Contract signed, Bears tight end Adam Shaheen seeks more growth

Contract signed, Bears tight end Adam Shaheen seeks more growth

As the Bears announced their signing of second round draft pick Adam Shaheen Friday afternoon, it brought us back to CSN Chicago's visit with his position coach following the first day of rookie minicamp one week earlier. 

In addition to veteran Zach Miller and free agent signee Dion Sims, tight ends coach Frank Smith has another fairly "green" player at the position in Daniel Brown, who was converted from wide receiver by Baltimore a year ago, and showed signs of promise with 16 catches over the final six games after the Bears picked him up when the Ravens ran out of roster space last October. Former Southern Illinois tight end MyCole Pruitt was active the final two games (one reception) after Minnesota cut him in December.

Now, Shaheen and his huge size and upside, gets thrown into the on-field mix when organized team activities pick up steam at Halas Hall next week.

"The thing when you’re of that size, to control your body and move and be sudden in your routes, those are traits that he has possessed," said Smith. "Everything you saw on tape you’re starting to see, and just as he grows and we start adding more concepts, it’ll be exciting to see how he grasps that, and using his skillset as a player to fit in the offense."

Still, when you're 6'6, 277 lbs. and just three years into devoting yourself back to football, long striders like that sometimes lack a certain fluidity. And heck, the great Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots still sometimes lacks that look on the field too. The dance floor? That's different. But Smith knows his newest pupil is in the infant stages of a growing process, learning the intricacies of his trade at the highest level now.

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"There’s been guys from 1-AA, D-II, all those guys," Smith said. "I think the real expectation for him right now is learning his playbook, learning his techniques, because the volume of stuff will be a little bit more. But the expectation for him is just every day improve, work on one thing a day, work on a technique, and that will build your portfolio as you go forward."

Inquiring minds of Bears fans prefer an answer immediately on whether such a high investment from Ashland (the Ohio university, not the Chicago street or southwest side neighborhood) is worth it. It's a little early for that. But what about Shaheen's inquiring mind?

"At this point, any and all questions you're looking for," Smith said. "He's asking good questions, has a very good grasp of football, understands more than just what his play is. He understands for the most part what we're trying to do with concepts."

There is no question Shaheen now faces a step up in class and competition. But Smith believes the fact he was moved around within multiple sets in his college offense will help that process along.

"That actually follows with guys maybe from even 1-A who run a spread system, and they never put their hand in the dirt," he said. "So really, you could have a guy who played maybe at some major school, but they never played in-line tight end. So you have that background. So just knowing that every day, every challenge is - and I think this goes for anyone - is play each play.  Play each moment and work on your daily stuff that you’re trying to improve on with your game."

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.