The Chicago Bears reported to training camp Wednesday with their first practice taking place on Thursday.
The tight end position for the Bears appears to be the strongest of positions on the offensive side of the ball.
Chicago enters camp with Zach Miller, Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker, MyCole Pruitt, free agent signee Dion Sims and 2017 draft pick Adam Shaheen. Four of the six tight ends saw playing time with the Bears last season as all four register at least one catch last season.
Miller is slated to be the starting tight end for the team but there are concerns that he could be slowed in training camp due to recovering from a broken foot that ended his season against the Giant last year.
He’s shown that he can produce in the past putting up a 439 yard and 5 touchdown campaign in 2015. But injuries slowed down his 2016 campaign as he finished with 486 yards and 4 touchdowns in 10 games.
Miller is the favorite to win the job but he will have some competition.
The rookie of the group is Shaheen who was drafted in the 2nd round out of Ashland College, a Division II school.
What makes Shaheen so exciting is his combination of size and speed as he stands at 6-foot-6 and 280-pounds. He posted a 40 speed of 4.79s at the Draft Combine earlier this year, showcasing his speed.
Shaheen’s skill set is raw as he only began playing football in 2014 at Ashland. In limited time this offseason, he’s shown flashes during mini camps and could be a surprise offensive weapon providing mismatches against defending linebackers.
Sims comes over from the Miami Dolphins where he played the last four seasons. He isn’t seen a big threat in the passing game but is regarded as a reliable blocking tight end and reliable red zone weapon as a tight end.
All eight of Sims’ touchdown catches in his career have come in red zone situations.
Brown showed promise late in the season starting three games for the Bears and averaged three catches per game for the last five games of the season.
What the Bears like about Brown is that he makes the tough catches over the middle. He is a reliable target, but not a deep threat as his longest catch of the season only went for 12 yards.
Both Braunecker and Pruitt appeared in Bears games last season as well once the injuries piled up, but did not stand out as the two only combined for five catches the entire season.
The key to the offensive success for the Bears from the tight end position will rely on the health of Zach Miller and the progress of Adam Shaheen to adapt to NFL defenses.
Sims will provide veteran blocking and a third option in red zone from a third string tight end position and possibly will be the second string tight end as Shaheen gets accustomed. For the remaining tight ends, it would be unlikely for the Bears to carry four tight ends, but if they do, it would be safe to assume that Brown would have the inside track due to his reliable performance late last season.
Braunecker and Pruitt will most likely have to fight for a spot on the practice squad barring injury to any of the other tight ends during training camp.
It should be interesting to see what production the Bears get from their tight ends because if everything goes right, they will put up big numbers from the position.