By Adam Hoge-
The fifth in a series of depth chart breakdowns leading up to the start of Bears training camp in Bourbonnais.
(CBS) The Bears had the worst tight ends in the NFL the last two seasons.
A simple eye-test of talent proved as much (seeing Kellen Davis drop football after football), but the numbers do as well. For the last two seasons, Bears tight ends have caught the least amount of passes in the league (just 29 receptions a year ago).
So it comes as no surprise that of the six tight ends on the current roster, four of them are newcomers. Let’s take a look at the depth at a position with a lot of turnover:
|1st Team||2nd Team||3rd Team||4th Team|
|TE||Martellus Bennett||Steve Maneri||Kyle Adams||Fendi Onobun|
Martellus Bennett – After a breakout year with the New York Giants, Bennett hopes to become a big contributor in Marc Trestman’s system.
Steve Maneri – Has been used as both an offensive lineman and tight end during his three-year NFL career. Spent last two years with the Chiefs.
Kyle Adams – Has caught four passes in 23 games with the Bears in the last two seasons.
Fendi Obobun – Only has two catches in three NFL seasons, but the Bears hope his potential clicks in Chicago.
Brody Eldridge – Spent about a month with the Bears during the season last year, but never appeared in a game.
Gabe Miller – Was signed the Bears’ practice squad last season, but is currently suspended for the first four games of 2013 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Training Camp Outlook
Bennett is the clear-cut starter, but it will still be important to watch him closely in training camp to see how much Jay Cutler trusts him. Anyone who has watched Cutler over the last four years in Chicago knows that the quarterback has his favorites. For Bennett to live up to expectations, he needs to be reliable and earn the frequent looks from Cutler.
Behind Bennett are a bunch of question marks. As it sits on paper, this is not a deep position for the Bears and five projects have been assembled to compete for two backup spots. That’s not to say one of them won’t emerge as a viable backup, but as of now, the five guys behind Bennett have combined for just 26 catches in their careers. As a group, they’ve averaged just 2.17 catches per season. In other words, Bennett can’t get hurt.
Maneri is listed on the second team simply based on reps witnessed during offseason workouts. The reality is that this is a wide open competition. The previous coaching staff appeared to like Kyle Adams, but that won’t guarantee him anything with Trestman in charge. The Bears seem to like Fendi Onobun, but this is the sixth team he’s been on since being drafted in the sixth round by the St. Louis Rams in 2010. Brody Eldridge appears to be a longshot to make the 53-man roster and Gabe Miller has an uphill battle considering he’s facing a four-game suspension to start the season.
Sleeper: Fendi Onobun. At 6-6, 260, Obobun has the ideal frame to emerge as a valuable tight end. And why are the Bears optimistic about him even though he has bounced around the league for the last three years? It’s the same reason the Rams took a chance on him in the 2010 NFL Draft. Onobun didn’t play football in high school or college until he joined the University of Houston for a fifth year of eligibility after playing basketball at Arizona for four years. He’s raw and still learning the game, let alone his position. Onobun showed flashes during offseason workouts, an indication he could actually turn into something. He’s certainly a guy to keep an eye on during camp.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.