The first few series for the new-look 2012 Chicago Bears offense were brutal. The group combined for -19 total yards and gave up six points on a Jay Cutler pick-six. It was obvious something needed to change, so coordinator Mike Tice sent in Evan Rodriguez.
On his first snap, the Bears ran an off-tackle left. Rodriguez served as the lead blocker. As he turned the corner, he crushed the Colts linebacker, which sprung RB Matt Forte for a 32-yard gain, the longest run of the day for Chicago.
From then on, when the Bears needed yards on the ground, Rodriguez was called on to pave the way. Not bad for a rookie playing his first NFL game.
"It was a great experience," Rodriguez told Bear Report after the game. "I felt pretty good. I still have things to work on but for the most part, I'm satisfied."
The Bears racked up 114 yards on the ground, with Rodriguez serving as F-back for most of the contest. It's a role he's familiar with, one in which he played during his collegiate years at Temple.
"I'm doing whatever I've got to do. I'm versatile so wherever they put me at, I'm going to make it happen," Rodriguez said. "I'm just trying to embrace my role. Just take advantage of the opportunities they give me out there."
The Bears were so confident in his ability to block that they traded FB Tyler Clutts on the day of final cuts. Apparently, offensive coordinator Mike Tice was well aware of E-Rod's ability as a hole opener. RB Matt Forte definitely took notice.
"He did very well, to be his first game and not be as comfortable with the fullback position," said Forte.
The Bears' offensive line deserves much of the credit during today's performance. They allowed just two sacks and paved the way for a 100-yard rushing day.
"Whenever your quarterback gets time and you're running the football, you'll have to assume that that offensive line is playing pretty good," said coach Lovie Smith. "But it's not just the offensive line. Evan Rodriguez, our tight ends, all of that inside core group [contributed]."
What makes Rodriguez even more valuable is his ability as a pass catcher. Of the four tight ends on the team, he easily has the softest hands of the bunch. Down the line, the Bears would be wise to use him as a part of the aerial attack but Rodriguez isn't worried about that right now.
"I really don't care," he said. "As long as I'm on the field and we're winning, I'm not complaining."
While Alshon Jeffery stole the headlines as far as Bears rookies – he had three catches for 80 yards and a TD – a less-heralded, yet equally important, contribution was made by Rodriguez – something on which this offense can build going forward.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.