While many Chicago Bears fans question the signing and drafting of Jimmy Graham and Cole Kmet, respectively, these two will change everything.
This past free agency period began with man fans laughing at the Chicago Bears for signing Jimmy Graham to a 2-year, $16 million deal. Graham, formerly an All Pro, is often labeled “washed up” at this stage in his career.
The Bears then drafted Cole Kmet out of Notre Dame at no. 42 overall, which many thought was a bit of a reach. It didn’t matter. Ryan Pace was going to address the tight end position, one way or another. Whether or not people agreed with his moves was irrelevant. The Bears were coming off arguably their most miserable season in franchise history at the tight end position.
Going into the 2020 season, the Bears have totally revamped this spot, also adding veteran Demetrius Harris who will primarily be a blocking tight end. As for Graham and Kmet, though, these two will change things in a big way for the offense. One specific stat proves this point.
Per JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago, speaking on a recent Bears Barroom podcast, the Bears ran the ball nearly 76 percent of the time when lined up in “12 personnel” last season.
For those who may not know, “12 personnel” is when the offense rolls out two tight ends. This type of grouping features more blocking, thus many teams will use it to run the ball more often than not.
However, the Bears didn’t have much of a pass-catching threat at tight end last year. So, when they decided to line up in “12 personnel,” defenses had to know they were going to run it. Again, they ran it three quarters of the time when lined up in this fashion. How could defenses not expect a run?
Now, when looking at Graham and Kmet, the Bears actually do have guys who can catch the football. Is Graham going to stretch the field? Absolutely not. Is Kmet expected to come in and be Travis Kelce? Not quite.
But, what we do know about these two is their strong ability to catch the football. They both give the Bears quarterbacks options to throw to when in this personnel grouping. By now, everybody knows not a single Bears tight end eclipsed 100 yards receiving all season in 2019. Graham’s 447 receiving yards last year look pretty tasty by comparison.
We also know that Matt Nagy is committed to establishing the run and (hopefully) not abandoning it. If he is seriously committed to this aspect (which he should be) then he will likely use “12 personnel” quite often.
The only difference, now, is that he has guys who can disguise as blockers initially off the snap and then head into their routes once the play is in development. The Bears now have the ability to commit to the run while also putting guys out on the field who pose a receiving threat at tight end.
In 2020, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears ran the ball closer to 55-60 percent of the time in “12 personnel.” This small tweak will allow either Nick Foles or Mitchell Trubisky to open up the offense much more than it was a year ago.
We can talk all day long about how poor the offensive line played or even how bad Trubisky looked at times, but the one thing that both didn’t have working in their favor was even an average threat at tight end, in terms of catching the ball.
Graham and Kmet will allow the Bears to line up like this with much more success this year. Hopefully it not only keeps defenses honest and allows the run game to improve, but also for the tight ends to contribute to this offense in a big way.