. 

Even so, it’s been a quietly strong season for one of the Bears’ quiet leaders. When asked about his impact on the team, Matt Nagy was crystal clear: “He’s exceeded my expectations.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is the Robbie Gould Bears reunion realistic?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is the Robbie Gould Bears reunion realistic?

David Haugh, Ben Finfer and JJ Stankevitz join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Robbie Gould wants the 49ers to trade him. Will the dream of Bears fans come true? David Haugh thinks his departure three years ago might make a reunion difficult.

12:30- Tony Andracki joins Kap from Wrigley to preview the Cubs-Dodgers series opener. They discuss Jose Quintana's recent success, the need to keep Jason Heyward in the every day lineup and talk about Kris Bryant's struggles.

17:30- The panel discusses the Cubs' lineup for Game 1 with the Dodgers and if Pedro Strop is one of the three greatest relievers in Cubs history.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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As NFL Draft looms, anything is possible for Ryan Pace and the Bears

As NFL Draft looms, anything is possible for Ryan Pace and the Bears

Ryan Pace’s pre-draft press conference began with the Bears’ general manager dryly referring to it as “always fun,” which elicited a round of chuckles from the assembled media at Halas Hall. Two days before the NFL Draft commences in Nashville, there’s no chance Pace is going to publicly tip his hand for what he’s planning to do later in the week. Fun, right?

Pace did tip one thing, though: When the 24th pick comes around — the first of the two first-round picks the Bears shipped to the Raiders last Labor Day weekend — he’ll pull up highlights of Khalil Mack in Halas Hall’s high-tech new draft room. Consider it a welcome reminder of why Pace doesn't have a first-round pick and might as well hook a Nintendo 64 up to the digital draft board and challenge anyone in the building to MarioKart on Thursday night (if this is possible, Toad on Koopa Troopa Beach is always a winner). 

While the Bears won’t be on the clock until pick No. 87 in the third round (last year’s trade to move back into the second round to draft Anthony Miller is also why), Pace said the pressure on him remains the same as it was the last four years, when he made four selections in the first nine picks of those drafts. So that’s one aspect of this year’s draft that won’t change. 

Another: The Bears aren’t going to switch their philosophy to drafting for the few needs a 12-4 team coming off a division title has. For Pace, the reasoning is twofold: First, he’s always been a best-player-available guy; second, he doesn’t see any truly glaring needs on his roster. 

“We feel fortunate with our roster right now,” Pace said. “This press conference feels a little different in that there's no pressing, huge needs. We can honestly select the best players. That's a great spot to be in.”

That’s not to say the Bears don’t have any needs. Another running back, a reserve receiver, a backup tight end, cornerbacks and safeties for the future — those are all needs. Teams can never have too many offensive linemen, defensive linemen and edge rushers. 

Of those, though, the only position with a path to a starting/prominent role on offense or defense may be running back. Even then, Pace said Mike Davis — who the Bears signed in March — is “built to handle a lot of carries,” so if a running back is drafted the expectation will be for him to be part of a rotation, not necessarily a true No. 1 starter-type. 

“Right now, I know running back's been talked about a lot, but we feel good about that position,” Pace said. “We feel good about Tarik (Cohen), we feel really good about Mike Davis, we feel good about Ryan Nall and we feel good about Cordarrelle Patterson and the things he can do out of the backfield.

“… I think there's probably always a storyline with every draft. I understand why it's that way, but I don't feel like we go into this draft saying, 'Man, we have to take this position or we're in trouble.' We're in good shape.”

So consider this another intentionally-murky statement by Pace in this pre-draft press conference. The Bears probably need to take a running back, but he’s not going to say that and tip his hand or paint himself into a corner three days before he actually gets to make a pick. 

(That Pace mentioned Nall, a 2018 undrafted free agent who spent last year on the practice squad, by name was at least interest-piquing.)

So as Pace took questions on Tuesday, most of the answers were some variation of “sure, it’s possible.” Trading down? Sure, it’s possible. Trading up? Sure, it’s possible — though not into the first round. Drafting a quarterback? Sure, it’s possible. A kicker? Sure, it’s possible. Not drafting a running back? Sure, it’s possible. 

We’ll have a complete picture of what Pace was actually thinking come Saturday evening. But while he didn’t reveal much on Tuesday, and doesn’t have much draft capital with which to work, this draft is important. The Bears can find players for the present and future — when their roster will be more expensive — starting on Friday night. And hitting on a few of these picks will be critical for keeping the Bears’ window to win open as long as possible. 

“If we take a player where we happen to have a lot of depth right now, but it’s a good player, that’s okay,” Pace said. “I think it’s short-sighted to say, ‘well, this guy might be able to play a little bit quicker so let’s take him.’ Let’s just take the best player. If that means it takes a little bit longer for him to play, let’s just make sure we take the best guy.”