Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In Review- The Tight Ends

Given the fact that it appears likely-ish that there Will possibly be football next year, I have decided to resume my unit-by-unit evaluations of the 2010 Bears. I covered the QBs, RBs, and WRs earlier in the offseason so you can look back to find them if you care. Today: the tight ends.

#82 Greg Olsen.
I've never really hidden the fact that I've never cared for Greg Olsen. Usually I vacillate between downright hatred and begrudging apathy toward him. I thought the Bears should have traded down from #31 in 2007 and picked up any number of the valuable players that went in the 2nd round that year (Ryan Kalil, perhaps? Nah. Let's just keep pretending that Olin Kreutz hasn't been mediocre at best since 2005!). Desmond Clark had a few years of production left in him, and then Mike Martz came around to make the position mostly irrelevant. Basically, I never wanted Greg Olsen in the first place and he's done very little to warm his way into my heart.

With that said, I think Greg had his best year as a Bear this year. He was more productive as a blocker than he's ever been (mostly since he had to be if he was ever going to see the field), he cut down on his mistakes, and he made some big catches on 3rd down and in the red zone even though his overall receiving numbers were down from his last two years. His playoff game against the Seahawks was absolutely outstanding and showed that he can still be a force in this scheme when he needs to be. Like I've said before, Kansas City ran a very similar offense under Vermeil and Al Saunders and utilized Tony Gonzalez, so Martz is capable of making Greg a major part of his scheme. That made Greg's disappearance against Green Bay all the more frustrating, although I don't know if that was Martz's fault, Greg's fault, or Cutler/Hanie's fault.

I predict a bigger year for Olsen next year, as an improved offensive line will hopefully keep him from staying in to block so often and allow him to be the matchup problem on offense that he was brought in to be.

#87 Kellen Davis
It's hard not to like Kellen. He's a good blocker (better than Olsen, at least) and 4 of his 10 career catches have been touchdowns. He's a perfect example of why I think Olsen was a wasted first round pick, since he'd be a more than adequate starter and could have at least matched Desmond Clark's production despite entering the league as a fifth round pick. There's really not much else to say here, other than he's certainly a useful player to have as a back up tight end.

#86 Brandon Manumaleuna
I can't imagine what the hell made Jerry Angelo think that Manumaleuna was worth a 5 year, $15 million contract. I hardly doubt that that was really the market value for a tight end that's solely a blocking specialist, especially when he needed a knee surgery that limited his usefulness in that department in a big way. Manu was used more as a fullback than a tight end this year and he was a serious downgrade from the eminently mediocre Jason McKie in that department. Hopefully Manu will be better this year after he's fully recovered from the surgery, but I highly doubt he'll ever be worth the money. At least he had that one touchdown against the Lions. That gave us all a good laugh.

#88 Desmond Clark
We've finally reached the end of Desmond's long tenure as a Bear (2003-2010), and I'm grateful for everything he did. He was one of the best signings of Angelo's career, and while he suffered from the absolutely atrocious parade of shit the Bears had at QB during his first three years in Chicago (averaged just 314 yards and 1 TD during the Kordell Stewart/Chris Chandler/Rookie Grossman/Jon Quinn/Craig Krenzel/Chad Hutchinson/Rookie Orton nightmare), he was very effective from 06-08 and, for all Olsen's potential, he was a much better all-around tight end during that stretch than Greg has ever been.

With all due respect to his prior career in Chicago, Clark was a nonfactor in 2010 for good reason. His decline was apparent last year and, at this point, Kellen Davis offers more value for less money. His only notable appearance last year was a dropped TD pass on 4th down in the first game against Green Bay, and he finished the year with just 1 catch for 12 yards in just five games. He'll probably end up somewhere else next year and offer average production for a few years, but it's definitely time to let him go. Good luck, Dez.

For all of the fuss about Mike Martz not using his tight ends, the Bears' unit got mixed results. They had just 478 yards receiving as a group, down from 832 the year before, but they had a respectable 7 touchdown receptions and were more of a factor in the second half than the first. Overall, though, the tight ends did what was asked of them (outside of Manumaleuna, unless he was asked to be fat, slow, and terrible at blocking) and this is a unit that should remain mostly intact and should improve next year.