Bears tight end Jesper Horsted must be wondering: Was it something he said?
Two lists demonstrate the point.
Bears tight ends at the start of training camp in 2019: Ben Braunecker, Ian Bunting, Trey Burton, Dax Raymond, Ellis Richardson, Adam Shaheen, Bradley Sowell and Horsted.
Bears tight ends at the start of training camp in 2020: Darion Clark, Jimmy Graham, Demetrius Harris, J.P. Holtz, Cole Kmet, Eric Saubert and Horsted.
That’s a lot of new faces.
The Bears understand how important the tight end position is to coach Matt Nagy’s offense. The wholesale changes indicate the coaching staff and the front office were not happy with the production at tight end in 2019.
First-year Bears tight ends coach Clancy Barone is tasked with leading the revamped room. The position became something of a running joke this spring because the Bears, at one point, were carrying 10 tight ends.
“I think I’m down to 10 now, so if I miss one let me know,” Barone joked on Thursday.
The No. 1 thing that stands out about the 21-year-old from Lake Barrington, in Barone's eyes, is how rapidly he has picked things up. He called Kmet a “quick study.”
“The guy’s very bright and that’s obvious from day one, which we also knew from the combine and all of the other research on him before the draft,” Barone said. “But then when you get to actually see him, he certainly looks the part. He’s as big as advertised, he’s in tremendous condition, very lean, a big, thick-bodied guy and extremely athletic.”
Kmet ran a 4.7-second 40-yard-dash at the NFL Combine, which Barone said “there’s nothing slow about.”
While training camp has been in session for a week, the Bears still haven’t put on the pads yet and won’t have a padded practice until Aug. 17. But as far as knowing the X’s and O’s and his football IQ, Kmet seems to be passing all the tests.
“So far, all indications are that he’ll be able to put it together when the defense is over and he’s got to go,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “Obviously, you also look at the history, at the level that he was able to do that in college. So everything would tell you that you’re right on track.”
Part of it has to be coming from a school like Notre Dame. Kmet has played at a high level already. Doing it in the NFL is a different animal, though.
And he’ll be competing for playing time with one of the best in the business. The Bears signed Graham to a two-year, $16 million contract in March. While his most productive years might be behind him, Graham is still a five-time Pro Bowl tight end.
Bears passing game coordinator Dave Ragone said he’s impressed with how seriously Graham takes his job.
“You just see the way he carries himself,” Ragone said. “When you’re around guys who literally know how to be a professional, that have had success, and they’re still hungry, it’s all things that – in my opinion – a lot of character traits that make you want to be a football coach in the NFL.”
In Green Bay last season, Graham caught 38 passes for 447 yards and three touchdowns. Lazor said the No. 1 thing he sees in Graham is “proven production.”
Graham will be a wealth of knowledge for the rookie Kmet. So will seventh-year veteran Demetrius Harris, another free agent signing.
“[Kmet] knows he’s right at the very bottom of the mountain and he has a long way to go to get there,” Barone said. “The more that he’s had a chance to be around guys like Jimmy and D-Harris and people like that, I think the more he realizes, ‘I’ve got a lot more to learn.’”