Following two arrests between the months of March and May, the Bears decided to release their fourth-round pick from the 2012 Draft, Evan Rodriguez, on Monday.
Many had hoped Rodriguez would evolve into a hybrid pass-catching tight end/blocker much like Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots, but he was moved to fullback before the start of the season, appearing in 12 games (five starts) and finishing with four catches for 21 yards.
With the Bears hiring an offensive-minded coach like Marc Trestman, the belief was that he and his new coaching staff could better utilize Rodriguez’s skillset and make him more of an impact on offense.
Back in February, I speculated on whether or not the Bears would be in the market for a more traditional fullback with the assumption that Rodriguez would make the move back to tight end, but he continued to line up at fullback during the team’s OTAs this offseason.
Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer commented back in February, saying, “I would prefer to have both; a traditional fullback and a tight end that moves around. If you have both then you really have what you are looking for — an ‘F’ tight end that can move around and a fullback at times and be a tight end, not a point-of-attack tight end.”
The wording from Kromer can be a bit confusing, but I took from it that the benefit of having a guy like Rodriguez is he could line up in the backfield and could be a lead blocker but also have the ability to motion out of the backfield and could use his shiftiness to create mismatch problems for the opposing defense.
Now that Rodriguez is gone, there does not appear to be anyone on the roster who has the ability to play the “F” tight end spot.
Newly signed fullback Tony Fiammetta is more of a traditional fullback, and from a lead blocking standpoint, he is an upgrade, but he does not possess the athleticism and hands that led to Rodriguez being selected in the fourth round.
Fendi Onobun has quietly been making a name for himself throughout OTAs this offseason, and according to the Chicago Tribune’s Dan Pompei, “There is no question the tight end has been an offseason standout.” While Onobun may eventually wind up being a solid contributor this season, given his size, he is more suited for the “Y” tight end position, the same as Martellus Bennett.
Kyle Adams has played a similar role in the past at the h-back position, but he lacks the true athleticism to be anything more than an above average blocking tight end while veterans Brody Eldridge and Steve Maneri are both known more for their abilities as blockers than pass catchers. And with both weighing in at over 265 pounds, they do not match the description of a quick, athletic, shifty tight end.
An intriguing name on the roster is former defensive end/outside linebacker Gabe Miller, who made the move to tight end prior to being signed to the Bears’ practice squad last September.
Miller made headlines this offseason for getting a four game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy after testing positive for a banned substance. He is likely nothing more than a camp body, but his measureables (6’3”, 257 lbs., 4.6 40-yard dash) are the most comparable to Rodriguez (6’2”, 240 lbs., 4.58 40-yard dash).
With few other options, Trestman and his staff will likely have to alter a portion of their offensive playbook because there simply is no one else on the roster who has the skillset Rodriguez brought.
While it is unfortunate that Rodriguez will not be able to showcase his talents in the Bears’ new offense, we will have to assume Marc Trestman will do his best to get the most out of the tight ends currently on the roster.
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