Eben Britton is a former second-round draft pick who spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Injuries and inconsistent play hampered him while with the Jaguars, who chose not to re-sign Britton after his rookie contract was up.
Britton then signed a contract with the Chicago Bears this offseason in an effort to resurrect his career. While he didn't earn a starting gig in training camp, he did work his way onto the 53-man roster. Through the first three weeks of the 2013 campaign, Britton rode the pine, yet in Week 4 his role on the team changed.
Against the Detroit Lions, Britton played 11 snaps as the third tackle up front and has been an integral part of the offense ever since.
"Part of it was we were trying to take a little bit of the load off – they have great pass rushers outside – take a little bit of the load off of Martellus [Bennett's] shoulder and move him outside yesterday and I thought Eben did a more than sufficient job in taking care of the outside lanes," coach Marc Trestman said following the Lions game. "So that's part of the reason why we did it, and we added to the running game so we've mixed it in there. And you see teams do it all along. They move a tackle into that position. Teams do that throughout the league."
Over the last 10 games, Britton has averaged more than 15 snaps per contest. He's been used as a third tackle/tight end/fullback, lining up on the edge of the line and at H-back.
"In my history and our history of football we've used an offensive lineman at tight end 10 to 16 times a game," said coordinator Aaron Kromer. "It's really helped in both protection schemes and in the run game." After playing guard and tackle exclusively in Jacksonville, Britton said his new role has given him renewed vigor for the game.
"I love it," Britton told Bear Report this week. "I love it that the coaches have seen enough, seen something in me to give me the opportunity to get out there with the guys and help this team. I love coming to work every day. I love playing football. I've had a rough last few years with injuries. Coming here was like trying to get a fresh start. I came in here with the utmost humility and gratitude that this is a new opportunity for me to play football again. I decided way back in April that I'm just going to come in and work as hard as I can every day and see where that lands me. After training camp, I showed enough to the coaches and the people in the building that make the big decisions that I'm a guy that deserves to be here.
"I don't mind being the sixth guy, swing tackle. I love watching the young guys work and I love being able to help them out anyway I can. It's been an awesome experience for me. It's like a cherry on top that I get to go in and play monster tight end and flip sides and do a lot of different things. It's a lot of fun. It's the most fun I've had playing football my entire life."
Let's got to the film room to show how Britton fits in Chicago's offense and how effective he's been as the club's third tackle.
Britton doesn't get the credit he deserves but he's an integral part of Chicago's offense. His presence on either edge provides added stability in both the run and pass games. He can handle edge rushers on his own, can maul at the point of attack and has the quickness to clear defenders at the second level.
And if the Bears ever get tired of watching defensive ends fly past right tackle Jordan Mills, Britton could add an element of power and nastiness to the offensive line. But until then, he'll continue to be a key cog for the Bears up front.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. 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.