A lot has been discussed regarding former Chicago Bears tight end Kellen Davis' rock-like hands as a receiver. Overlooked was the fact Davis was improving as a blocker, both in protection and the run game. In 2012, Davis graded positively in both areas, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).
Despite that, his inability to catch the ball led to his dismissal yesterday and facilitated the move for Chicago's new tight end, Martellus Bennett. Last year, as the No. 1 TE for the Giants, Bennett caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns. By comparison, during his five seasons with the Bears, Davis caught a total of 47 passes for 529 yards. As a receiver, Bennett is night-and-day better than his predecessor.
"I finally got a chance to be a No. 1 guy [in New York] and I was able to make huge strides, being able to play and make plays," Bennett said yesterday. "I think [being in Chicago] is the next step up and I'm excited about it."
Yet catching the ball isn't Bennett's only talent; he's also a very good blocker. During his first four NFL years in Dallas he backed up Jason Witten, one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the game. As such, Bennett was forced into a blocking role, one he never fully accepted.
"Early in my career, it's no secret I struggled," said Bennett. "It wasn't because of ability or being able to make plays. It was more attitude. I think I never accepted my role in Dallas and was always fighting what my role was, instead of just accepting it."
By default, his time in Dallas taught Bennett how to be an accomplished blocker at the pro level.
"I did kind of accept [my role] because I became one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL, which was my role there," he said. "It's helped me out throughout my whole career. I was a blocking guy down there.
"Really it's just attitude and perspective for me. I don't want to be the second guy. I never want to be second. I still don't want to be second."
It's his all-around talent that makes Bennett so attractive. It's the reason the Bears were able to cut both Davis, the receiver, and Matt Spaeth, the blocker, as Bennett can fill both roles.
Using PFF's grading system, of all the tight ends in the league last year, Bennett was the only player to grade in the upper positive in every single category. Overall, he graded 4th best at the position; as a receiver, 11th best; in pass protection, 3rd best; and as a run blocker, 13th best. Based on these numbers, it can be argued that Bennett is the most well-rounded tight end in the game.
Make no mistake though, Bennett is a strong blocker but he's in Chicago, first and foremost, to add an extra dimension to the team's passing attack.
"There are huge expectations for me," Bennett said. "[Jay] Cutler wants to throw the ball to the tight end. He said that publicly. Anytime you have a quarterback who says that publicly, that's the kind of guy you want to be around. I just think I bring some elements to the game that, not to put anyone down, but I think my level of play is totally different from the guys they had here in the past."
And the bow on the Bennett signing? He came relatively cheap. His four-year, $20 million deal averages out to $5 million per season, with only $1.94 million counting against this year's cap. Davis was due more than $3 million against the cap in 2012, so you can see what a bargain Bennett is relative to the considerable value he'll soon bring to Chicago's offense.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.