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Upsets, Underdogs and Dark Horses: Can Tight End Daniel Brown Carve Out a Role in 2017?

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In this ongoing series, I’ll spotlight a few Chicago Bears’ players that could be flying under the radar, but could also make an impact in 2017.

San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears
Daniel Brown
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In the fifth installment of the six-part series entitled: Upsets, Underdogs and Dark Horses, I am going to discuss Daniel Brown’s chances of carving out a niche on offense and giving the Bears the opportunity to move on from the oft-injured Zach Miller.

As I noted in our 90-in-90 series, I am a fan of Daniel Brown. If you haven’t read that, please do. I am going to skip over some of the background information that was covered in that article.

Zach Miller’s injury history is well-known by Bears fans and there is no reason to rehash that here. But it was a little surprising to see only 25 games played and 22 starts in four seasons with the Bears. With Miller turning 33 in October, the Bears need to find a replacement for his skill-set, even if he does remain on the roster.

Enter Daniel Brown. Based on what we witnessed from the last six games of the season, three of which being starts, it certainly appears that Brown has the ability to fill that role. As a converted wide receiver, Brown has the speed and athleticism to lineup all over the formation and provide match-up problems for opposing defenses. This is exactly how the Bears have used Miller over the past two seasons and the role that Brown filled after Miller went down, yet again, in 2016.

Since he spent most of his career (including his first season in Baltimore) at wide receiver, Brown needs to do some work as a blocker. But I think that the Bears can put him in situations to succeed. I envision Brown lining up mainly as a fullback, h-back or slot receiver. This would mean that he would be matched up with smaller linebackers and defensive backs. He should be able to win those battles.

Brown has the speed and route-running ability to be an excellent outlet receiver to work the flats, while also having the size and hands to work the seams. As we have seen with Miller, the Bears really like to have a player that can work in these areas of the field. Since he also has that wide receiver background, you can motion him out wide pre-snap and create mismatches on much smaller defensive backs.

At 6’5”, Brown would certainly make for a formidable red zone package. Imagine a 3-tight end set with Brown, Adam Shaheen (6’6”) and Dion Sims (6’4”). With Cameron Meredith (6’3”) on the outside and the bruising Jordan Howard in the backfield, the possibilities out of that formation are virtually endless.

Obviously, he would have to open eyes in training camp and the preseason in order for the team to part ways with Miller. But at this point, can you really trust Miller to stay healthy? Additionally, can you risk cutting a player that seems to be the natural successor to Miller? I don’t think that you can.

I believe that the Bears know who they are, which is a team that is not likely to compete this season. But could they make enough progress and add enough talent to take a step in 2018? I think that they can and if that’s the case and the Bears believe that as well, then it is time to let Brown find his way in a season that doesn’t matter. If Brown even shows himself to be competent, which I firmly believe he will, then the time is now to part ways withe the veteran and move forward with the future.

What do you think, can Daniel Brown force the Bears to move on from the veteran Miller, and provide the promise that Miller once brought to the offense?

Follow me on Twitter @BearsLink82