INDIANAPOLIS -- Chicago Bears tight ends coach Andy Bischoff recently hinted at changes set to take place with how the team uses its tight ends. Rising second-year man Evan Rodriguez might be the best suited for what the staff envisions in the future at the position.
He’ll certainly receive ample opportunity, according to general manager Phil Emery.
“He’s going to be used in a variety of roles until we find the right role for him,” Emery said. “He finished the year as a fullback. We felt by the end of the year that he did a good job in there.”
A fourth-round pick in 2012, Rodriguez made his first start last season during the team’s win over the Indianapolis Colts in the opener. Rodriguez played in the first two games without logging a catch. In his third outing against the St. Louis Rams on Sept. 23, Rodriguez left the game with a sprained left MCL sustained on the opening kickoff.
The injury put Rodriguez on the shelf for a month and ruined the team’s plans to make him a focal part of the passing attack. Rodriguez returned Nov. 4 against the Tennessee Titans but didn’t make his first NFL catch until Nov. 25 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Expected to take on the role of “F” tight end, which is used more as a receiver than a blocker, as a rookie, Rodriguez finished the season playing fullback.
“But he also has other skills,” Emery said. “And we’re going to work through OTAs and camp to bring that out and find that right role, whether it’s some more at 'F,' it’s detached, more fullback or more 'F' as a fullback. He’ll have an opportunity to display all his skills to our new staff.”
That new staff requires a Swiss Army knife skill set from the tight end position.
“We need a tight end that can threaten the defense. We need a tight end that can create stress in the middle of the field or wherever we place him because we’re going to line him up next to the tackle,” Bischoff said. “We’re going to line him up outside the numbers. We’re going to line up in the backfield, and we’re going to expect the defense to figure it out. So we need a receiver who can catch the ball, and we need a receiver who can block enough to be lined up in the backfield if we put him there.
"In answering your question, yeah, absolutely we need a tight end that can catch the ball. The days of the tight end that blocked and ran flat routes in this league are coming to an end. The guys that just run three-yard flat routes, that’s not going to do anything for you.”