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Bears 2022 position preview: Tight end

Bears tight end Cole Kmet
Bears tight end Cole Kmet

The following is the fourth of nine position previews in advance of training camp.

Expectations are high for the lone returning tight end on the Bears roster.

Third-year pro Cole Kmet will look to build on last season, when he more than doubled his rookie year output with 60 receptions for 612 yards. Since being selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2020 draft out of Notre Dame, he has caught 88 passes for 855 yards and two touchdowns in 33 games.

During the offseason, Kmet expressed excitement about the role he envisions playing in the Bears' new offense, due in part to how tight ends in similar systems—such as the 49ers' George Kittle and the Packers' Robert Tonyan—have been utilized.

In minicamp and OTA practices, the 6-6, 260-pounder was determined to show the new coaching staff that he's a well-rounded tight end. He told reporters that he focused specifically on catching every pass with his hands and "really craving violence with my blocks."

"For me, it's just taking it day-to-day," Kmet said, "doing my best to show the coaches what I'm capable of doing and being able to do multiple things; not just being a [receiver], not just being a run blocker, but being able to show them that I can be involved in everything, because if you can do both, run and pass really well, you're going to get some nice open passes in the field."

The competition behind Kmet on the depth chart this summer will include five tight ends that all joined the Bears this offseason: veterans Ryan Griffin, James O'Shaughnessy and Rysen John and undrafted rookies Chase Allen and Jake Tonges.

Griffin has appeared in 119 NFL games with 67 starts over nine seasons with the Texans (2013-18) and Jets (2019-21), catching 206 passes for 2,158 yards and 14 TDs.

"Ryan adds a veteran presence to our offense and tight end group, along with his toughness and a gritty style of play that will be a welcome addition to our team," general manager Ryan Poles said after signing Griffin in April.

The 6-6, 255-pounder was selected by the Texans in the sixth round of the 2013 draft out of Connecticut. His most productive season came in 2016 in Houston when he set career highs with 50 receptions and 442 yards and scored two TDs. In his first year with the Jets in 2019, Griffin caught a career-high five TD passes. Last season, he appeared in 14 games with 12 starts, registering 27 receptions for 261 yards and two TDs.

O'Shaughnessy has played seven NFL seasons with the Chiefs (2015-16) and Jaguars (2017-21), catching 112 passes for 1,108 yards and three touchdowns. A Chicago area native, he attended Naperville North High School and Illinois State University.

O'Shaughnessy was selected by the Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2015 draft when Poles was Kansas City's college scouting coordinator. After playing in 23 games in his first two seasons with the Chiefs, O'Shaughnessy was traded to the Patriots April 29, 2017. He was waived by New England Sept. 2 and claimed by the Jaguars the next day.

O'Shaughnessy appeared in 57 games with 34 starts the past five seasons with Jacksonville, catching 104 passes for 1,022 yards and three TDs. Last season, he was limited to seven games due to an ankle injury, compiling 24 catches for 244 yards. He was hurt in Week 2 and returned from injured reserve Nov. 27.

The Bears claimed John off waivers from the Giants in May. A native of Canada, he spent the last two seasons with the Giants but has yet to play in an NFL regular season game.

He joined the Giants in 2020 as an undrafted free agent out of Simon Fraser University, located in Vancouver, despite being selected in the third round of the 2020 CFL Draft. After being waived with an injury settlement in September due to a hamstring issue, John joined New York's practice squad in October. He was placed on injured reserve again in August 2021.

John possesses an intriguing combination of size and speed. He stands 6-foot-7, weighs 227 pounds and posted a 4.60 40-yard dash time at the 2020 NFL Combine.

Allen played in 59 games with 34 starts over five seasons at Iowa State, the third most games in school history. He caught 74 passes for 810 yards and six touchdowns, earning second-team All-Big 12 honors in four of his five campaigns. Last year, he appeared in all 13 contests for the Cyclones, catching 26 passes for 284 yards and two TDs.

Tonges played in 41 of 42 possible games with 23 starts the past four seasons at California, catching 47 passes for 620 yards and four TDs. Last year, he set career highs with 11 starts, 22 receptions, 278 yards and two TDs. Tonges was Cal's nominee for the Burlsworth Trophy, given annually to the nation's top FBS player who began his career as a walk-on.