Training camp position preview: Tight ends

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

Tight end Trey Burton will head to Bourbonnais next week looking to build on a productive first season with the Bears and rebound from sports hernia surgery.

Burton signed with the Bears last year after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Eagles. He started all 16 games for the first time since entering the league and set career highs in all receiving categories with 54 catches, 569 yards and six touchdowns. 

Burton underwent sports hernia surgery to repair a lingering injury that forced him to miss the Bears’ wild-card playoff game against the Eagles.

The Florida product started to develop a rapport with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky last summer in training camp and the preseason and that cohesiveness grew during the regular season. The two connected for touchdown passes in three straight games against the Buccaneers, Dolphins and Patriots.

Trubisky’s 13-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Burton Dec. 16 versus the Packers helped lift the Bears to a 24-17 division-clinching win in Chicago.

Burton’s most productive contest came versus New England Oct. 21 at Soldier Field when he established career highs with nine receptions and 126 yards. 

The Bears have high hopes for Adam Shaheen, who had an impressive offseason. The 2017 second-round pick was performing well in training camp last summer before he sustained foot and ankle injuries in a preseason game in Denver that forced him to miss the first nine regular-season contests.

“Last year I was just starting to learn who he was as a player and what he could handle offensively,” coach Matt Nagy said during OTA workouts. “Then he got hurt in the preseason game. That was disappointing because I think he knew that his arrow was going up.

“The biggest thing for Adam is to make sure that he does everything he can physically to stay healthy. And then mentally, he was in all the meetings last year, making sure that he was staying up mentally with everything. Now to be able to put both of those things together is going to be the biggest prize for us.” 

During the offseason, the Bears moved veteran Bradley Sowell from tackle to tight end. Sowell frequently lined up as an eligible third tackle last season and caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Trubisky in a win over the Rams.

“We’re going to try it out and see what we can do,” Nagy said during OTAs. “It’s a position right there at that ‘Y’ tight end type spot where we can use some more depth, and Bradley has showed us the ability, not just off of a two-point play or a touchdown play, but he’s shown it repetitively in practice that he has the athletic ability, the hands, he’s very smart, he knows how to block and all that stuff. So let’s test it out. When I tell you he’s all-in, he’s all-in.”

Sowell has appeared in all 16 games each of the past two years with the Bears, including two starts at left guard in 2017. He spent his first five NFL seasons with the Colts (2012), Cardinals (2013-15) and Seahawks (2016), playing in 68 games with 21 starts.

A valuable reserve and special-teams contributor, Ben Braunecker returns for a fourth season with the Bears.

Undrafted rookie Dax Raymond is expected to challenge for a roster spot in training camp. The 6-5, 225-pounder caught 72 passes for 873 yards and three touchdowns while appearing in 32 games over three seasons at Utah State. After redshirting in 2016, he had career-high 41 receptions for 456 yards and one TD while starting all 12 games he played in 2017.

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