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Will Adam Shaheen Have a Role in the Matt Nagy Offense?

| May 9th, 2018

John Fox’s coaching staff was bashed for not getting the ball to rookie tight end Adam Shaheen enough, but that doesn’t figure on changing much under Matt Nagy. Shaheen played just over 24% of the snaps last year. That number should increase in 2018, provided he can beat out Dion Sims as the starting in-line tight end. But if the moves this team has recently made turn out the way they think, it’s hard to see Shaheen catching a lot of passes in 2018.

Trey Burton & Friends

He’s not much of a blocker, but the Bears signed Burton to be their top tight end. The Bears made him one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league. That’s not happening if they don’t expect him to play nearly every snap. 

Burton’s signing alone didn’t indicate a smaller role for Shaheen. The club also invested heavily at receiver by paying Allen Robinson star money, Taylor Gabriel starter money and trading a 2019 second rounder to draft Anthony Miller with the 51st pick. Not only did the Bears spend a high pick on Miller, but they reportedly tried to move back up into the end of the first round to draft Calvin Ridley.

Their aggressiveness at the position is a strong indication that they’re going to have three receivers on the field quite a bit. Not a surprise. In his time in Kansas City, Matt Nagy’s offenses rarely utilized the second tight end. Over the past five years, KC’s second tight end averaged just 5.6% of the team’s targets — 29 per season. This is about the same as the fourth wide receiver. The third receivers came in at 9.2%.

The total snap counts are a bit more even with the second tight ends averaging 48% while the third and fourth receivers come in at 45 and 35. Of course, when Reid got to KC, their receivers were awful. They didn’t even have three good receivers to play. Over the last three years, the third receiver has played 45% of the snaps, compared to 42% for second tight ends and 35% for fourth receivers.

Even those numbers are a bit misleading. Only once did the team play the second tight end more than 50% of the snaps, whereas the third receiver numbers are bogged down by 2014 when the third-leading receiver played just 25% of the time. Also consider that the offense typically rotates four receiver positions, so the amount of time they have three on the field, with one tight end, is lopsided.

In 2014 KC’s second tight end — Anthony Fasano — played 67% of the snaps, but he still only got 36 targets.

Philadelphia runs the same offense and did throw to Burton 60 times in 2016, but like when Reid first arrived in Kansas City, the Eagles didn’t have good receivers. That shouldn’t be the case for the Bears this year. Even so, only about 15% of Philadelphia’s passes came with more than one tight end on the field, according to ESPN. KC was at a similar number in 2016. ESPN’s formation data for 2017 is not yet available.

The Eagles had a combined 55 targets to Burton and Brent Celek in 2017 too, but 16 of those came in games Zach Ertz missed. Outside of those games, they combined to average just three targets per game.

So where does that leave Shaheen?

Probably in pretty close to the same spot he was in late last season. Shaheen played about 43% of his snaps in his last seven games and had 13 targets in those games. He’ll likely be closer to 50% of the snaps and average at least three targets per game. However it must also be noted that Sims is one of the 20 highest-paid tight ends in the league, a contract the Bears could’ve gotten out of, but chose not to. A curious decision for a team that doesn’t use two tight ends that often, much less three.

Ryan Pace isn’t going to — and shouldn’t — give up on the player he took with the 45th pick in the 2017 draft. The expectation is that Shaheen is going to still be a good player for the Bears. When asked about the second-year tight end by Dave Kaplan Pace noted his blocking before adding that he needs to improve as a receiver — not something a lot of fans want to acknowledge.

When he was drafted, fans wanted to compare Shaheen to Rob Gronkowski. Gronk might be the best tight end in the history of the league and Shaheen just doesn’t have the speed and athleticism to make that kind of impact as a receiver. Shaheen is more likely to have a career like Fasano than Gronk, which certainly isn’t an insult. He was a perfect fit for the offense of John Fox. Matt Nagy’s offense requires more athleticism.

Shaheen will be on the field in the red zone, short yardage situations and probably often on early downs. He’s still a match-up nightmare and one the Bears will surely take advantage of. If he’s going to be a big part of the offense, however, he’s going to have to out-perform a player whom the Bears and the new coaching staff invested in heavily.

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  • simonplewis

    I’d love to get an idea from people with more knowledge
    about the situation that me, but as an avid fan ‘from across the pond’, how
    much of an influence is the GM likely to have over the HC when it comes to
    players he’s drafted? Is Pace likely to go banging on Nagy’s door saying ‘hey,
    I drafted this guy at 45 overall, you’ve got to shoe-horn him in somewhere’, or
    does he let Nagy have full control and swallow the fact that a high draft pick
    might not get game time? It’s that kind of a relationship that I don’t have a
    handle on. Thanks in advance.

    • DaBearsBlog

      It’s a give-and-take. They are a partnership so Nagy will find roles for Shaheen, especially this summer and early in the season. But Pace is just as much on-the-hook for the Burton money as he is the Shaheen pick. (As a matter of fact, the Burton money is WAY more important.)

      But your questions are completely valid. Because drama in that regard took place last season between GM and coach.

    • T.dyon

      It’s all about fit. As the article mentioned, Shaheen will get used based on the situation, which will also change game to game depending on the matchups. If Shaheen performs well in his opportunities, he will get more targets. Pace is aware as is the whole team, it’s about taking advantage of matchup opportunities. Size can make a difference ecstatically near the goal line.

      • leftcoastdave

        I think everybody is missing the point – last year and this year the focus of the talk is on how Shaheen improves as a blocker, an in line TE. That is where the majority of his work is likely being put in to get him on the field more and therefore become much more of a weapon. He cannot be a weapon unless he is on the field. He will not be on the field if he is unable to credibly play the position as a blocker.

        • Johnny Hatelak

          He actually was pretty good last year as a blocker by seasons end.

        • T.dyon

          Absolutely, it’s entirely on his shoulders. It was Pace who made the point, Shaheen needed to improve as a receiver.

    • Johnny Hatelak

      They are in lock step. Pace won’t try and influence what happens on the field just in personnel acquisition. Nagy is not a type of player guy or a scheme guy. He’s someone who will find plays for playmakers and run things to exploit their skill set. Shaheen will control his playing time by how he performs, in practice and game day as well as what he absorbs in the film room and how hard he works in the Weight room. If he dominates he will get his shots.

      • GMs and HCs are often complicit. It’s rare for a true divide like the Foreskins with RG3 or Fisher-Young debacle.

        HCs and even OCs and DCs (if they’re good) have major input in drafts and FA

        Sometimes it seems they have even more pull than the GM (see Cedrunk)

    • KentuckyBearsFan

      it’s like any other business partnership with managers I would think.

    • willbest

      In the interview with Nagy there would have been a period where Pace says

      “What kind of offense do you envision”

      with a lot of questions about how Trubisky fits into it, but other follow ups would include something along the lines of

      “What specifically do you look for in WR/TE/RB/OG/OT, and who on the Bears rosters do you like for those roles?” and “who do you think might struggle in those roles?”

      Which is to say that Pace knew before he even hired Nagy, Nagy’s general impressions of the Bears roster and where each might fit in. Pace’s moves in FA/Draft weren’t just about getting the best player in the position. He also was working towards giving Nagy the pieces he is looking for to run the offense he likes.

      That doesn’t mean that if Pace believes there is a special talent to be had, or great value he won’t venture a bit out of the system to get those guys. But it doesn’t mean he is going to hand Nagy a bunch of players and say “deal with it”

    • Well, past is prologue?
      White looked avg at best, but still penciled in and force fed the ball
      Every single C-OG > Grasu, still on roster while those others arnt
      Langford had to totally bomb and only then was replaced by Pace’s other guy in Howard, reluctantly
      Christian Jones and perhaps even Timu a lil better than Kwiat. Theyre gone. He isnt
      Pace seems to be content w Bullard
      Gould was cut for Barth
      Tressway outpunted Odonell, but the latter was drafted, so…

      So it seems like Pace is like any other GM . He’ll bend over backwards for ‘his’ guys, and only if they completely bomb ( Demps, Wheaton, Glennon, Royal, Barth, Grasu, Sims, Kwiat, Cooper, White…)will the Bears move on to plan B.

      That being said, sometimes favoring his guys is logical. Like White has more upside than Thompson or Braverman, so makes sense to favor him. Risk/reward.

      I hope Nagy is given complete autonomy w personnel. That seems to work more long term.

      That’s why Petey and Bill squeeze the most out their rosters in spite of always drafting late. Theyre practically their own GM so no politics or power struggle, just best players on field regardless of price or draft stock

      • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

        To say Gould was cut for Barth is ridiculous, Gould was cut because he sucked. Barth was signed but still sucked. He should have had serious competition in camp last year. That is on Pace.

        Tress Way and O’donnell were before Pace. Emery cut Tress Way.

        • Gould did miss a few game winners, but my argument still holds. Pace had no issue cutting him cuz it wasnt his guy. Meanwhile he held on to Barth for waaaay too long cuz it was his guy.
          Youre right about Tress. Like i said, Pace is like any other GM.

          • leftcoastdave

            No, he was not reluctant to cut him because he lost games.

          • Gould, or Barth?

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            Sometimes I feel like yelling “Baaarth!” like Shatner did with “Khan!” in Star Trek.

    • simonplewis

      Appreciate everyone’s input. Thank you.

  • That Guy

    I just hope the Bears don’t Olsen-up Shaheen.

    • JC

      Given the way the offense has changed, I wouldn’t be shocked if that’s exactly what happens.

  • The last sentence is perfect. Let them battle it out in camp.

    Most teams have 4-5 guys who are the main passing weapons. Bears have 6 players fighting for those roles (Robinson, Gabriel, Miller, Burton, Cohen, Shaheen). Let camp and preseason, not contracts and draft status, dictate who gets them.

    • leftcoastdave

      Are you forgetting Benny the Jet? He was great in pass protect and slipping out to a screen where he picked up good yardage.

      • he had 20 receptions for 240 yards last year. I’d hardly call that a main passing weapon. He’s a complementary player.

        By main passing weapon I mean a guy who has 500+ receiving yards.

        • leftcoastdave

          I beg to differ. Benny was used in the screen only later in the season and it is a POWERFUL weapon when D’s tee off and have quick cover on those who you call “main passing weapons.” Having Benny there to block for your QB with the screen option is HUGE and by that I would think a MAIN PASSING WEAPON. (Pardon the caps.)

    • I’m hoping Nagy installs a true meritocracy , but somehow I doubt it.
      If Kush looks better than Daniels, they’ll likely start Daniels anyways.
      Or if Simms out plays Shaheen, same.
      It’s rare for teams to be objective . to start some PS guy over their draft darlings cuz of pride.

      • they paid Sims $6M to stick around this year. He has every chance to beat out Shaheen.

        • evantonio

          Unless they view him as the new swing tackle?

          • A 360 pound swing tackle? Sowell is the swing OT

          • KentuckyBearsFan

            off topic…but anyone ever heard of the scholar Thomas Sowell?

            (crickets)

            One of the smartest men alive.

            Interview with William F. Buckley in 1981

      • KentuckyBearsFan

        Pace needs to start winning games. If he’s 8-8 next year he’ll be a loser.

        Granted a rich loser with a hot wife and at least one more football job opportunity, but still a loser.

        Nagy just feels like a difference maker. This is his shot and he’s come too far to blow it.

  • JC

    TE’s are notoriously slow to develop in the NFL and second only to QB in difficulty to learn. Shaheen was always expected to be a development project given his small school status. As expected, Shaheen needs to continue to improve in all phases of the position. Hopefully, he’ll become a major red zone threat and by year 3 will be able to take on more of a full time role. Sims guarantees run out this year. If Shaheen develops, Sims will likely be out. If not, Shaheen will have to battle for a role next year.

    • ’11Hoosier

      Was looking for a comment like this and wholeheartedly agree. A lot of people always point to Greg Olsen as something the Bears should avoid but it’s also a story to learn from.

      Greg’s first 5 seasons saw him in the 50 catch, 550 yd, 5 TD range, not exactly setting the world on fire but serviceable. It wasn’t until his 6th season that he became the 70 catch, 1000 yd, 7 TD type player he’s known for.

      TEs take a ton of time and I think Pace knows that. Let him learn and compete against solid veterans. Until then, bank on some more experienced players.

    • Yes, TE is hard, but Shaheen shouldve flashed on a few plays. Like Cohen flashed right away. It wasn’t all there yet, but he made plays to get fans excited.
      Shaheen didn’t. He made a couple nice body control type catches, but I dont recall him separating much or high light reel material.
      Hope he improves and shows that, but Pace didn’t sign Burton for nothing. Think he saw the same

      • leftcoastdave

        Please. To be a competent TE is not to “flash.” It is to be able to block and then be also a threat as a receiver. An inline TE must first be competent blocking. Ain’t no “flash” there.

        • A TE, Y or H, can flash. I listed a few already.
          Heck, even Olsen in his rook yr flashed.
          He too needed to learn blocking, but he showed much more athleticism than Shasheen

          I calls em like I sees em

  • Johnny Hatelak

    I don’t see this as a rigid scheme driven team. As a matter of fact the KC scheme changed almost every season. Sure they had core base concepts but they expanded the playbook to adapt to their personnel. The same will happen here. This offense will look different than KCs at times. Lets not forget Nagy is open to ideas by his coaches so you’ll see some stuff they ran under Koetter which Helfrich started with and Martz who Furrey thrived under and Kelly who Helfrich coordinated with. It’s an offense that exploits the mismatches. Shaheen is a walking talking breathing mismatch. The ball will come to him when the mismatches dictate. I see a lot of 12 personnel looks on this team because I see them running a lot. This will be a good to look for them because it forces the defense to play more straight up as you have 2 TEs with good receiving ability and can make plays downfield. Clearly you have to be wary of Howard and now you have Trubisky running RPO’s? Imagine trying to defend that? Will it be Howard, or Cohen running or catching, will Trubisky pull it back and throw it to Burton or Shaheen, maybe to Robinson, Miller, Gabriel or White, or will he run it himself? Sounds like this Bears offense will be multifaceted and really hard to predict. I would not be surprised if 12 was their base look to be honest. In short I think it’s a fools game tying to see what KC did as a predicter to what Chicago will do. We’re all just going to have to wait and see how this offense evolves. What you see early may not be what you see once this season gets into the second half. There will be a lot of trial and error based on what their personnel shows they can or can’t do.

    • Bears will do what most teams do – feed their weapons.
      Right now, just going off paper, Nagy will want to feed Robinson, Howard/Cohen, Burton, Gabriel (maybe even Miller) first cuz they’re bigger threats.
      I had high hopes for Shasheen, but he looked nothing like the top tier “twitchy” TEs like Ertz, Kelce, Gronk, Reed, or even Evans.
      He seemed more Witton type, perhaps steady, but unspectacular.

      Prolly the reason Pace targeted Burton so aggressively in FA .

      That’s why I expect those other guys to be more involved in the attack than Shasheen.

      It’s still early in his career though.
      Maybe a full yr in the NFL cycle makes him more explosive and dynamic, but for now I expect him to be more of the blocker /sneaky TD option

      • CanadaBear

        RZ guy for sure. If he can pick up the O quickly, who knows? Like you, I was unimpressed with the speed and esp quickness last year. Gigantic catch radius and can post up shorties all day if he gets a mismatch.

      • leftcoastdave

        Burton is not an inline TE. Shaheen will be every bit as deadly if he proves himself as a blocker first. Then he will not be covered in the same way as a primarily “receiving” TE.

        This ain’t rocket science.

        This is why it takes time to develop as an inline TE because you have the baddest of the BMF’s to block.

        • Inline TEs arent allowed to make highlight reel plays? Shaheen was billed as ‘baby gronk’ not Baby Spaeth.

  • KentuckyBearsFan

    is it legal to have 4 wide receivers and a 2 tight end set?

    All options are on the table with Nagy.

    • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

      Probably not. 4WR + 2 TE+ 5 O-Line = 11 players. You still need a QB and the O can only have 11 players on the field at the same time

      • EnderWiggin

        If Trubs snaps to himself then our question at starting center is answered.

    • willbest

      You are required to have 7 players on the LOS at the time of the snap. Only the players on each end of the 7 are eligible receivers. So no matter who you put on the line you can have at most 6 eligible receivers (including whoever is snapped the ball).

      So in your scenario the only way to get 4 WR and 2 TE as eligible receivers is if the ball is snapped to one of them. You could of course put a QB back there at which point you are running with 4 o-linemen and one of the TEs won’t be eligible.

  • KentuckyBearsFan

    Tom Petty cover of The Beatles “When My Guitar Gentley Weeps”

    …damn I’m jealous of people who can play guitar.

    • CanadaBear

      It’s never too late to learn. I learned how to play piano in my 30’s.

      • KentuckyBearsFan

        I love Thelonious Monk on piano.

        “Round Midnight”

        “Straight No Chaser”

        • CanadaBear

          If you’ve never seen this documentary, you’ll dig it. The story of the iconic photo from a bunch of the people involved. Might have to poke around a little to see the entire doc.

        • leftcoastdave

          Round Midnight is as good as it gets.

      • EnderWiggin

        Wow, that was f’n epic. I’m so glad they left out the ‘goo goo ka joo’s’ and ‘Wooo’s’. Great use of female singers too. Awesome Beetles’ cover.

        • CanadaBear

          I have that on reel-to-reel and just played it last night for an old hippie/musician/friend. I had a friend that loved those guys back in the day.

  • EnderWiggin

    ” A curious decision for a team that doesn’t use two tight ends that often, much less three.” –

    I’m not convinced. I have a feeling that the Naggy playbook will look different than the KC offense. I also have a feeling that the reason Childress worked with the Bears this year is to help Naggy make a playbook for all situations and to be able to utilize different packages at all times.
    I think/hope we’ll look different than anything we’ve ever seen. That’s the main idea for a new, young coach. Right?

    • KentuckyBearsFan

      Nagy is not going to rest. His background suggests he’s an obsessive. He’ll tweak everything by the middle of the season if not by Game 4 if it’s needed.

      This ain’t going to be a Foxy Brown offense anymore.

      • EnderWiggin

        Yeah, my pointish. Just because Reid din’t use 2/3 TE sets, doesen’t mean that we won’t.

        • The more I look into it, the more the PHI offense and KC offense differed. I wonder which one Chicago will look more like (my guess is actually Philly).

          • EnderWiggin

            Because of Trubs, Howard, or our plethora of weapons? I was thinking we’ll look like something between Rams and Jags, maybe some Minnesota mixed in there.
            Granted that is with NO research, just hunchism.

          • BenderMcLugh

            +100 “hunchism”

          • Based on a few things, including some stats I have not yet published. But generally:

            1) CHI has a mix of TEs they’ll use, like PHI (KC just has the 1)
            2) CHI has RBs who are better at outside zone, like PHI (KC mostly runs inside zone).

            And PHI has 2 RBs (Ajayi and Blount last year) who are both pretty similar to Howard stylistically.

          • Philly’s 1st (Ertz) and 2nd(Burton) TE were both move TEs tho.
            A lot of teams use a converted OT as the 3rd blocking TE in big packages, that’s how little they’re used.
            I would like to say that Shasheen can at least provide value in blocking in 12 package, but he’s still learning how to block and not sure if he’s a better blocker than Simms (which might explain why he’s still even on the roster)

    • leftcoastdave

      I believe Childress is now gone, but did great work in helping to install the basics of the offense.
      But yea, Soldier Field is a bit chillier than KC and what you need to do later in the season. It will be adapted to include the strengths of da Bears.

      • The crazy part about the NFCN now is that Detroit and minny are now dome teams. And one would think GB would run u over in Dec but they have the best QB and WRs playing HB.

        Welcome to the “black and blue”

  • “provided he can beat out Dion Sims as the starting in-line tight end…
    Over the past five years, KC’s second tight end averaged just 5.6% of the team’s targets — 29 per season. “-Andy

    Great. So Pace drafted Spaeth in the 2nd after trading down and skipping on players like Lamp, Buddha, Dalvin Cook, Sidney Jones, Ju-Ju…

    http://www.nfl.com/draft/2017/tracker/round/2

    At least he signed Burton who fits the Zach Miller mold more naturally.

    • Johnnywad

      Who knows. Andy says within the same article that he won’t get that many targets, AND that he’ll continue to be a matchup nightmare.

      So who the hell knows. Let’s see him play his sophomore season for a live coach, then pigeon hole him afterward.

      • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

        NO! There is no way that the new coaches will be able to do anything with him. It was the wrong pick. He is worthless. I don’t care if 25% of his catches were for TDs, or he caught several passes in traffic, or looked pretty good blocking at the end of the season, he has no upside or talent. Pace messed up, it is as simple as that. String him up. Tar and Feather him! Beat him with a garden hose!

      • evantonio

        Final line for Shaheen:

        16 Targets / 11 Receptions / 13 Yards / 11 TDs.

        I’ll take it.

        • Johnnywad

          Efficient.

          • evantonio

            Making ’em count.

        • SC Dave

          Please… 27 yards

    • Russian Hacked Pacebot 2.0

      Past results are no indicator of future performance. Sims is huge black and fast which is a solid combo.
      I predict 35-40catches for Sasheen this year and 8tds.

      • So lemme get this on record, youre actually predicting that a white dude will out produce a huge black fast ‘mocha mountain’?

        I think ur russian hacked bot got rehacked by a Ukranian

  • BerwynBomber

    May and June = Quietest NFL months of the year.
    But the compensatory pick deadline passed yesterday, so maybe some remaining FAs will be signed by a few teams in the next couple of weeks.

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