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History says Cutler will find TEs in his offense
Talk of truly involving tight ends in the Bears’ offense has been an annual rite since Mike Ditka. It nearly came to be in Ron Turner’s final year (2009) as offensive coordinator when Greg Olsen, the first Bears No. 1 pick used on a tight end since Ditka in 1961, led the Bears with 60 catches and eight touchdowns. That all ended when Turner was fired and Mike Martz inspired the trade of Olsen to Carolina and the acquisition of Brandon Manumaleuna, effectively consigning the tight end to comparative insignificance.
Martz and Manumaleuna are gone. In their places are a Kellen Davis re-signed to a substantial contract (two years, $6 million, $2.7 million bonus), Matt Spaeth back beginning his second Chicago season and a fourth-round draft choice used for Evan Rodriguez, the highest pick of a tight end since Davis (fifth round) in 2008.
With the change in scheme from Martz to Mike Tice and de facto passing-game coordinator Jeremy Bates, who comes from the Mike Shanahan and Pete Carroll schools of West Coast thinking, the opportunities are expected to be there in 2012 for a return of the productive tight end to at least the consistent 40-catch levels of Desmond Clark through the past decade. Probably significantly more.
Cutler in the West Coast approach of Turner completed 88 passes to tight ends in 2009. With Bates in Denver, throwing to Daniel Graham and Tony Scheffler, Cutler had 73 completions to tight ends in 2007 and 72 in 2008. 2011 in review
Davis led the Bears with five receiving touchdowns, continuing his career pattern of nearly one score every three catches. His 18 catches were spread over 12 games, although in no games did he and Spaeth combine for more than four receptions or 40 receiving yards.
It is a production level that the Bears appear committed – again – to adjusting sharply upward. 2012 Training Camp – What to Watch Depth chart 1.
Kellen Davis 2.
Matt Spaeth 3.
Evan Rodriguez 4.
Mike Tice was an NFL tight end before going into coaching and his use of the position is expected to start becoming apparent in camp. And coach Lovie Smith is aware of what his offense has lacked.
“I would say that all eight years I've been here that the tight end needs to be a big part of what we do,” Smith said. “We plan on doing that.”
Smith also recognizes reality. The Bears didn’t trade for Brandon Marshall and draft Alshon Jeffery in the second round to block.
“As far as coming out this year, there are only so many receivers you can throw the ball to,” Smith said. “You can choose to make it your wide receiver. Or you can make it your running back or your tight end. But there are only so many guys, there are only so many passes to go around. You have to be smart with how you distribute those.”