The Chicago Bears have re-worked their tight ends room in each of the last two offseasons. And in each of those offseasons, Dion Sims has been right in the thick of things.
Sims enters the second year of a three-year contract with seemingly far less job security than he did in Year 1 of the deal, but his head coach seems to still see Sims as an integral part of the offense moving forward.
“The nice thing with Dion is that he’s a guy that’s proven to be a solid blocker,” Matt Nagy said, via Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic. “He can be in there and be your “Y” tight end, but yet he still has really good hands. He can make plays on intermediate routes. He’s not going to be anybody that’s a downfield threat – I think he knows that, we all know that – but he’s a valuable piece of the puzzle.”
Adam Shaheen seems prepared to get an expanded role in the offense, but like Sims is slotted to play the “Y” tight end position. So where does this leave the 27-year-old? Well, if the idea is to put players in the best position to succeed, then we’ll likely see Sims the most during passing situations.
Sims earned a 71.8 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus in 2017, which was the fifth best among players at the position. Pass protection is going to be valuable for an offense that figures to take a big leap forward under Nagy’s guidance and Mitch Trubisky’s improvement. However, Sims’ 38.4 run-blocking grade was the eighth worst among tight ends. And while PFF grades aren’t perfect, shortcomings as a run-blocker won’t be taken lightly considering Jordan Howard’s importance to the offense.
Sims’ role in the passing game was minimal, as his 194 passing snaps were just eight more than that of Zach Miller – who accumulated 186 passing snaps despite playing in six fewer games. Sims was targeted just 29 times, but hauled in only 15 of those passes. Two of those came in the red zone, but neither catch resulted in a score. Meanwhile, Shaheen turned out to be a bigger red-zone target in the Bears’ offense last year as he caught four of the six passes thrown his way inside of the 20 – three of which resulted in touchdowns.
One of the more unique challenges Nagy has to conquer is finding playing time for both Sims and Shaheen at the “Y” position, and splitting time between a second-year second-round pick with upside and the second-highest-paid player of the position group probably won’t be easy.
Blocking is important, there’s no argument against that. And Sims’ skills in that phase of the game are probably at the top of the list of reasons he is still on the team, even though there were significant cap savings on the table had the Bears chosen to part ways earlier in the offseason. But there is no doubt Sims has to improve as a receiver in order to maximize his potential, as well as that of the offense.