The Chicago Bears 2013 season is just days away from getting started with the annual pilgrimage to Bourbonnais for the start of training camp. There will be a lot of familiar faces, but there will also be some extreme changes. Some positions are undergoing an extreme makeover. In this 4-part series, we’ll look at the groups that will have the biggest change.
First up in our Extreme Makeover series is the tight end position. The Bears were woeful at the tight end position in 2012. Kellen Davis was ranked 58th among 62 tight ends that were ranked by Pro Football Focus. He was dead last in dropped balls, only catching 43.2% of balls thrown his way.
Meanwhile, H-back Evan Rodriguez showed promise on the field but couldn’t keep his act together off of it, so he was sent packing after a couple of alcohol related run-ins with the law. Run-blocker Matt Spaeth was allowed to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers via free agency. Returning are Kyle Adams, Brody Eldridge and the suspended Gabe Miller, who will sit the first four games due to a substance abuse violation.
One of the big splurges this offseason was tight end Martellus Bennett. He signed a one-year deal with the Giants last season after spending four seasons in Dallas in Jason Witten’s significant shadow. Bennett had career highs in catches (58) and touchdowns (5) with the G-Men last season. That was enough to convince Phil Emery that Bennett was worth the lofty contract the Bears signed him to at the onset of Free Agency.
Expect Bennett to be a big target in the red zone for Jay Cutler in Marc Trestman’s offense. Cutler has often targeted tight ends in the red zone, so the hope is having a big, reliable weapon will certainly pay off and turn some of those Robbie Gould field goal attempts into touchdowns instead.
Besides Bennett, the Bears have a couple of other interesting prospects, the most intriguing being former basketball player Fendi Onobun. He didn’t play any football in high school or even in his four years at Arizona. That didn’t stop the Rams from selecting him in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. He’s been kicking around the league trying to break through ever since, spending time with the Rams, Seahawks, Redskins, Jaguars and Bills before landing with the Bears just after the conclusion of the 2012 season.
To fill the role of the blocking tight end, the Bears brought in Steve Manieri, who comes to the Bears from the Chiefs. He may get a ball or two his way, but he’ll be expected to handle the blocking duties in short yardage and goal line situations.
To fill the void left by Evan Rodriguez, the Bears brought in Otis the town drunk to handle the DUI duties and brought in a true fullback in Tony Fiammetta to assist in the running game.
Behind Bennett, things could get a little iffy for the Bears at the tight end spot. If Onobun doesn’t click and Adams, Eldridge or Miller can’t at least match the performance from the group last season, it will really make people question why Phil Emery left Tyler Eiffert on his draft board.