Struggling Bears offense looking at options for impact at TE


Struggling Bears offense looking at options for impact at TE

A plan for the 2012 Bears offense was for dramatically more impact from the tight end position after that group was relegated to insignificance by Mike Martz, best reflected in the trading away of Greg Olsen.

(Not that anyone is keeping score but Olsen has 43 catches for the Carolina Panthers, more than double the combined total (18) of all Bears tight ends.)

The organization voted with its checkbook on Kellen Davis; 2.7 million signing bonus in a two-year package totaling 6 million. Davis is due a 2014 base salary of 2.4 million and at this point it is problematic whether the Bears consider a tight end with only 11 catches and significant drops through the teams first nine games.

He has seen a substantial negative rating by analysts for in five of the Bears nine games, allowing two sacks on Jay Cutler in addition to drawing four penalties.

Davis is the 55th-ranked tight end, according to PFF, with five drops, a key lost fumble on the Bears first play in the Houston game, and 55th in percent of catches from passes thrown (42.3).

But that seems like everything, said coordinator Mike Tice, refusing to lay an over-sized share of the blame for the offensive problems on Davis or any one player or area.

It seems like its me, its the players, it seems like were trying to get this thing going and were trying to play with some consistency. We havent achieved that so its frustrating all the way around.

But the Bears have edged away from the vertical schememindset of Martz and toward a West Coast controlled approach with Tice and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who worked in that system with Denver and Seattle.

The latter system utilizes the tight end for considerably more than just blocking.

The Bears invested their fourth-round draft choice this year in Evan Rodriguez, a pass-catching tight end from Temple. Rodriguez was the first of the Bears rookie class to win a starting job, opening the season at fullback, however.

He missed four games with a knee injury and now is expected to integrate more receiving and route-running into his job description.

Its not too difficult because I was in the tight-ends room earlier this year, Rodriguez said. I have a good feel for whats going on.

Kyle Adams was targeted for his third catch of the season last game with Jason Campbell, more inclined than Cutler to use tight ends in check downs.

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If Kyle Schwarber's back, the rest of the National League will have another reason to worry about the second-half Cubs

If Kyle Schwarber's back, the rest of the National League will have another reason to worry about the second-half Cubs

Kyle Schwarber’s proper introduction to the Cubs-Sox rivalry came in the summer of 2015 when a fan on the South Side threw a half-empty “tall boy” at him in left field. A little more than a year removed from college, Schwarber didn’t understand why someone wouldn’t finish all the beer first.  

David Ross chimed in, raising his voice loud enough so Schwarber and a group of reporters could hear him inside the visiting clubhouse: “You should have shotgunned it and then went over there and found him.

“I tell you what: I’d hate to try to wrap up Kyle Schwarber. I guarantee you that whoever threw that beer doesn’t want (any) part of Kyle Schwarber. I promise you that one.”

That was the rookie orientation before Schwarber: blasted five playoff home runs that October; suffered a devastating knee injury that almost wiped out his entire 2016 season; made a dramatic return to the World Series; and experienced newfound fame and fortune that would change his life forever.

Mess with Schwarber? That aura of invincibility is gone after his detour to Triple-A Iowa before the All-Star break. But the first-place Cubs will take Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the White Sox as another sign that he is almost back, yet another reason why the defending champs look ready to continue this second-half surge. 

“I told him that if he had a couple more push-ups in there, he would have had three homers tonight, but we’ll take a triple,” winning pitcher Jon Lester said afterward. “Schwarber’s been swinging the bat great since he’s been back.”

No doubt, the Cubs caught the sell-mode White Sox at the right time during the final days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. Even in going 3-for-4 and blasting his 16th and 17th home runs – which traveled 814 feet combined at Guaranteed Rate Field – Schwarber is still only hitting .191 with 90 strikeouts in 79 games this season.     

But the Cubs have always given Schwarber the benefit of the doubt and will point to his big personality and encouraging numbers since his Triple-A reset ended on July 6, getting on base almost 37 percent of the time and hitting safely in 10 of 13 games with five homers, three doubles and that triple.

“Retrospectively, we should not have expected that much,” manager Joe Maddon admitted. “I’m guilty of that kind of a narrative or a dialogue also, because I was really eager to watch him play a full season of Major League Baseball.

“But the guy missed the whole season and did really well in a small window of time at the end of the year. So maybe my expectations exceeded what they should have been.

“I do believe he is that good. I do believe you’re going to come back and see him play at the level we anticipated. But he might have just needed more time. And we just didn’t recognize that.

“I might have been as guilty as anybody regarding the promotion of that. But I believe in him fully. I know it’s going to happen. There’s been some really good major-league hitters that have gone through the same thing.” 

At this point, the Cubs (54-47) would love to see what kind of wrecking ball Schwarber could be for a half-season. To his credit, Schwarber has been the same throughout all the ups and downs, someone who looks and sounds like a guy you would drink tall boys with.

“I just want to worry about putting the barrel on the ball,” Schwarber said. “I’m just trying to stay within myself, be short (with my swing) and it’s paying off.”