Moon: Who said Martz doesn't use the tight end?


Moon: Who said Martz doesn't use the tight end?

Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011
10:33 PM

By John Mullin

Who knew?

The position that Mike Martz never had a lot of time for in the past is suddenly perhaps nothing short of a bellwether for Bears fortunes.

The Bears are 7-0 this season when a tight end catches a touchdown pass. Six of the wins came in the regular season, including the first Green Bay game. The seventh was in the divisional win over Seattle when Kellen Davis and Greg Olsen caught scoring throws of 39 and 58 yards, respectively.

No tight end in a Mike Martz offense ever caught more passes in a single season than Ernie Conwells 38 for the 2001 St. Louis Rams. No tight end in a Martz offense ever caught more than Conwells four that season.

In one Chicago season, Martzs tight ends, the position that the incoming coordinator was expected to relegate to insignificance, have done away with those highs.

Not bad for a position that was addressed in the offseason but with a player (Brandon Manumaleuna) more akin to a guard than a receiver, a hint about what Martz had planned for the position. If Davis, Olsen and even seldom-used Desmond Clark had doubts, they have more than played through them.

There really wasnt much history of Martz and tight ends really to rely on, Olsen said. But I was confident that if I just continued to do what I do, that there would be a place for me and there has been a role and a pretty prominent one.

Coach Martz has said all along that the guys who make plays and do what theyre asked to do are going to play and thats the mentality, the approach weve all taken.
Quality over quantity
It has not been all good all year for tight ends vs. the recent past.

The four tight ends combined for 53 catches and nine touchdowns this season. Olsen alone had 60 catches and 8 touchdowns last season. The group yardage total was 633; Olsen netted 612 last season.

Indeed, the position was not as integral a part of the offense as it was under Ron Turner. West Coast systems traditionally make far more extensive use of tight ends than Martzs more vertical system. Green Bay has hurt the Bears under two regimes with the likes of Mark Chmura, Bubba Franks and last year Jermicheal Finley.

But Olsens 39-yard touchdown catch was the turning point of the Dallas game. Davis one catch of the regular season was for a touchdown in the first Minnesota game and put the Vikings down by two scores in the crucial closing minutes.

Davis has 12 career catches. Five of them have ended up in the end zone.

A little skill and a lot of luck, Davis said, laughing. When If Jay Cutler is on point, whoevers open is going to get the ball.

The Bears kept four tight ends on the 53-man roster for the first time in recent memory and had all four active for five games, including the first Green Bay game.

Vernon Davis, who has caught 20 touchdown passes for the 49ers in the two seasons since Martz left San Francisco, caught just 31 passes and scored two touchdowns under Martz. Conwell scored once every 9.5 times he caught a pass in his best Martz season.

Bears tight ends produced a touchdown once every 5.9 receptions this season.
Martz, you crazy old tight end, you
Martz isnt anti-tight-end, certainly after the group under position coach Mike DeBord has acquitted itself so decisively in game situations. He may in fact relate particularly to Manumaleuna.

I used to play tight end, Martz said of his college time at Cal-Santa Barbara. I probably was more like a guard, but I did, I played tight end. I love that position.

The Bears elected to keep the four tight ends and leave fullbacks out of their 2010 roster plans. While Manumaleuna is a blocker first, the roster decision forced Olsen to become more of a blocker or lose playing time.

Even though Olsens career took a dip after seasons of 39-54-60 catches his first year, the result of 2010 has been the development of what is now arguably one of the NFCs better all-around tight ends.

Weve asked all our tight ends to take turns at that position of fullback so that takes away from the down-the-field type of thing wed like Greg to do at times, too, Martz said. But hes done so many great things for us that allow us to do those things.

Unselfishly, hes been willing to do that so we can run the ball so much better. He leads in there. Hes at the point of attack as a tight end. We put him out there as a wide receiver.

Olsen was a receiver who has made himself a serviceable blocker. Davis was a blocker who can function as a receiver in a pass-first scheme.

Davis was a little indecisive, Martz said. He wasnt quite sure what we were doing but where he has been the last three weeks or so has been very encouraging and allows us to include him more.

And not all the learning has been on the players side of the meeting room.

I think Martz realized that we can add some production to the offense, Davis said, and hes worked us in there.

John "Moon" Mullin is's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information

Postcards from Camp: Bears Matt Nagy understands what coaching interns are going through

Postcards from Camp: Bears Matt Nagy understands what coaching interns are going through

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Dear Stacey –

Well, I wanted to be head coach of the Chicago Bears and here I am, in charge of my first training camp, worrying about everything from Mitch Trubisky’s RPO footwork to whether Kyle Long is going to fall off his bike sometime in the course of camp. Probably don’t need to worry about Kyle – he’s always so safe about everything, and it’s not like he’s had all kinds of surgeries or anyth-- ….oh, wait, nevermind…

Besides all of that, we’ve got six coaches here as part of the Bill Walsh diversity coaching fellowship. They’re seeing how we do things and helping us out, and this is special. Remember back in Philadelphia when Andy Reid brought me into this profession through that program? Now it’s 11 years later and here I am, and this really represents a little pay-it-forward for me – I can understand where these coaches are because that was me once upon a time. Somebody gave each one of us a break that helped us along the way so our staff is more than delighted to have these fellows here.

Everybody was really pleased that some of our top vets – Mitch Trubisky, Allen Robinson, Chase Daniel, others – came down to camp early when the rookies reported. The coaches didn’t order that, and it says something about what you hope is forming inside the locker room. The young guys see the No. 1 quarterback and the No. 1 wide receiver coming in early and it sets both a standard and an example. When your best players are your hardest workers, then you’ve really got some leadership.

The pads’ll be on tomorrow (Saturday) so we’ll start seeing hitting by the fronts on both sides of the football, which takes the speed of everything up a notch. I’m going to pay close attention to how everyone is performing but also to how they’re holding up physically – circumstances set up beautifully for us, with an extra minicamp because I’m a new coach, then an extra practice week to go with the extra game Aug. 2 for the Hall of Fame.

Hope you and the boys are getting all the Chicago arrangements in place. Now, if I can just find my sunblock before practice…

Your coach husband,


*                          *                          *

In search of an empty sick bay

After the obvious workload entailed in installing a new offensive system and coaching regime, Matt Nagy’s No. 1 concern is injury, which has plagued the Bears on an annual basis since the 2012 departure of Lovie Smith. So while Mike Ditka and Dave Wannstedt once made no secret of their approach using epically physical practices as a means of culling the roster, Nagy has laid out a balancing act between physical practices and knowing when to back off.

“The biggest thing that any coach in the NFL will tell you is that you want to come out healthy,” Nagy said. “That’s a big one. So you have to know where you’re at on that one. You have to have some luck involved in that. There’s some unfortunate injuries and there’s some that happen for certain reasons. Health is the biggest concern for us.”

Sadly, some position competitions and lineup decisions are inevitably dictated by injuries. A season-ending leg injury to Kevin White in 2016 opened a starting job for Cameron Meredith, who’d been the No. 5 wideout on the depth chart. Meredith’s own preseason season-ender made Deonte Thompson a starter. Safety Adrian Amos had fallen from two-year starter to backup by this time last year, and only started again because Quintin Demps suffered a fractured forearm in Week 3.

If there is a major health positive right now, it is that three pivotal starters – linebacker Leonard Floyd, guard Kyle Long, wide receiver Allen Robinson – all approach the start of practices fully cleared. Those represent two Pro Bowl players (Long, Robinson) and one the Bears expect to be (Floyd).

“One of the traits we look for in players is durability and availability,” said GM Ryan Pace. “Leonard is a very talented player with a lot of natural pass rush ability. But in order for him to reach that production, he needs to be on the field. I know he’s worked a lot on his body, he’s worked a lot on his techniques, so we just feel that if he can stay healthy, the production’s going to be there.”

*                          *                          *

Weather or not….

Matt Nagy’s first practice as Bears coach came under a cloud – literally – as the threat of rain and thunderstorms had the team waiting until the last minute to determine whether the session would be held on an outdoor field as planned or indoors at a gymnasium on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University.

*                          *                          *

The outlook for Roquan Smith when he signs….

Training camp has begun without the presence of No. 1 pick Roquan Smith as his agents and the Bears work out contract details. Few expect a protracted impasse and Smith’s development may be delayed but unlikely denied. Smith had been cycled in with the No. 1 defense, as were a number of the top newcomers to the ’18 Bears. That process is expected to resume whenever Smith’s deal is concluded.

Extended holdouts are never positive, for either side, but are not necessarily career-impacting. Quarterback Cade McNown missed the initial 11 days of his first (1999) training camp, eventually started, but whether because of shoulder injuries or talent shortcomings, or both, never played to his status as the 11th-overall pick. Cedric Benson’s rookie season (2005) was dramatically undermined by his 36-day holdout, but he had two more seasons after that and needed a move to Cincinnati where he averaged more than 1,000 yards over four Bengals seasons.

Defensive end Joey Bosa missed the first four weeks of the Chargers’ 2016 camp, then missed four weeks with a hamstring injury, but came off of that to be named defensive rookie of the month for October and finish with 10.5 sacks and defensive rookie of the year honors.


Training Camp Daily: Maintaining the balance between physicality and health


Training Camp Daily: Maintaining the balance between physicality and health

It is Day 1 of practice in Bourbonnais. Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin and producer Paul Aspan discuss how Matt Nagy's desire for a physical camp reconciles with the No. 1 goal of all training camps: stay healthy.

Plus, why there are only two real questions for the Bears in this camp - and they both involve QBs. And Akiem Hicks is one of the best Chicago free agent signings ever...but let's slow down with the Legion of Boom comparisons in the secondary.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: