This article is free for everyone. To unlock all of Nicholas Moreano’s Chicago Bears coverage, join the CHGO family today! Annual members get access to all written content from CHGO’s credentialed reporters plus a free t-shirt from the CHGO Locker and access to our exclusive Social Lounge on Discord.
Just 10 days ago the Chicago Bears had just enough tight ends on their roster to go in 12 personnel. Now, with eight-year veteran James O’Shaughnessy signing a one-year contract, Chicago has doubled its size for the position group.
Cole Kmet and Jesper Horsted returned from last season, while Ryan Griffin – who will be entering Year 10 – signed his one-year deal on April 8.
O’Shaughnessy, like Kmet, played his high school football in Illinois. He attended Naperville North High School and Kmet went to St. Viator High School. O’Shaughnessy also attended Illinois State and played three seasons there. The Chiefs selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. Bears general manager Ryan Poles was the Chiefs’ College Scouting Coordinator at the time.
The Bears’ tight end room is starting to take shape, but what does coach Matt Eberflus actually have in the four players that are on the team?
(If you are wondering what about Jesse James, Justin Fields go-to guy in training camp, well he is currently a free agent.)
Here is a look at each tight end and how they have been used so far in the NFL.
It’s weird to think Kmet is already entering his third year in the league, but that’s reality. Through two seasons, the former No. 43 overall pick from Notre Dame has caught 88 passes for 855 yards and two touchdowns (both coming in his rookie year).
In former Bears’ coach Matt Nagy’s offense, Kmet lined up as the inline tight end on 58% of the total offensive snaps the past two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). He did, though, see more opportunities in the slot, going from 134 snaps to 320.
At 6-foot-6, 258 pounds, Kmet needs to prove in Year 3 that he can become a more reliable red-zone weapon. He was targeted 12 times inside the 20 and caught just five passes for 36 yards. In his rookie season, Kmet went 3 of 6 inside the 20 for 28 yards, but hauled in his two career touchdowns.
The stats speak for themselves when it comes to Horsted. The former undrafted wide receiver and baseball player out of Princeton caught two passes last season and they both went for touchdowns.
Horsted helped the Bears defeat the Las Vegas Raiders, 20-9, on the road with his 2-yard touchdown catch. That red-zone score was Fields’ only touchdown of the game. His second score came in the 17-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. Fields connected with Horsted for a 19-yard touchdown on the final play of the game.
If the Bears limit the number of tight ends on their roster, this increases the likelihood of Horsted contributing on offense in 2022. If the Bears continue adding players to the position, he will have to play more than the 92 snaps on special teams that he had last season to ensure himself a spot on roster.
The former sixth-round pick out of Connecticut finished with 27 receptions, 261 yards and two touchdowns last season for the New York Jets. Griffin, 32, played three seasons in New York after a six-year stint with the Houston Texans. He had a career-high five touchdown catches back in 2019, and had his most receiving yards in 2016 as a Texans with 442.
Similar to Kmet, Griffin was featured mostly as an inline tight end. For the Jets’ offense last season, he lined up there 415 out of his total 583 offensive snaps, according to PFF.
Griffin also has the ability to contribute on special teams, which he has done for the past three seasons for the Jets. Last year, Griffin played 193 special teams snaps (41.3%). And 92 of those special teams snaps came on kick return.
Since O’Shaughnessy was drafted No. 173 overall in 2015, he has also been featured mostly as an inline tight end. Last season for the Jaguars, the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder caught 24 passes for 244 yards. He has three career touchdowns and last scored in the Week 4 matchup with the Broncos in the 2019 season.
The next week, O’Shaughnessy tore his ACL in his left knee against the Panthers and was forced to miss the entire season. He did rebound and play 15 games in 2020, but an ankle injury restricted him to just seven games last season.
Unlike Griffin, O’Shaughnessy, 30, has not played much on special teams recently. In the past three seasons, he has 67 total special teams snaps. At the most, O’Shaughnessy is a depth piece for the Bears.