Positional Overview: Tight Ends

The Bears got very little from their tight ends last year. Without upgrading the position in the off-season, any boost will have to come from the mind of Ron Turner.

Desmond Clark entered the '04 season looking to become the first Bear tight end since Mike Ditka to post consecutive 40-reception campaigns. He barely got halfway to the mark, finishing the season with just 24 receptions.

Terry Shea's offense was supposed to be built around the tight end and running back catching the ball. While Thomas Jones led the team with 56 grabs, the tight ends combined for 366 yards on 36 receptions and two touchdowns.

Clark had his share of drops during the course of the year, but in general the position was underutilized.

The Bears have little depth behind Clark, which is why he'll go to training camp as the unquestioned starter.

Dustin Lyman has been in the league five years and has just 36 career receptions to show for it. Despite a history of injuries, he remains second on the depth chart because the Bears failed to upgrade the position through free agency or the draft.

John Gilmore, John Owens, Gabe Reid and Darnell Sanders will compete for the third tight end role.

Gilmore is the best blocker of the group and showed the ability to catch the ball as a rookie. However, he caught just one pass last year.

Owens signed with the Bears midway through the season and appeared in two games without a catch. Through three years in the league he has just five receptions.

Reid impressed in Bourbonnais before suffering a knee injury during the preseason that landed him on Injured Reserve. He has the ability to catch the ball, but struggles with the blocking aspect of the position.

Sanders represents the team's sole effort to go outside of the organization to improve the talent level at tight end. He's with his third team in four years and will be a long shot to make the roster.

Surprisingly, the team didn't even bring an undrafted free agent to push the veterans.

In Ron Turner's first stint as offensive coordinator, Bear tight ends averaged 47 receptions for 454 yards and 4.5 touchdowns. He used seven different players at the position from 1993-96 and still found a way to make it a viable option for the quarterback.

Whether or not he can work his magic with the current cast of characters remains to be seen. Turner's run oriented philosophy will force the group to think block first and catch the ball second.

There is a good chance the Bears will look to upgrade the position next off-season, but in the meantime, they'll have to make due with what amounts to a tight end by committee.


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