By Laurence Holmes-

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) — When it comes to protecting Jay Cutler, the focus centers on the offensive line, but the line and protection of Cutler extends out to the edge. That means heavy involvement from the tight ends. This combination of positions have plenty of responsibility in Mike Martz’s offense and the Bears have changed how they’re prepping that position for the season.

The Bears expect a high level of toughness from their tight ends. Ideally they should be able to matchup with a defensive end one-on-one.

So what’s the significance of having a tight end be able to handle an edge rusher?

“That gives you a lot of flexibility. Especially, if you have a little bit of trouble with a dominant 3-technique. You can put the tackle and guard on him,” Lovie Smith said.

With Greg Olsen’s departure, the position went back to being more traditional. The Bears coaching staff thought it would be a good idea to work the tight ends with the offensive line in individual drills. They’re being tested each day by defensive ends and having their skills graded and refined by Mike Tice.

“I was very rusty at the beginning of camp.” tight end Kellen Davis said. “I’m trying to work on it every day and get some timing with Coach Tice. It’s really helped and I feel my pass protection is picking up day-by-day.”

The Bears would like the tight ends to emulate the technique of the tackles because on certain plays, the tight ends are going to be left alone on what Tice calls “the island”. That means being good hand-fighters, keeping a low base and never letting the defensive end dip inside.

Davis, along with Matt Spaeth and Desmond Clar,k are being seriously tested each day because Julius Peppers is a beast in practice and he’s got a plethora of moves and counters for the tight ends to deal with. It’s good preparation for the season.

It’s a fair guess with the changes in practice, the tight ends will be asked to do more pass-protecting than last year, but that doesn’t mean tight ends aren’t going to make plays in the through the air.

Part of the reason that Spaeth was signed was because the Bears thought he could help set the edge in pass protection and be a big red zone target for Cutler. The addition of Clark to the tight end room brings stability and a proven all-around presence at the position. This could be a year where Davis flourishes. He has been impressive in camp catching the ball. He’s a pretty good athlete and the Bears would like to utilize his size/speed combo in both facets of the game.

“He’s blocked well and he has the ability to do everything we want our tight ends to do,” Smith said. “He’s got speed to get down (field). He’s running good routes. He can catch the football. We expect (big) plays like that from him.”

That’s news to Davis’ ears.

“I can get down the field and catch the ball.” Davis said. “Coach Martz is pretty excited about that and I am too. Hopefully I’ll get more opportunities to get down the field and get deep on them.”

Notes from practice.

-The Bears split time between the practice field and the ONU stadium. They did position group work on the practice field and team drills in the stadium.

-Mike Tice was working individually with the offensive linemen on the blocking sled, walking through what he wants with each guy as they power out of their stance.

-The grass in the stadium was a bit more lush than the practice field and Johnny Knox needed to change his spikes to keep his footing.

-Henry Melton was impressive again working against Lance Louis in the team portion (11-on-11).

-Julius Peppers was giving both J’Marcus Webb & Gabe Carimi fits.

-Defensive end Mario Addison did well againt Webb. He took some of the reps that Corey Wooton would get and was impressive in doing so. Addison is an athletic rookie out of Troy, which over the years has produced some guys that can get after the quarterback.

-Devin Hester did not want to talk about the improper benefit allegations that were waged against him and other Miami players in a report by Yahoo! Sports. You can read and decide for yourself.

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