Bears

Clash with former coaches doesn’t change Kendall Wright’s confidence

Clash with former coaches doesn’t change Kendall Wright’s confidence

Kendall Wright is out to make sure the Tennessee Titans regret not only letting him leave, but for barely using him in 2016.

The 27-year-old, who signed a one-year deal with the Bears in March, isn’t sure why he was only targeted 42 times last year. But that lack of usage didn’t ding his confidence and only fueled his motivation to show his former team how wrong he thinks they were.

“Everything motivates me,” Wright said. “What motivates me the most is I probably was the best receiver on the Titans roster last year and I was playing, like, 10 plays a game.”

In 2013 — his second year in the league — Wright caught 94 passes for 1,079 yards. It was a breakout year for a guy the Titans drafted 20th overall in 2012, but the Baylor product wasn’t able to build on that success.

Wright’s targets and receptions declined for three consecutive years, going from 93 and 57 in 2014 to 60 and 36 in 2015 to 42 and 29 a year ago. Part of the reason for that decline was a spate of injuries — hamstring, knee, ribs, MCL, hand, ankle, shoulder — but he also clashed with the Titans’ coaching staff toward the end of his time in Nashville. Wright was a healthy scratch for Tennessee’s final game of 2016 and was benched in Week 14 due to tardiness and missed meetings.

“I don’t read anything,” Wright said. “You hear it, you see stuff everywhere, but I don’t really get on my social media and stuff like that because I could care less what anybody has to say.”

The Bears play at Tennessee in Week 3 of preseason play, though Wright isn’t putting any added emphasis on a game that won’t really count for anything. The better way for him to show the Titans how they screwed up would be to produce against everyone else during the regular season.

“They’ll feel it after this year,” Wright said. “They’ll feel some type of way after they see.”  

Bears eye position changes in search for improved depth on offense

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USA Today

Bears eye position changes in search for improved depth on offense

The Bears will try to address one of their more glaring weaknesses — tight end depth — by giving longtime offensive tackle Bradley Sowell some work at tight end in the coming weeks of practice at Halas Hall. 

Sowell, a reliable backup swing tackle the last two seasons with the Bears, was targeted twice as a receiver in 2018 — first, on a nearly-intercepted Mitch Trubisky pass against the New England Patriots, and second on the famous “Santa’s Sleigh” touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. He also got some work as a fullback in the Bears’ Week 17 thumping of the Minnesota Vikings. 

“We felt like at the ‘Y’ position we could use some more depth,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s something we talked about at the end of the season. We discussed it and now we’re giving him a chance.”

Nagy’s assessment of the Bears’ “Y” (in-line) depth is accurate, if not even undersold. The athletic 6-foot-7, 312 pound Sowell will have a chance to be a backup to Adam Shaheen, who has missed 13 games in his first two years due to a string of injuries. Reserve tight end Ben Braunecker can play both the “Y” and “U” positions, and the Bears have a handful of undrafted free agents (led by Utah State's Dax Raymond) competing to catch the eye of the coaching staff in the coming weeks. 

The Bears’ offense struggled with two tight ends on the field last year, especially in Shaheen’s absence as Dion Sims played himself out of the league. It’s far too early to tell if adding Sowell to the tight end mix will help, but at this point, the Bears think it’s worth a shot. 

“He’s shown it repetitively in practice that he has the athletic ability, the hands, he’s very smart, he knows how to block and all that stuff,” Nagy said. “So let’s test it out and see. When I tell you he’s all-in, he’s all-in.”

Center of Attention

As expected, the Bears indeed will flip James Daniels and Cody Whitehair on the offensive line, with Daniels sliding to center and Whitehair to left guard. 

“We feel comfortable with it, so again, this is the time to test it out and see,” Nagy said. “It’s hard right now because we don’t have pads. So, we’ll get into training camp and see how that goes. But I feel pretty good about it.”

Daniels exclusively played left guard during last year’s regular season, with the Bears opting to hold steady with Whitehair at center for the third consecutive season. Whitehair, though, was drafted as a guard back in 2016 and only moved to center after the last-minute signing of Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton. Daniels, too, starred as a center at Iowa and did get a smattering of preseason snaps there before fully committing to playing guard his rookie year. 

The change is the only planned one on Harry Hiestand’s offensive line, which returns every primary starter from 2018 (Daniels, Whitehair, Charles Leno, Bobby Massie, Kyle Long). Perhaps the most significant change for this group, then, will be losing Sowell as its backup tackle. 

Windy City: Smoke Out?

Taquan Mizzell will work as a wide receiver during OTAs, with the now-former running back trading in No. 33 for No. 11 but facing an uphill battle to make the Bears’ roster. 

Mizzell does have a decent track record as a pass-catcher dating back to his college days at Virginia, but it’ll take a massive effort for the third-year player to crack into a crowded receiver room that already has a competitive battle brewing between Javon Wims, Marvin Hall and a group of undrafted free agents. 

While it’s too early to grant rookie running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. a roster spot, shifting Mizzell out of the picture does appear to create a clearer path for the seventh-round pick to stick with the Bears this fall. 

Bradley Sowell, Taquan Mizzell move to new positions at Bears OTAs

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USA TODAY

Bradley Sowell, Taquan Mizzell move to new positions at Bears OTAs

When the Bears reconvened for their first full team practices of the offseason, two players lined up at new positions on offense with new jersey numbers.

Offensive lineman Bradley Sowell is now wearing 85 and playing tight end, while running back Taquan Mizzell moved to wide receiver and will wear No. 11.

Both players have experience at their new positions from experimenting last season. Sowell actually played more snaps at tight end (30) than offensive line (13) in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus, most notably catching a touchdown pass against the Los Angeles Rams on the play known as “Santa’s Sleigh.”

Mizzell lined up at wide receiver plenty last season too. Out of his 73 total offensive snaps, 33 of them came at a receiver position, according to PFF.

They’re both moving to crowded positions on the depth chart, but the team evidently is confident they’ll make a smooth transition.

Sowell’s move likely clears a spot for converted defensive lineman Rashaad Coward to take over as the third offensive tackle on the depth chart.

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