The list of tight ends in the history of the Chicago Bears franchise with more than 60 receptions in a single season is a short one. Martellus Bennett had 90 catches in 2014, Mike Ditka had 75 in 1964, Bennett had 65 in 2013, and that’s it. A year ago Cole Kmet had 60 in Matt Nagy’s offense, and that was an offense ranked bottom third in total yards, passing yards, and points scored for three straight years.
Sure the 17th game helped Kmet out, and the big goose egg in the touchdown category is a sore spot, but only two players bettering his catch total all-time in Chicago can’t be discounted.
He’ll need to pick things up in the TD category, but with red-zone target hog Jimmy Graham off the roster I would expect Kmet to get more looks down there in 2022. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is a first time play caller, so we’ll need to wait and see how he deploys his troops, but a peek back at how his former team did things with the position could be an indication on what’s in store for Kmet.
Last year Green Bay’s number one tight end, Robert Tonyan, only appeared in 8 games (with 5 starts) due to an ACL injury, and he had just 18 catches, 204 yards, and 2 TDs. Second year tight end Josiah Deguara, a former third-round draft pick, chipped in with 25 receptions, 245 yards, and 2 TDs, while 37-year old Marcedes Lewis had his best season since 2017 with 24 grabs and 214 yards. The Packers made sure to still get the tight ends involved in the passing game even though Tonyan was out.
But if you go back to the 2020 season, which was Getsy’s first with the additional title of Passing Game Coordinator, Tonyan broke out with 52 receptions, 586 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Getsy will find a way to free Kmet up with some play action that will take advantage of his 6’6”, 260 size as a mismatch against defenders.
Kmet is a little more physically imposing than Tonyan (6’5”, 237), but from an athletic standpoint Tonyan moves a bit better. That’s not to say that Kmet can’t do some of the things that Tonyan has done, but Tonyan is more of a U with Kmet a traditional Y (in-line) tight end.
And it’s as an in-line blocker where the Bears will want to see more from the 23-year old Kmet. If he’s able to improve that aspect of his game then everything will open up for him in the new offense.
“You kind of see how the tight end’s involved in the run scheme,” Kmet said via the team site last month, “and, off of that, the play-action movements and all those type of things can be really advantageous for tight ends.”
Showing an all-around skill set has been a goal of his all offseason.
“For me, it’s just taking it day-to-day,” Kmet said, “doing my best to show the coaches what I’m capable of doing and being able to do multiple things; not just being a [receiver], not just being a run blocker, but being able to show them that I can be involved in everything, because if you can do both, run and pass really well, you’re going to get some nice open passes in the field.”
The tight end position has traditionally taken longer to develop than other positions, most likely due to the multifaceted nature of their role within the offense, but some fans don’t want to hear that. They look at Kmet’s draft position, some of the other players taken after he went off the board, the production from the elite tight ends around the league, and expect more from Kmet.
Of all the tight ends last year with 21 or more receptions (41 players), only 1 was younger than Kmet, and that was Atlanta rookie Kyle Pitts who was used more like a receiver than a tight end.
The arrow is still pointing up for Kmet, and the offense needs him to take another step in 2022.