Projects and Plans on Offense – Sports Illustrated

While Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy coached Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay quarterbacks, the Packers offense always lacked a marquee tight end.
They had Jimmy Graham on the downside of his career, developed Robert Tonya and Josiah Deguara and always had reliable Marcedes Lewis as a fallback for a needed shorter reception but above all to block.
Aaron Rodgers didn't count on them a lot, but when he did they seemed to produce. 
It's unknown whether that was Rodgers' preference, or the way the Packers called plays, but either way Getsy will have his own take on how to use Bears tight ends.
It must be important to his offense because the Bears have brought in a couple of experienced role-playing tight ends to support Cole Kmet. Both are in this resumption of the 2022 training camp roster rundow, along with three young wide receivers who are vying or either a roster spot or the practice squad.
6-foot-6, 255 pounds
The Dossier: A sixth-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in 2013, the 32-year-old tight end is among the oldest Bears and is an above-average run blocker who had rookie experience in the wide zone scheme of offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, then again last year with the Jets in Mike LaFleur's offense. Griffin has depedable hands with a 65.2% rate of catches/targets. He has 206 career receptions for 2,158 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's only had more than 34 receptions once, in 2016 with Houston.
2022 Prospectus: Griffin is competing with James O'Shaughnessy at the No. 2 tight end spot for playing time. Like with all backup tight ends, he needs to have special teams abilities. He played on half of special teams snaps for the Jets the last two years and 44% of them in 2019. His status as a starter for most games his teams played from 2018-21 indicates he'd have an edge for No. 2 tight end but he is a different type tight end than O'Shaughnessy, who is more of a movement and H-back type and is 10 pounds lighter but is an excellent pass blocker. Unless either California undrafted rookie Jake Tonges or Iowa State undrafted rookie Chase Allen or former Giants string-bean veteran Rysen John show unexpected ability, Griffin would appear to be the favorite for second tight end. If Tonges or Allen develops quickly, Griffin's roster spot could be in jeopardy as a 32-year-old player. But even a young, rebuilding team can use a few veterans to provide guidance.
5-11, 190
The Dossier: Their sixth-round draft pick last year was cut and then brought back to languish but learn on the practice squad. He finally got onto the roster for three games with a start at season's end and showed very little as a receiver but did display some of the punt return wizardry he had at North Carolina. He broke a 28-yard return against Seattle, had a 17-yarder against Minnesota and made six punt returns for a 12.5-yard average.
2022 Prosectus: The punt return skill alone could be a reason for Newsome making the roster, but it's not like the Bears are going to be hurting for return people. Velus Jones, Trestan Ebner and some veterans can also do it. If Newsome doesn't show an ability to handle the slot receiver spot, it would be easy for a new regime to part ways with a sixth-round pick made by the previous regime. However, if he does stay competitive in the receiver battle then expect he'd get a nod for fifth or sixth receiver over a veteran journeyman like Tajae Sharpe, David Moore or Dante Pettis because of that punt return ability. From the way the Bears talk about Velus Jones, it seems unlikely they'd want to devote too many returns to him because it could cost them a valued TD threat at receiver. This helps players like Newsome, but working against him is how the new coaches like bigger receivers who can block. Newsome is average to below average in this regard.
6-2, 198
The Dossier: The former Rhode Island standout and 2020 fifth-round pick by the Texans was waived by Houston ad signed last training camp by the Bears. Cut and put on the practice squad whe he hadn't really had much chance to learn the playbook before the 53-man roster was made, he managed to get onto the field for three games and 21 offensive plays at season's end with one target and no catches. His size paints him as a possible X-receiver type and his 4.45-second speed with a 36-inch vertical leap backs this up.
2022 Prospectus: He'll be a long shot for the roster but has all the physical tools this coaching staff likes in its receivers. He had seven 100-yard receiving games in college and made 132 receptions for 1,855 yards in three years. Coulter has been active in making catches at OTAs and minicamp and preseason will be big for him to make a statement that he's better to retain than some of the experienced veteran free agents they signed. He'll be a long shot and it seems more likely he'd continue on as a developmental project with the practice squad. He's a player who needs to show he can use his speed on special teams coverage units, if not on return teams.
5-10, 166
The Dossier: The chief deep threat for Titans 2022 draft pick Malik Willis, Shaa haul in 82 passes for 1,364 yards and 12 TDs with the Liberty Flames. He's an undrafted free agent.
2022 Prospectus: A long shot for the roster. First, he needs to eat some food. At 166 he's build along the lines of former Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox. Shaa did display excellent speed and made a number of catches in rookie camp and against third-team players in OTAs. He was reported to have run a 4.39 pro day 40 and actually is only about 7 pounds lighter than Darnell Mooney was as a rookie. His speed and past chasing Willis' deep passes might lead the Bears to keep him for development on the practice squad.
6-4, 245
The Dossier: A Naperville North product who was drafted in the fifth round by Kansas City while Bears GM Ryan Poles was with the Chiefs in 2015, he was dealt after two seasons to the Patriots, who then waived him before the season. O'Shaughnessy wound up with the Jaguars in 2017 and made 34 of his 40 starts there with his best two back-to-back receiving seasons coming in the last two seasons. He had 24 and 28 catches in those seasons despite missing 11 games with injuries. He has 112 catches for 1,108 yards and three TDs.
2022 Prosectus: A potential H-back or target on third-and-short, he could also be deployed as an extra pass blocker. Pro Football Focus labeled him the 14th best pass-blocking tight end in the NFL last year. Because he had a bigger role on offense, his special teams play dwindled to 69 total snaps the past three seasons but earlier he had seasons when those constituted 64% or more of his team's reps on teams. He'll need to revert back to those days now but the Bears could use him in specialty situations with three-tight end formations on offense, like goal line, short yardage and third-and-long. If younger undrafted tight ends develop, he could be challenged for his roster spot, just like Ryan Griffin. He'll be battling for playing time behind Cole Kmet with Griffin.
Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

BearDigest.com publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Bears full time for various publications, news services and websites over 30 years, including several years collaborating on weekly NFL/Bears columns with Mike Ditka and Walter Payton for the Copley Newspaper Chain.

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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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