Year in Review: Tight Ends

If there is a position on offense where the Chicago Bears don't need any help before next season, it's tight end. Desmond Clark is still solid, Greg Olsen looks like a future Pro Bowler, and Kellen Davis has potential. Bear Report takes a look back at 2008 for the TEs while also looking ahead to 2009.

2008 Review
Most of the experts figured the Midway Monsters would be in pretty good shape at the tight end position, and they were right.


TE Desmond Clark
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Veteran Desmond Clark has been one of the more underrated tight ends in the league for a few years now, and he was able to hold on to his starting job with 41 catches for 367 yards in addition to solid blocking in the running game. But it's up-and-coming youngster Greg Olsen who is the future at this position in the Windy City, as the former first-round draft pick finished second on the team with 54 receptions for 574 yards and led the Bears with five touchdowns through the air. Since the receivers played poorly for the majority of the season, Clark and Olsen were on the field at the same time quite often and did as much damage lining up out wide as they did with a hand on the ground.

Olsen still has a long way to go as a blocker and won't become a complete tight end until he makes a serious commitment to get stronger, although he's carved out a nice niche for himself as a hybrid offensive weapon.

Inside the Numbers
When Clark caught at least three balls, the Bears went 5-2 and averaged 26.1 points per game. Olsen finished the schedule especially strong once he started to gain the confidence of quarterback Kyle Orton, catching 20 passes for 176 yards and three TDs in the final four games. Clark and Olsen combined to reel in 95 receptions for 941 yards and six touchdowns, numbers that compare favorably to any tight end duo in the NFC.

Thumbs Up
Olsen was a second alternate for the Pro Bowl even though he wasn't technically a starter, which goes to show how much of a reputation he already carries among his peers. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner still doesn't use his speed down the field often enough, but he's turned into a dangerous red-zone target because of his 6-5 frame. Clark has encouraged Olsen's bigger role instead of standing in his eventual replacement's way, earning himself even more respect in the locker room.

Thumbs Down
After averaging 13.9 and 12.4 yards per catch in 2006 and '07, respectively, Clark couldn't do any better than 9.0 this year. Head coach Lovie Smith says that Olsen's ability as a blocker is coming along, although there is little evidence of that on tape right now. Fifth-rounder Kellen Davis was impressive in the preseason and has a future in the league, but the rookie didn't record a single catch.

2009 Preview
While there is no reason for any turnover at tight end before next season, it would be a bonus if Davis could develop into the goal-line and short-yardage option that the departed John Gilmore was for so many years.


TE Kellen Davis
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If the Bears had any desire to move the older, slower Clark out of the starting lineup in favor of the younger, faster Olsen, then they wouldn't have rewarded Clark with a two-year contract extension this past offseason. Look for the versatile Olsen to continue his part-tight end, part-receiver, part-fullback duties in 2009, and he could own the middle of the field if general manager Jerry Angelo finds a couple of wide receivers that can command attention from enemy safeties. Davis might be the wild card in all this, as the 6-7, 262-pounder has the physical tools to succeed but needs to shake his reputation as a not-so-hard worker.

There will be some strong tight ends available on the free-agent market, most notably L.J. Smith of the Eagles and Bo Scaife of the Titans, but the Bears would be wise to spend their money elsewhere, and they have higher priorities in the NFL Draft even if a good-looking prospect falls between the cracks on Day 2.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


Bear Report Top Stories