Starring Role

How important is it for new featured running back Thomas Jones to be an integral part of the passing offense?

It's imperative if you use the Chiefs' offense as a blueprint, which is essentially what new offensive coordinator Terry Shea will do, having spent three years as the quarterbacks coach in that system.

In those three seasons, Chiefs running back Priest Holmes had 206 receptions, just one less than tight end Tony Gonzalez, the team's leading pass catcher during that span.

"If you just track the history of this offense, the three years that I was with the Kansas City Chiefs, our leading pass catcher (other than Gonzalez) was the running back," Shea said. "So, from that standpoint, it reflects that the running back better have the ability to make the catch, but a lot of his catches are checkdowns."

Jones won't necessarily be expected to function as a down-the-field receiver, which is fortunate, since he isn't an easy to locate target at 5-feet-10. But there are many other ways he can be utilized in the new Bears offense.

"We do push him up the field a little bit, but most of the time he's catching screens, checkdowns and flat routes," Shea said. "That's where this offense, if it clicks, the quarterback's passing percentage is very high. That's why Trent Green's quarterback rating started to go up and up and up because our offense got better and better."

Jones has never caught more than 32 passes in a season, and he's never averaged more than 7.5 yards per catch. But Shea believes he can blossom in his offense, much as Holmes did in Kansas City.

"He's got a real natural feel for the passing game," Shea said of the 220-pound ball of muscle. "He's got great quickness out of the break, and I won't hesitate to put in some option routes with him because he gives us that kind of skill."


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