Struggling Bears offense looking at options for impact at TE


Struggling Bears offense looking at options for impact at TE

A plan for the 2012 Bears offense was for dramatically more impact from the tight end position after that group was relegated to insignificance by Mike Martz, best reflected in the trading away of Greg Olsen.

(Not that anyone is keeping score but Olsen has 43 catches for the Carolina Panthers, more than double the combined total (18) of all Bears tight ends.)

The organization voted with its checkbook on Kellen Davis; 2.7 million signing bonus in a two-year package totaling 6 million. Davis is due a 2014 base salary of 2.4 million and at this point it is problematic whether the Bears consider a tight end with only 11 catches and significant drops through the teams first nine games.

He has seen a substantial negative rating by analysts for in five of the Bears nine games, allowing two sacks on Jay Cutler in addition to drawing four penalties.

Davis is the 55th-ranked tight end, according to PFF, with five drops, a key lost fumble on the Bears first play in the Houston game, and 55th in percent of catches from passes thrown (42.3).

But that seems like everything, said coordinator Mike Tice, refusing to lay an over-sized share of the blame for the offensive problems on Davis or any one player or area.

It seems like its me, its the players, it seems like were trying to get this thing going and were trying to play with some consistency. We havent achieved that so its frustrating all the way around.

But the Bears have edged away from the vertical schememindset of Martz and toward a West Coast controlled approach with Tice and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who worked in that system with Denver and Seattle.

The latter system utilizes the tight end for considerably more than just blocking.

The Bears invested their fourth-round draft choice this year in Evan Rodriguez, a pass-catching tight end from Temple. Rodriguez was the first of the Bears rookie class to win a starting job, opening the season at fullback, however.

He missed four games with a knee injury and now is expected to integrate more receiving and route-running into his job description.

Its not too difficult because I was in the tight-ends room earlier this year, Rodriguez said. I have a good feel for whats going on.

Kyle Adams was targeted for his third catch of the season last game with Jason Campbell, more inclined than Cutler to use tight ends in check downs.

Why Mitch Trubisky's biggest weakness won't preclude him from success in 2018

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Why Mitch Trubisky's biggest weakness won't preclude him from success in 2018

As the Bears set their foundation for training camp during OTAs this month, one part of that is beginning to identify each player’s strengths and weaknesses on which to build in Bourbonnais. 

Designing an offense to Mitch Trubisky’s strengths was one of the reasons why Ryan Pace hired Matt Nagy, who then hired Mark Helfrich to be his offensive coordinator. Easy is the wrong word — but it wouldn’t have made sense for the Bears to not build an offense around their second-picked quarterback. 

But as Nagy and Helfrich are installing that offense during OTAs and, next month, veteran minicamp, they’re also learning what Trubisky’s weaknesses are. And the one Helfrich pointed to, in a way, is a positive. 

“Experience,” Helfrich said. “I think it’s 100 percent experience and just reps, and that’s kind of what I was talking about was knowing why something happened. As a quarterback, he might take the perfect drop and be looking at the right guy in your progression, and that guy runs the wrong route or the left guard busts or something. The defense does something different or wrong, even. And trusting that is just a matter of putting rep on top of rep on top of rep and being confident.”

It'd be a concern if the Bears thought Trubisky lacked the necessary talent to be great, or had a lacking work ethic or bad attitude. Experience isn't something he can control, in a way. 

This isn’t anything new for Trubisky. His lack of experience at North Carolina — he only started 13 games there — was the biggest ding to his draft stock a year ago; while he started a dozen games for the Bears in 2017, the offense was simple and conservative, designed to minimize risk for Trubisky (and, to be fair, a sub-optimal group of weapons around him). 

But even if Trubisky started all 16 games in an innovative, aggressive offense last year, he’d still be experiencing plenty of things for the first time. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made this point back in September that still resonates now with regard to Trubisky:

“I think it takes a few years until you can really get that title of understanding being great or even good, because you see so many looks,” Roethlisberger said. “In Year 2 and 3, you’re still seeing looks and can act like a rookie.”

So the challenge for Nagy and Helfrich is to build an offense that accentuates Trubisky’s strengths while managing his lack of experience. For what it’s worth, the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles succeeded in those efforts last year with Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, respectively. 

For Helfrich, though, one of Trubisky’s strengths — his leadership qualities — are already helping mitigate his need for more experience. 

“He’s still in the mode of learning and doing things out here,” Helfrich said. “We might have run one play 10 times against 10 different defenses, you know? And so his response to every one of those 10 things is brand new. And so, you see his reaction to some of those is good. Some of those things you want to improve upon and then keep your chest up and lead because we need that.”

Charlie Tilson plays in Detroit for first time since getting injured in his MLB debut

Charlie Tilson plays in Detroit for first time since getting injured in his MLB debut

For over two years, Charlie Tilson was starting to look like his own version of "Moonlight" Graham, the player made famous in the movie "Field of Dreams" because he played in one major league game and never got to bat.

The White Sox traded for Tilson just before the trade deadline passed in 2016. Two days later he made his big league debut with the White Sox in Detroit. He got a single in his first at-bat, but left the game with an injury and missed the rest of the season. Tilson also missed all of the 2017 season and his MLB future was starting to come into question.

Back healthy, Tilson started this season in Triple-A Charlotte and hit .248 in 39 games when he got called up to replace Leury Garcia, who was placed on the disabled list. On Thursday, Tilson returned to a big league field for the first time in more than 20 months. He went 0-for-3 in a loss to Baltimore.

Friday marked a return to the site of Tilson's big league debut and the injury that made it such a brief stint. Tilson has now played three big league games, over the course of nearly 21 months, and two of them have been in Detroit.

Tilson went 1-for-4, meaning both his hits are in Comerica Park. The White Sox lost 5-4 after giving up three runs in the bottom of the eighth.