One of the many offensive struggles the Chicago Bears faced in 2019 was the lack of effective tight ends. With Trey Burton not being able to stay on the field, we saw a large decline in production from the position. In a do or die season for Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace, he made some new additions to the locker room.
With how important the tight end position is to Matt Nagy’s style of offense, will Jimmy Graham and Cole Kmet be enough to keep opposing defenses on their toes? And what do they both bring to the table that the team didn’t have in 2019?
A lot of controversy was stirred up when the Chicago Bears decided to give Jimmy Graham $16 million over two years. Whether Graham will prove his contract’s worth is unknown, but he still brings value to the team.
Red Zone threat
While his play has declined since he left the Saints, he’s still managed to be a capable red zone threat. Over the last five seasons, he’s averaged nearly five touchdowns, including a 10 touchdown season in 2017 with Seattle.
The Bears organization has had a consistent theme recently. They’ve been bringing in strictly high character guys, who leave their problems at the door when they walk into work. Jimmy Graham is one of those guys. He’s focused on winning, and how he can help the team. In a recent interview, Graham spoke his thoughts on the team by saying:
It is very apparent that Jimmy Graham has fully bought into this team.
Last years tight end room was a mess. Trey Burton was consistently hurt, and no one stepped up. In fact, not a single tight end on the Bears roster had over 100 yards on the season. Graham’s addition to the team will provide coaches and fans some comfort in knowing he can be relied on every Sunday. The tight end hasn’t missed a game in five years, and has only missed seven games in his decade long career.
As many critics have pointed out, signing Jimmy Graham would have been an amazing choice… in 2013. During his time in New Orleans, Graham was an elite tight end. While his body may not allow him to do what he once could, he still posses the knowledge of what it takes to be an elite tight end. It’s not hard to believe this could be a huge part of why the team brought him in. Having a once elite, veteran tight end could pay dividends in the development of the Bears first pick in the 2020 draft, Cole Kmet. Kmet now has a teammate to show him the ropes.
As previously alluded to, the Bears decided to draft Cole Kmet with their first pick of the draft. The local kid was also the first tight end taken in the draft. His college accolades show a lot of promise. But what kind of impact can he have as a rookie? What does he have to offer to the team?
Size & Speed combo
The first thing that’s worthy of noting is his athleticism. Despite being 6’6″ and tipping the scales at 260lbs, the Notre Dame alum still retains speed. Running a 4.7 second 40-yard dash is quite impressive for his size.
Something Jimmy Graham has lost with age is physicality. Kmet isn’t the type to give up on any play. He doesn’t step out of bounds when a defender is nearing him. Combining this with his ability to break tackles creates a nightmare for defenders. Not only do they have to fully commit to tackling a fast and big dude, but they also have to make sure he doesn’t slip out of their hands in the process.
The pure excitement displayed by Cole Kmet when he answered Matt Nagy’s phone call during the draft says all we need to know. It was his dream to be drafted by the Bears, and he’s going to put all his energy into succeeding. In college, Kmet played football and baseball, as well as maintaining amazing grades, and still was the first tight end selected. Imagine what he’ll be able to do when he can focus all of his energy on one thing.
Being 6’6″ means you’ve got a pretty big wingspan. His soft hands grant him the ability to catch balls he may need to extend for. Having a huge catch radius is an enormous plus for a team with quarterback concerns. He’ll help out whoever may be at QB.
Are the Bears TE problems solved?
It’s easy to step on the hype train. Especially when the Bears tight end coach claims he has zero worries about Cole Kmet. It’s important to be cautiously optimistic instead of setting your expectations too high. While the Bears certainly got better at the position, the Chicago faithful won’t know anything until there has been football played.
Let me fizzle that enthusiasm a little, just to temper expectations. It’s entirely possible that Graham may not find chemistry with either of the quarterback contenders. It’s more than likely that Kmet may take time to develop, which is a common theme for young tight ends. And it’s definitely possible that neither of the QB options can deliver the ball consistently enough to create production for either of the TE’s.
BUT…If everything goes as planned it should be the dawning of a new era at the position in Chicago. But when do the best-laid plans go as expected? Be ready for some bumps.