Trey Burton

Bears notes: Was Trey Burton’s penalty justified?

Bears notes: Was Trey Burton’s penalty justified?

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — In a game full of pivotal moments, one seemed to irk the Bears in particular following Sunday’s 31-28 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.

Driving on the Dolphins three-yard line, the Bears lined up in a T formation with Jordan Howard, Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen lined up left to right in the backfield behind Mitch Trubisky, who was under center. Burton motioned out of the backfield and to the right, and ran his route into linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Trubisky threw a short pass to a wide open Cohen for a touchdown, with Alonso late getting to the running back after being hit by Burton. But that score was taken off the board for offensive pass interference, with officials ruling what Burton did amounted to an illegal pick play.

“Trey did everything I asked him to do,” Matt Nagy said, sharply.

On the next play, Trubisky forced a pass into double coverage in the end zone, which was easily picked off by Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald. Miami turned that interception into eight points on Albert Wilson’s 43-yard touchdown and an ensuing two-point conversion.

The way Burton understood the rule was that offensive pass interference was only assessed on a pick play if he intentionally ran into a defender without running a true route. That’s what Burton felt he did; the officiating crew disagreed.

“I thought I ran a route and the guy ran into me,” Burton said. “I thought they changed the rule this year or last year — if you run the route, it doesn’t matter if you pick the guy or not, you’re good. Obviously they called it.”

A Rough Return

The conversations surrounding the Bears Sunday into Monday would be awfully different had a number of things happened — Trubisky doesn’t throw that interception, the Bears’ defense gets a stop, Tarik Cohen doesn’t fumble near midfield, etc. In that same group: If Cody Parkey hits what would’ve been a game-winning 53-yard field goal in overtime.

Parkey, instead, missed that kick wide right. His career long is 54 yards, which he hit last year while with the Miami Dolphins (and that was a game-winner with about a minute left against the Los Angeles Chargers).

“I had the distance, I just didn’t kick it straight enough, bottom line,” Parkey said. “But you’ve got to move on. I’ve made game winners, I’ve missed game winners. As long as I keep playing, I’m just going to keep trying to kick my best.

“… I control what I can control, and unfortunately I missed a field goal. I’d like to have that one back, but it is what it is and I’m just going to focus on the next game. That’s all I can do.”

WATCH: Mitch Trubisky runs nifty shovel option for first passing TD of 2018

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WATCH: Mitch Trubisky runs nifty shovel option for first passing TD of 2018

Matt Nagy's bag of tricks seems to be never ending. When the Bears are in their scripted offensive plays to start games, he keeps throwing out exotic looks and creative play calls to get the offense going.

When Chicago got into the redzone on the first drive against the Seattle Seahawks, Nagy pulled out another fun play to set up Mitchell Trubisky for the easy touchdown throw.

Trubisky and Tarik Cohen ran what is called an "inverted veer" option, where the guard on the backside of the play pulls out in front for the quarterback, while Trubisky reads an unblocked defender to determine whether or not he should keep the ball or hand it off to Cohen.

But on this play, Trey Burton also pulled from the backside of the formation, behind Kyle Long, and Trubisky kept it for a quick shovel pass to the tight end, who ran into the endzone almost untouched.

It was essentially a run-pass option, and the defense assumed Burton was pulling as a blocker. Instead, he was the receiver, and it was the easiest six points Trubisky will score all season.

Well played, Matt Nagy.

The “other” Trey Burton – new TE offers opportunities but also challenges for new Bears offense

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The “other” Trey Burton – new TE offers opportunities but also challenges for new Bears offense

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – The Bears made Trey Burton a priority target in 2018 free agency, with a plan. The fifth-year tight end had toiled in the long shadows of Brent Celek and Zach Ertz with the Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia Eagles, and Burton was deemed an ideal fit in the offense of incoming Bears coach Matt Nagy when he and GM Ryan Pace talked on the flight back to Chicago after his hiring. The objective centered around the “U” (mobile) tight-end role with which Nagy and coach Andy Reid had used with great success in the person of Travis Kelce in the Kansas City Chiefs offense.
 
Pace and the Bears went all-in and then some, signing Burton to a four-year contract topping out at $32 million and including $18 million guaranteed. They did this at the tight-end position in addition to choosing to keep Dion Sims at $6 million for 2018 and re-signing Daniel Brown for $925,000 for one year, on top of having in place 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen. The commitment to the critical tight-end role in Nagy’s iteration of the West Coast offense was apparent.
 
But things are rarely that simple.
 
Because along with the pass-catching prowess that drew the Bears to Burton (five TDs in 23 catches in 2017, six TDs over his last 60 receptions) comes an obvious shortcoming in an area typically critical at the tight-end position: blocking.
 
Burton the receiver has delivered as expected throughout the first week of training camp, and on Thursday, catching passes in all areas of the field, ranging from a deep completion from quarterback Mitch Trubisky to a quick hitter underneath the coverage.
 
But Burton was soundly thrashed in one-on-one pass blocking drills on Thursday, bull-rushed by linebacker Isaiah Irving and whiffing against an arm-over move by linebacker Kylie Fitts on separate reps. And in full-pad sessions, he was out-physicaled at the point of attack in run blocking, which is an alien experience for an athlete who served as a quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver and on kick coverage at Florida. Burton made the Eagles’ roster in 2014 as an undrafted free agent, listed as a tight end but who had five carries as a running back and zero receptions as anything.
 
The problem with a position player with a gaping void in his skillset is that his presence in the lineup limits play-calling options and execution. Size does matter: Kelce is 6-5, 260 pounds; Celek, 6-5, 250; Ertz, 6-4, 255. Shaheen (270), Sims (271) and even Brown (247 pounds) or Ben Braunecker (252) place some mass at the position.
 
Burton (235) does not, and he calls to mind a Ryan Wetnight (235) catching as many as 46 passes in a season but being rag-dolled trying to run- or pass-block a Reggie White, Chris Doleman or other physical edge defender.
 
Burton has prioritized run blocking “and getting in that condition for playing a lot more plays than I have in the past,” he said. “I never really got that many opportunities to work on the run game stuff because I was the third [tight end] and Celek and Ertz were the majority of the run game. I’m trying to make more pride into that and spend more time with that… .
 
“The difficult part of [run blocking] is losing more than you win. In the one-on-ones I’m going against bigger dudes, but I want to get more and more reps. I’m not going to win every single rep—I understand that—but just having the humility of going in there constantly and getting beat but trying every single time, it helps me a lot.”
 
Burton, like backup QBs Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray coming from their backgrounds with Nagy, provides an element in the offense. And he also brings a voice of perspective in what the offense is about.
 
"It's really good,” Nagy said. “[As a] matter of fact, when we're in installs, I may say 'Hey Trey,' I may ask him a question, I may say, ‘Hey Trey, is this how you all have done it in Philadelphia with Doug [Pederson, coach] or etc.?'… . Trey knows this offense inside out, he understands leverage, he understands how to get open so eventually we'll start scheming for him."
 
But the Bears have assistant coaches for quarterbacks, tight ends and every position group. Meaning: Burton’s value must be in playing, not mentoring. The organization once erred badly in signing a one-dimensional, blocker-only tight end (Brandon Manumaleuna, 2010). Nagy has alluded to “scat” pass protection with running backs providing protection through other than head-on blocking, and how Burton is integrated into the offense without sacrificing a dimension warrants watching.
 
“You can call Trey a ‘U’ tight end/receiver, but Trey is going to have to know the ‘Y’ [in-line] position as well,” Nagy said. "This is no longer a deal where you’re just playing a split-out tight end position.”