Our Chicago Bears depth chart projection series continues with an in-depth look at the running back and tight end positions.
Starting TE: Martellus Bennett
Phil Emery addressed the TE position this off-season, signing Martelleus Bennett to a four-year deal, and the Bears finally got the big, athletic, play-making TE that’s been missing from their offense for quite some time. Bennett has the size and speed to be a mismatch for opposing safeties, LBs and NBs trying to cover him over the middle of the field.
What’s also great about Bennett is he’s a solid blocker, which should help the play-calling become less predictable. I expect head coach Marc Trestman to move Bennett around similar to how the Giants did in his one year there. Expect Bennett to capitalize off his breakout season from last year in a system where he will see plenty of targets.
Backup TE: Fendi Onobun
One of the main reasons the Bears felt comfortable releasing FB/TE Evan Rodriguez was the play of Fendi Onobun and Kyle Adams. Both TEs have reportedly been impressive this off-season, working as the No. 2 TE in Trestman’s west coast offense. Of the two, I feel Onobun will win the job. He is a raw talent; being a former basketball player at the University of Arizona.
Onobun is a quick twitch athlete at the TE position who has the potential to threaten the middle of the field with his size and speed. He’s been having a solid off-season so far, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue that pace once the pads go on in training camp.
Backup TE: Steve Maneri
The Bears released Matt Spaeth this off-season and replaced him by signing Steve Maneri to a two-year deal. Like Spaeth, Maneri is a pure blocking TE who is very limited in the passing game. He can complete the occasional hitch route and a simple pass into the flat. Expect Trestman to use Maneri strictly as a blocker, specifically on short-yardage plays and helping the OTs in pass protection.
Tight End roster count (3)
Starting RB: Matt Forte
Forte’s production dipped in 2012 for many reasons. One of the main the reasons was that Forte was bother bothered by an ankle injury that affected him throughout the season. We didn’t see the explosiveness and elusiveness we saw in 2011. Also, how little Forte was used in the passing game in 2012 was astounding to me, especially how highly he’s regarded as a receiver around the league.
In 2013, we should expect a bounce back year from Forte. The reason for this is because of how much his style of running fits the new zone-blocking scheme being implemented. Another reason for this is because of how much of an emphasis Trestman uses his RBs in the passing game. In 2002, Charlie Garner caught 91 passes for 941 receiving yards for the Oakland Raiders while Trestman was the OC there. Forte might not catch that many passes, but it is safe to say Trestman will give him every opportunity to bounce back, specifically in that area of his game.
Backup RB: Michael Bush
Michael Bush was a high profile FA acquisition for the Bears after coming off a stellar 2011 season. With Raiders, he was used as an every down back who could stay in on passing downs, as he was a decent receiver out the backfield.
Mike Tice, however, used Bush strictly as a power back who came in on short-yardage and goal line situations. I'm expecting Bush to be used more in the passing game in Trestman’s offense. Even though the Bears are moving to a more pass-happy offense, they are still going to need a power back who can get them the tough yards. Bush will be in that role plus more.
Backup RB: Armando Allen
The battle between Allen and UDFA Michael Ford should be interesting, but I have Allen barely edging him out. In an offense that loves to utilize RBs as receivers, Allen has an advantage over most of the backs on the roster outside of Forte. In fact, don't be surprise if Allen surpasses Bush on the depth chart in 2013 should Bush struggle. Allen has the quickness and speed to be a homerun threat out the backfield. He can be a nice weapon for the Bears if utilized right.
Running back roster count (3)
Starting Fullback: Tony Fiammetta
Releasing Rodriguez was a blow for the Bears considering his versatility to double as a lead back and “move” TE. Fiammetta is not on that level as far as versatility, but he's an effective lead blocker when healthy (has battled concussion issues in the past). I expect Fiammetta to beat out Harvey Unga for the open FB spot.
Fullback roster count (1)
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