Unearthing positive news from the Chicago Bears’ injury report is kin to finding that elusive needle in the haystack, but Dion Sims returning to practice for the first time since the bye week counts as a good development for a team battling through another injury riddled season.
But if you thought Sims’ looming return would cost Adam Shaheen some reps at tight end, it might be time to re-calibrate those minds:
Dowell Loggains when asked if Dion Sims’ return would impact Adam Shaheen’s snaps: “We don’t want to slow down [Shaheen’s] progress. … He’s earned the playing time the last two weeks."
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) November 22, 2017
It’s clear that Bears’ Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains is at a point where he is more invested in developing Shaheen because of what he has done with the opportunity that was put at his feet.
Entering Thursday’s NFL action, Shaheen was Pro Football Focus’ 20th-highest-graded tight end. Sims ranked 61st among the site’s 69 qualifiers.
This isn’t to say Sims will be cut out of the lineup entirely, but the NFL is littered with “next man up” stories where an injured starter doesn’t get their job back due to what happens while they were sidelined. Shaheen’s is likely to be the latest based on his upside and recent production. The second-round pick has played 77 snaps in the last two weeks and has hauled in six catches for 80 yards in his expanded role. As a point of comparison, Sims has just nine catches in eight games.
Sims entered the year with more experience than Shaheen and his experience as a blocker was supposed to give him an edge in certain packages and formations. However, Shaheen has grown as a blocker with each week and is turning into a well-rounded tight end because of how the Bears slow-played his development in the offense by using him primarily as a run blocker earlier in the season. Shaheen’s role was going to expand, so long as he continued to make progress in the team’s development plan.
It sure sounds like progress has been made, doesn’t it?
Shaheen was the top-rated tight end at Pro Football Focus last week, so it would probably take some Herculean effort from Sims to pry away the playing time earned by the rookie. Of course, there could always be room for two viable tight end targets. But for that to happen, Sims will need to improve as a blocker, route runner, and pass catcher.