The Chicago Bears’ first training camp practice open to the public arrives on July 27, and we’ll be there! But with training camp rapidly approaching and the team’s August 8 debut at home against the Panthers around the corner, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
Today: Tight ends
The Starters: Trey Burton (54 catches, 569 yards, 6 touchdowns; 69.4 grade from Pro Football Focus), Adam Shaheen (5 catches, 48 yards, 1 touchdown; 54.2 PFF grade)
The Backups: Ben Braunecker, Ian Bunting, Jesper Horsted, Dax Raymond, Ellis Richardson, Bradley Sowell
Potential Training Camp Star: After we move beyond Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen, there is room on the depth chart for someone to break through and enter the rotation. One candidate who could line up to do just that with a strong showing in training camp is Jesper Horsted. The Bears signed Horsted as an undrafted free agent out of Princeton (yes, THAT Princeton) after setting all sorts of school records as a wide receiver. Horsted earned All-American honors as a senior and could show off those pass-catching skills as a backup “U” tight end in the summer. If he does, then fans will flock to support his cause for inclusion on the 53-man roster.
We Really Like: Bradley Sowell, an offensive lineman by trade, who has slimmed down to make the move to tight end. Sowell might have an inside track to a spot as TE3 because of his extensive experience as a blocker from his time as a swing tackle, not to mention his 100 percent catch rate and 100.o TD%.
We Might Be Worried About: The overall state of the position troubles me. There is not a ton of experience in this position room. And while there is considerable upside, the position group is mostly inexperienced. At some point, Shaheen — a second-round pick in 2017 — has to give something more than a handful of snaps, catches, and yards. On most teams, having an unstable tight end position would be more of a cause for concern. But because the Bears are so strong across the board at other positions (and because the kicking drama has drawn away all of the attention) the possible tight end short-comings take a back seat.
2019 Forecast: Madden NFL ’20 likes Trey Burton a lot more than we expected it would. An 87 rating for Burton is actually the same overall rating of defensive end Akiem Hicks, which is a bit of a surprise considering Hicks was a far superior player. Burton’s Madden rating vibes with what his potential is as he enters his second year in Chicago’s offense. The Bears should be getting top-10 tight end production from a catches and yardage standpoint. If they do, this position group will go from viewed as a problem that could hold the team back to a solution that helps Trubisky reach the next level. Outside of kicker, the battle for the roster spots behind the top two tight ends will be the most scrutinized this summer.