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Spaeth playing role in improved protection
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears
reserve tight end Matt Spaeth
is used to flying under the radar, but don't discount the veteran's recent contributions on offense. [+] Enlarge
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Bears have used Matt Spaeth much more the past two games.
One reason the Bears have done a better job the last two games protecting quarterback Jay Cutler
is because the offense has begun the feature Spaeth more in double-tight end sets. The 6-foot-7 Spaeth has always been considered an above average blocker, but for whatever reason, he played just 11 snaps in Week 2 at Green Bay when Cutler got sacked seven times. That changed the next week when Spaeth got on the field 31 times (45 percent) in the club's home win against St. Louis and then played a season-high 33 snaps (60 percent) in Dallas.
Spaeth's skills as a pass protector might not be in high demand on Sunday in Jacksonville since the Jags' defense has recorded only two sacks but on the season. But the Bears could decide to go double tight to exploit the Jags' 30th ranked rushing defense (150.3 yards per game).
"To be honest with you, I don't really care if I get the credit," Spaeth said. "I just want to be out there. I want to play football. My thing since I've been here is to do whatever they ask me to do. Whether that's blocking (Cowboys linebacker) DeMarcus Ware
, pass blocking, different things, etc. I do whatever they ask of me and do it to the best of my ability."
Spaeth won the John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's top tight end, during his final year at Minnesota, but has only 44 total receptions in six-plus NFL seasons. But Spaeth clearly has value to Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice, who himself spent 14 years in the league as primarily a blocking tight end.
"Matt is a role tight end similar to what I was when I played," Tice said. "He's never going to go out and catch 12 balls. But he's going to have a very important part in our run game. He's going to have a very important part in our protection game. Every once in a while he'll catch a crumb. That's his role. But he's very important in what we're doing. We're running the ball a lot with him in there. We're [using] play-action a lot with him in there. And we utilized him a lot in the chip game the other night.
"Except for a couple of plays -- I always say no one grades 100 percent. Except for a couple plays, yeah, he really went out and competed well. His technique was better all week in practice last week. I thought he had his best week of practice. And he is one of the players that carried that over to the game. We were pleased with his performance."