Chicago Bears Film Review: Where Cole Kmet must improve as a blocker
When the Chicago Bears drafted Cole Kmet they did so with the idea that they now have a player who can impact not only the passing game but the ground game. His ability to block can help the run game, but his ability as a passing threat can open space as well.
When the Chicago Bears have Jimmy Graham and Cole Kmet on the field they two tight ends, but also have two pass catchers. Of course, when it comes to being the compliment to Graham you know that they are relying on you to do the heavy lifting when it comes to lining up inline and blocking.
When it comes to tight-end production in the NFL there is a steep learning curve because there is so much you have to learn. With that in mind, Kmet did hit most passing game thresholds for tight-end rookies.
So, with a lower bar, it is worth questioning how Cole Kmet looked in his rookie season as a blocker.
Cole Kmet struggles pulling laterally
The Chicago Bears run a zone rushing attack primarily. From a variety of formations and looks they like to move their offensive lineman one way, then have their tight end on the back end-run the other way to seal the backside of the play and give a running back a cutback block.
It is a tough block for tight ends in that they have to attack a moving target, but it is also is helpful for tight ends to collide with a player running the opposite direction and typically being a bit caught off guard as the rest of the play is going the other way.
This is where Cole Kmet was given the majority of his assignments, and we saw a lot of issues throughout his tape. The first play is below.
Watch number 45 on the right side. Kmet comes across the line and a quick shift out of the way keeps him clean. Kmet starts to chase 45 while 45 is chasing the running back who spun to a cutback that was not sealed off.
You can see a similar against the Lions below. This time the line pulls left and leaves the outside edge rusher to be sealed off by the tight end. Once again Kmet misses his target. 95 does not make the tackle but does for David Montgomery to immediately change his direction and evade three defenders that are unblocked.
The issue in most cases has been making contact, but in the play below he does make contact, there is just little impact. David Montgomery breaks one tackle but runs right into the arms of 95, who Kmet met with and then could not block. I would not say effort is the true issue here but the coaches have to slam into his head the idea of finishing the play.
In the play below we see one of his more successful attempts. However, you can see that it does not quite live up to what you would hope to see from the blocking tight end of your duo. He essentially ends up as the first man on the ground and then finds a way to bring his man down with him.
Again we see him against the Jaguars, and it is not a complete whiff. The issue again is that he makes quick contact, and from there he does not get much push. He gets pushed back and the defender goes onto make the tackle. Kmet was one of the younger players in the draft so this is not a surprise that more physically mature athletes are embracing the contact and finding their second wind a step faster than Kmet.
We see one last instance from the playoffs. He misses on Cam Jordan who once again finds himself making a tackle on the back end of the play. These are not plays where Kmet blew the play up, but they are plays where you could have seen Montgomery aided by a block being held a second or so longer.
Overall the Bears run game did improve down the stretch, but Kmet will have to get better working laterally. He was a bit better working into the second level, though,
This is not to bash Kmet for not making these blocks but realizing this is something we need to see next season. We saw glimpses of upside working laterally. Check out the play below. He is able to get into the second level, and find his target and make contact. Kmet almost bounces off immediately but then sticks with his man and rides him all the way to the end zone.
This play looks minor, but Montgomery may not finish that play if that defender is meeting him three or four yards sooner. Kmet finishing this play into the second level helped get Montgomery the extra yards that turned a big run into a touchdown run.
Below we see a combination block. He helps Charles Leno off of the line and gets into the second level to meet the linebacker. The most impressive note on the play below is how he is able to turn his hips to make the block.
Kmet is eventually blocking with his back to the sideline. Again, with the outside zone blocking scheme, this is sealing off an outside running lane for Montgomery. He does not get there, but this is an example of Kmet pulling off an impressive, and complicated block that is imperative for an outside zone scheme.
Below we do see where Kmet will have to improve again. He helps Germain Ifedi with a chip, but it does not leave an impact. From there, he connects with the safety but once again does not make a big impact and the tackle is made by the two defenders touched by Kmet.
A lot of the issues come for Kmet after he makes that initial contact. To start, they do not leave an impact, but afterward, he seems to be impacted more, and struggling to get that second block, or continued fight in.
This is not a shocker considering his age, and even his experience level being raw as a former baseball player. Still, he has to put on a lot of muscle this offseason to take a step next season. Watch 98 below. He jumps in late and is matched up with Cole Kmet. Kmet gets pushed to the side and the gap is locked up by the defender. We are not asking him to knock the guy over, but at least stay in his way.
Check out 51 in the play below. He uses his right arm to keep Kmet at a distance and read the play. When Montgomery cuts back, he tosses Kmet away and makes the tackle. You can see Kmet stumbling out of the play as the tackle is made.
The reality is that in a lot of situations Kmet is not hurting things but is not providing the block that can turn three yards into eight or nine.
If they can get a leap forward as a blocker in year two he can really open the offense up in more ways than one. The biggest thing will be adding muscle and strength to hold up after the initial collision. However, understanding angles and making that first impact worth something is also an area where Kmet is going to have to improve.
In no way is this a death sentence for his career, and in fact, these issues would be expected. However, now the groundwork is laid for what exactly fans need to look for when they look for improvement in his blocking.