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Bears' 2019 position review: Tight end


The following is the fourth of eight position reviews of the Bears' 2019 season.

The Bears on Thursday hired Clancy Barone as their tight ends coach.

In all four of his previous NFL stops, Barone has coached a tight end that has been voted to the Pro Bowl—the Falcons' Alge Crumpler, the Chargers' Antonio Gates, the Broncos' Julius Thomas and the Vikings' Kyle Rudolph.

The Bears obviously hope that Barone will extend that streak in Chicago. But it won't be easy, not after the tight end position failed to produce as expected in 2019.

Due to injuries and ineffectiveness, the Bears did not have a tight end compile at least 100 yards receiving for the first time since 1970.

Trey Burton was hampered by a groin injury most of the year following offseason sports hernia surgery. He was limited to eight games with five starts, catching 14 passes for 84 yards and no touchdowns. In his first season with the Bears in 2018, Burton set career highs in all receiving categories with 54 receptions for 569 yards and six TDs.

During his end-of-season press conference last week, general manager Ryan Pace revealed that Burton recently had surgery on his hip.

"We're optimistic this is what [the injury] is and we're going to see a benefit from [the procedure]," Pace said. "Hopefully we solved it. We all know the type of player he can be when he's healthy and we're optimistic that this hopefully fixed it." 

Burton is expected to return in time to start training camp. 

"We're bringing him back hopefully at the right pace," Pace said. "He never quite felt right. He never felt full speed to us. So being thorough with it, second opinions, other doctors, working with his agent, working with us, our trainers, this is something that we're hoping is the underlying issue."

Third-year pro Adam Shaheen had another disappointing, injury-plagued season. The 2017 second-round pick from Ashland University caught nine passes for 74 yards while appearing in eight games with two starts before being placed on injured reserve with a foot injury.

Together, Burton and Shaheen sat out 15 games due to injuries.

"With Trey and Adam, not having those guys really hurt our offense," Pace said. "[Coach] Matt [Nagy] talks about it all the time, the importance of the tight end position to our offense. We lost two tight ends this year, but we have to be honest with ourselves. Availability is critical in our league, so we have to protect ourselves as a franchise, too. So that's something we have to look at. We like those guys. They're talented, but we need availability at the position as well."

Shaheen has now sat out 17 of 32 games the past two seasons with injuries.

"Shaheen's talented," Pace said. "What has hurt his development, especially being raw, [from a] small school, is just the time he's missed. When he's played, we've liked what we've seen. He just hasn't put it out there long enough. He knows that. We've talked to him about that. He's frustrated. We're frustrated. He needs to stay healthy to continue to develop as a young player." 

A third tight end, Ben Braunecker, missed the final five games of the season due to a concussion. Before the injury, he had six receptions for 59 yards and the first NFL touchdown of his four-year career on an 18-yard pass from Mitchell Trubisky in a 20-13 win over the Lions Nov. 10 at Soldier Field.

Late in the year, the rash of injuries forced the Bears to rely on three tight ends who didn't start the season on their 53-man roster.

Jesper Horsted caught eight passes for 87 yards and one touchdown. J.P. Holtz added seven receptions for 91 yards. And Eric Saubert caught two passes for 21 yards.