Bears Passing Attack has been Grounded

LAKE FOREST - In the preseason, Bears quarterbacks averaged a subpar 5.0 yards per pass attempt, 2.02 yards less than their opponents. They'll be looking to do much better on Sunday at noon against the Lions at Soldier Field, which means Rex Grossman will probably be looking in tight end Desmond Clark's direction.

Desmond Clark has lofty expectations for the Bears this season, and the team has high hopes for its best pass-catching tight end.

"I don't know what the media's thinking and what the outside people are thinking," Clark said. "But our expectations are: if we're not going to the Super Bowl, then there's no need to be out here. So that's what we're expecting."

Clark had 44 catches last season in a Bears offense that didn't feature the tight end. This year's scheme, which is based on the Chiefs' offense, is more TE-friendly. Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez caught 207 passes for 2,606 yards and 23 TDs over the past three seasons, when that offense was the highest scoring in the NFL.

"We ask the tight end to do quite a bit in it," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of offensive coordinator Terry Shea's system. "You just look traditionally at what the offense has done, it's kind of open for a lot of big plays and things like that. We plan on getting the ball to the tight ends as much as possible."

In the absence of a go-to wide receiver (since the trade of WR Marty Booker), Clark's role, and that of running back Thomas Jones, are critical to the success of Rex Grossman and the passing offense.

"I don't necessarily think we have to have a go-to guy," Clark said. "We have go-to guys. If everybody is accountable, why not have three, four, five guys that you can go to in any situation and spread the ball around. That way teams can't double team one receiver or key on me or key on Thomas. I think it would be nice to have four or five guys you can go to in any situation, and I think we have enough talent to do that."

Part of the problem the Bears had in establishing a passing game in the preseason was the absence of Clark, who missed the first three games with a pulled hamstring and played just a quarter in the final tune-up with one catch. If the strength of the passing game lies in spreading the ball around to three or four main targets, all options need to be available if the system is to function at optimum efficiency.

"If we don't have that, then the offense is not going to click as well," Clark said, "because that's what this offense is based around, throwing the ball to a bunch of different guys. If you go back and look at Kansas City, the (wide) receivers didn't catch 70 or 80 passes. They caught 50-to-60, the running back caught 50-to-60, and the tight end caught 60-to-70. If we have that kind of production here, that would be great, and then hopefully we'll have the same kind of offense they had."

Sure Clark would love to catch that many passes; what tight end wouldn't? But he said it's not so much quantity as quality that matters.

"Whatever it is," Clark said. "If I'm catching 40 or 50, and the back's catching 60 or 70, as long as we're moving the ball. It's not how many you catch, it's how you go about catching. If you're only catching 6-7-yard routes and you catch 80 passes, that's not going to do anything. If you catch 30 or 40, but they're for 15 yards apiece, that's better."

149th meeting. Bears lead series 83-60-5 and have won two of last three and five of last seven. In those seven games, two have been decided by field goals from the Bears' Paul Edinger and two were won by Jason Hanson field goals.

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