In the fourth of nine position previews in advance of training camp, coach Mike DeBord discusses Bears tight ends with ChicagoBears.com senior writer Larry Mayer:
LM: Bears coach Lovie Smith has said that he has high expectations for
MD: “He has great potential. No. 1, it starts with his work ethic. He’s worked extremely hard on and off the field to learn his plays and the concepts on offense. I really believe that now he’ll get highlighted in this offense in the throw game. We’ll do a lot of things where he has an opportunity to catch a lot of balls. I expect him to have a great year.”
LM: How big of a contributor do you expect Kellen to be as a blocker and receiver?
MD: “Last year he proved himself as a blocker without a doubt. One of our best plays was running the ball outside, and a lot of it started with him. Now he’ll be more highlighted in the pass offense, so I think he’ll be able to show all of his abilities.”
LM: Speaking of those abilities, what are Kellen’s strengths as a player?
MD: “He has great size and he’s very strong. He’s a really good technician in the run game with his footwork and his hands. So he’s a strong, powerful player, and then in the pass game he’s got really deceptive speed. He can run and get down the field. He’s also athletic where he can sit in zones and get the ball that way. Kellen has a lot of ability because of his strength, his power and his quickness and speed.”
LM: What are your expectations for
MD: “Matt has proven himself in this league as a blocker. He did very well in that aspect of the game for us last season. In the OTAs, he showed that he can be a good pass receiver as well. He has really improved his running and his overall speed compared to last year. I look for him to be a good player. He’ll be a guy that we can utilize.”
LM: Matt hasn’t caught a lot of passes in the past, but that doesn’t really reflect his value to the team. How important is it for him to continue to contribute as a blocker?
MD: “It’s very important because it allows us to balance defenses up and gives us the ability to run to Kellen or to run to Matt. It’s always big to create good balance in the run game.”
LM: What are your expectations for
MD: “Kyle had a great offseason in the OTAs and minicamp. He has a great feel in the passing game. He does a great job of sitting in zones, reacting and moving to the next zone. He just has a great feel for the game. He was playing for us last year when he got hurt. The big thing with him is how physical he is training camp and the preseason games and working hard to stay healthy.”
LM: What have been your impressions of rookie
MD: “We threw our entire offense at him in OTAs and minicamp, so it was a learning process for him. It’s new terminology and sometimes it’s new techniques. All he did in the offseason was continue to get better with each practice. Training camp will be big for him.”
LM: What are you looking for from Rodriguez in camp and the preseason?
MD: “You don’t have pads on in the offseason, so you can’t really test anyone’s physical play. So in training camp and in the preseason games, we’re going to see how physical he is, how well he blocks on the line of scrimmage or in the backfield or out wide. He's going to have to prove himself as a blocker. In the passing game, you can evaluate him in the offseason because you’re able to see him run and catch. The big thing for him is how much he will retain from the offseason and bring into training camp so he can really just take off and go. That’s going to be important for him.”