LAKE FOREST — When it comes to significant strides for the Bears offense in 2022 all eyes are on Luke Getsy’s new scheme, significant strides from Justin Fields, whether there are receivers on the roster other than Darnell Mooney and, once the team figures out who its best five offensive linemen are, can they be good enough?
It may very well be, however, that all those folks are looking in the wrong place.
Even if all of those position groups start moving in the right direction, big steps might still just get them to average.
What we already know is while Getsy hopes to eventually be dynamic through the air, it all will start on the ground.
In David Montgomery the Bears have a top-five to top-eight running back, and with Khalil Herbert, Darrynton Evans and Trestan Ebner all equally comfortable running the outside zone-read scheme or catching the ball from Fields, running back shouldn’t be a problem.
But it’s tight end and the position’s impact on both the run and passing games that is the most intriguing.
When the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers all went to Super Bowls in recent years, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and George Kittle were either the No. 1 or No. 2 receivers on those teams and all were true Y tight ends, top pass catchers and in-line blockers.
Cole Kmet was the Bears’ No. 2 receiver last year with 60 catches for 612 yards, a 10.2-yard average, and an impressive 248 of those yards came after the catch.
All that was missing was a trip to the end zone and a handful of chunk plays that the Big Four excel at.
Kmet’s run blocking improved in leaps and bounds as well.
“I’ve been very impressed with how he’s attacked the run game and how physical he’s been,” Getsy said about his No. 1 tight end. “He can do a lot of different things.
“The thing I like about football players more than anything is the guys that can do a lot of different things, and that makes them more valuable to the offense and makes it more dangerous to the defense. So Cole, I think is one of those guys that has that flexibility.”
Why is Kmet excited to go to work for Getsy?
“What I like about it is you can do a lot of things off the run for the pass, and I think that sets up well for tight ends and receivers,” Kmet said. “And you get guys on their heels, you get guys running and you’re getting off the ball. It’s a fun run system.”
Kmet thinks it should help him find the end zone too.
“Being put in situations, friendly situations, obviously, in the red zone, being used in the low red, things like that,” he said. “Things that I’ve worked on with releases and things like that, that’ll all help with me in the red zone.”
It’s no accident in Getsy’s scheme that, although Kmet’s backup last year, Jimmy Graham helped define the U position in the NFL and was a true move and pass catching tight end, Ryan Griffin is here to back up Kmet this season as another true Y with 67 starts in 119 games with the Texans and Jets.
Getsy sees something special in Kmet too.
“He’s got all the tools in the bag. The sky is the limit for him,” Getsy said. “Lots of guys have tools in this league, it’s the want to, to get better, to learn, to take in knowledge and then put it out on the field. That’s what makes me believe he’s going to be a great tight end in this league.”
Tight ends can be slow developers in the NFL. Kelce didn’t really break out until his fourth season in the league and Ertz his sixth.
With NFL bloodlines from his dad Frank and uncle, Jeff Zgonina, Kmet knows what it takes.
With the work ethic he’s displayed as well as the way his teammates seem to flock to him, there is reason to believe a breakout could be near.
If it’s this year, he very well could be the biggest improvement in the offense this season.