In our next training camp battle, we take a look at the tight end position. The top two at the position are set. Cole Kmet will be the starting Y tight end and Robert Tonyan will enter for sets with two tight ends. Tonyan will be largely used as a pass catcher and won’t be used in the run game like Kmet will be. The question at this position comes in two forms. One, how many tight ends will remain on the roster and who will be the third tight end to emerge?
Let’s address the roster make up first. Traditionally, on the 53-man roster, the team carries 3 special teamers (kicker, punter, long snapper) and 25 guys on offense and 25 guys on defense. If the Bears keep that traditional construction, let’s break down the offense. It’s safe to assume there will be 2 QBs and 6 WRs of the 25. When looking at running back, it’s hard not to see 4 running backs make it as well as one fullback. That leaves 12 players remaining for offensive line and tight end. On the line, the Bears will have the starting five, Larry Borom, Lucas Patrick and most likely Ja’Tyre Carter. They will probably want one more linemen that can play tackle, so let’s say Alex Leatherwood also makes the 53. That leaves a spot for one more tight end. If the Bears decide to only keep 8 linemen and 4 tight ends on the 53, that changes the make up of this argument, but for the premise of this article, let’s say the Bears keep 9 offensive linemen and 3 tight ends.
Enter Jake Tonges and Chase Allen. These two will be battling for the final tight end spot on the active roster. In 2022, Chase Allen was largely on the practice squad, playing in just 1 game and 9 snaps (7 special teams and 2 on offense). Tonges on the other hand appeared in 4 games and played a total of 27 snaps (16 on offense, 11 on special teams).
So while Tonges was ahead of Allen on the depth chart, it certainly wasn’t a substantial headstart heading into 2023. Tonges probably earned the nod over Allen in 2022 largely because of Tonges’ ability to play fullback. Allen is strictly more of a Y tight end, but has some good hands and quickness where he could be helpful in the passing game, but also has shown abilities to be a decent run blocker as well.
Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy are going to want their third tight end to be versatile and absolutely be able to play the Y position well. Tonyan is more of a “move” tight end and won’t be expected to spell Kmet at the inline position. The third tight end is going to be more of Kmet’s back up than Tonyan would be.
In terms of straight Y ability, the nod probably should be given to Allen who has had more success and ability strictly in that role. But in Tonges, they have someone that could play the Y, perhaps not quite as well as Allen, but can also play fullback.
The Bears also signed UDFA Robert Burns, a fullback out of UConn. If Burns plays well in training camp, he could be Khari Blasingame’s backup and kept on the practice squad and if Blasingame suffers an injury, Burns could be elevated the the active roster. If he emerges, the flexibility of Tonges to be able to play both TE and FB may be less important.
If Burns doesn’t have what it takes to at least make the practice squad, Tonges’ versatility becomes more important. But regardless of who wins the battle between Tonges and Allen, it’s highly likely that the runner up will find himself on the practice squad.
These two guys will see plenty of preseason action at the tight end position and it’ll definitely be one for hardcore Bears’ fans to watch to see who emerges as, not only the 3rd tight end on the roster, but the backup to Kmet as the Y tight end.