Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2011 Bears Position Reviews: The Tight Ends

In 2010, the whole "Martz doesn't use the tight end" thing proved to be largely overblown, as Greg Olsen and Kellen Davis combined to have a pretty decent season. Last year, however, with Olsen gone and Davis taking over the top spot, Martz truly earned his reputation. Altogether, the Bears TE duo of Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth combined for just 25 receptions for 256 yards, although they did have 7 combined touchdowns. That was the lowest yardage total for a Bears TE unit since 2005.

That doesn't mean we can't break down these two players, though.

#87 Kellen Davis: 18 receptions, 206 yds, 5 TDs, 11.4 ypc.
I like Kellen Davis. He's a good football player. It's not just that a third of all of the catches he's made in his entire career have gone for touchdowns (28 catches, 9 TDs). It's mostly got to do with his athleticism and the fact that, unlike Greg Olsen, he really can block. Kellen got off to a rough start like everyone else, and during the five games at the beginning of the season he allowed five pressures as Martz often had him alone on an island against team's starting defensive ends. After the shift back toward sanity, Kellen allowed zero pressures in his last eleven games. That's good stuff, folks. He struggled slightly in run blocking, but nowhere near as much as his predecessor, who was typically a nonfactor.

The Bears smartly re-signed Kellen for a very fair price. I think he'll open some eyes this year as a receiving tight end, but if his main contribution is simply helping to keep Cutler upright, well, that's fine by me.

#89 Matt Spaeth: 7 receptions, 50 yds, 2 TDs, 7.1 ypc.
Spaeth was every thing he was advertised to be: a stout run blocker, an OK pass blocker, and a complete non-entity catching the ball. I did enjoy when he scored a touchdown against the Falcons on that "Play-action toss to the wide-open #2 TE" play that's resulted in 98.7% of all Bears touchdowns since 2005, though. I expect Matt will be back next year as a blocking specialist, and that, too, is fine with me.

#44 Tyler Clutts: 8 receptions, 48 yds, 0 TDs, 6.0 ypc.
I'm including Tyler here just because there's nowhere else to put him. Martz finally broke down this year and admitted that he needed a fullback rather than just a fat tight end. He got Tyler Clutts, who caught passes about as well as a blind Muhsin Muhammed and didn't grade out very well as a blocker, at least according to Pro Football Focus. I think he was better than his grade at run blocking, but overall he's not much of a contributor and I wouldn't be surprised to see the team look at some veterans who might have more to offer in Tice's smash mouth offense.

That's all for the tight ends. I think the team may find a mid or later round rookie pass-catching specialist to come in and compete for some playing time, but I'd put more money on Kellen Davis emerging as a pass catching threat next year.