Mike Martz did his best to make the tight end position irrelevant during his two year stint as offensive coordinator in Chicago, and last year, with Mike Tice calling plays, the Bears' TEs were just plain bad.
This season we should see a commitment to the position, with an offense that can get the ball to the TE. Traditionally the West Coast Offense has been a TE friendly O, and even though we don't know exactly how Marc Trestman's WCO will shape out, we do know they paid big free agent money to get a guy that can play.
Martellus Bennett was signed to give Jay Cutler a viable target from the TE position. If Bennett plays up to his potential, he could have his name mentioned with the elite TEs in the league. He has the speed to get down the seam, he has the size to be a match up problem for LBs and DBs, and his blocking is top notch.
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The last time Cutler had a good TE, he connected with Greg Olsen for 60 receptions in 2009, and another 41 with Martz trying to phase out the position in 2010. I'm excited to see what Bennett will bring to the team, and I suspect he'll be close to his career numbers that he put up last year, 55 receptions, 626 yards, and 5 touchdowns. As excited that I am for the position to be relevant again in Chicago, the depth behind him is a bit shaky.
A good bet to make it
Kyle Adams has been around since 2011, and he has some experience playing H-Back. That versatility could come into play since the Bears lost full back Evan Rodriguez to an immature lifestyle. With only one true fullback on the roster, Adams could get some reps in the backfield.
Steve Maneri was brought in to be the blocking TE, essentially replacing Matt Spaeth. Maneri played TE at Temple with Rodriguez, but he was moved to O-Line by the Texans when they signed him as an undrafted free agent. Houston cut him, he spent some time with the Patriots in 2010, then ended up in Kansas City, where he remained a reserve lineman in 2011.
In 2012 he was moved back to tight end, and he stared eight games for the Chiefs. Listed at 6'6", 280 pounds, he's the Bears largest TE.
On the Bubble
Maneri's competition for the blocking TE role could come from Brody Eldridge. He played some O-Line in college, and back when the Colts drafted him (2010), Mike Mayock called him the best blocking TE in the draft. He had 8 starts for Indianapolis in both 2010 and 2011. If the Bears decide to carry 4 tight ends, Eldridge would slide into the 'good bet' column.
Gabe Miller will really need too impress the coaches since he has a 4 game suspension looming. He's an athletic player that has lined up at TE and DE in college, and at LB with the Chiefs. He's back at TE with the Bears.
The wildcard at this position group is Fendi Onobun. If he can have his athleticism translate to the football field, he'll be a tough guy to cut. He ran a 4.49 40 at his pro day back in 2010, but the former collegiate basketball player hasn't been able to catch on with an NFL team. The Bears are his 6th team, but sometimes it takes a while for an inexperienced player to click. During the off season, both Jay Cutler and Josh McCown were working with Onobun. If he proves that he "gets it", he could be another weapon for Marc Trestman.
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