Ben Braunecker

Bears-Lions injury report: Taylor Gabriel among Bears not traveling, QB Jeff Driskel questionable for Lions

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USA TODAY

Bears-Lions injury report: Taylor Gabriel among Bears not traveling, QB Jeff Driskel questionable for Lions

There are no surprises on the latest Bears injury report, but there is now official word on several players who are out and will not travel to Detroit.

Tight end Ben Braunecker (concussion), wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion), offensive lineman Bobby Massie (ankle), defensive back Sherrick McManus (groin) and tight end Adam Shaheen (foot) are all out and will not make the trip. Linebacker Danny Trevathan (elbow) is also out.


That entire group has been out of practice all week so none of this comes as a surprise. Braunecker, Gabriel, Massie and McManus picked up injuries last week against the Giants.

Meanwhile, the Lions are having their own injury problems, especially at quarterback. Not only will Matthew Stafford miss the Bears for a second time this season, but his replacement Jeff Driskel is still questionable with a hamstring injury.

Driskel has played the last three games with Stafford out, but has been limited in practice all week. David Blough, an undrafted rookie out of Purdue, is now the only healthy quarterback on the Lions’ roster.

The Bears have had their fair share of injuries this year, but the Lions may have to start an undrafted rookie, third-string quarterback.

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Bears don't expect Taylor Gabriel or Ben Braunecker to play vs. Lions

Bears don't expect Taylor Gabriel or Ben Braunecker to play vs. Lions

The Bears have been hit pretty hard by injuries in 2019. With defensive end Akiem Hicks and linebacker Danny Trevathan already ruled out for Thursday's Thanksgiving game against the Lions, the Bears are likely to be without two starters on offense as well.

Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion) and tight end Ben Braunecker (concussion) are both expected to miss the game.

Gabriel is the more noteworthy of the two considering the role he plays on offense. He's currently third on the team in targets (48), second in receiving yards (353) and tied for first in receiving touchdowns (4). His potential absence will create an opportunity for Javon Wims to receive more playing time, although he didn't do much with his 34 snaps last week. He ended the Giants game with a 52.7 grade from Pro Football Focus.

The void at tight end will likely be filled by rookie Jesper Horsted, who was promoted from the practice squad for the first time in Week 12. 

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Bears' tight ends invisible once again in Week 11 loss to Rams

Bears' tight ends invisible once again in Week 11 loss to Rams

When the Bears hired Matt Nagy as head coach in 2018, the vision was that he'd bring to Chicago much of what he learned during his time as Andy Reid's offensive understudy in Kansas City. He was supposed to be the Bears' version of Doug Pederson, who like Nagy was a Reid disciple with the Eagles and Chiefs from 2009-2016.

Pederson won the Super Bowl in his second season as Eagles coach. Not so much for Nagy.

The Lombardi Trophy isn't the only difference between Pederson and Nagy since becoming head coaches. Pederson, much like Reid, has the luxury of a superstar player filling the role of one of the Reid offense's most critical positions: tight end.

The Eagles field Zach Ertz. The Chiefs have Travis Kelce. Meanwhile, Nagy and the Bears have Ben Braunecker?

Braunecker was the only tight end to record a reception in Chicago's 17-7 loss to the Rams Sunday night. And it was just one catch for eight yards. 

Trey Burton was placed on injured reserve (calf) after Week 10's win over the Lions; it brought an end to a brutal season for last year's free-agent prize. Burton's 2019 will finish with just 14 catches for 84 yards.

Remember: Burton is the player who Ryan Pace and Nagy dubbed as Chicago's version of Ertz and Kelce. 

Ertz has 55 catches for 621 yards and two scores while Kelce's registered 56 catches for 741 yards and three scores so far this season. 

Burton will enter the third year of a four-year, $32 million contract in 2020 and might be too costly for the Bears to cut loose this offseason. He'll cost the team $7.5 million against the cap if they decide to part ways. An argument can be made that he's been limited by injuries all season (he's played in just 50.1 percent of the team's snaps this year) and deserves another shot to prove he's the kind of playmaker he was signed to be. At this point, there may not be much of a choice.

Former 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen has been a massive bust. His career with the Bears has been defined by a series of nagging injuries. And even when he's been healthy, he's played like 'just a guy.' He has one year left on his rookie contract but doesn't appear likely to factor into the position moving forward.

Even if Burton remains on the roster next year and Shaheen is given another chance to develop, Pace has to make tight end a priority position over the next few months of roster reconstruction. There will be some intriguing Day 2 prospects in the NFL Draft, like Purdue's Brycen Hopkins, and veteran options like Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald should find themselves on the open market in free agency. At least one of those avenues should be explored.

Sunday night's disappointing and likely season-ending loss was the result of a year of underachievement by the Bears. And no position has underachieved more than this tight end group.