‘Backyard football’: Why Matt Nagy’s offense is fun for the Bears’ tight ends

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Bears tight end Dion Sims runs through a drill with quarterback Mitch Trubisky in camp. (AP)

BOURBONNAIS — It didn’t take long for veteran Dion Sims to realize what Trey Burton meant when he called Bears coach Matt Nagy’s offense ‘‘fun’’ to be in for tight ends.

Signed last year to be a prototypical in-line ‘‘Y’’ blocking tight end in then-coach John Fox’s run-heavy offense, Sims is now in line to do much more.

‘‘When we start winning games, it’ll be even more fun,’’ Sims said.

The Bears signed Burton to a four-year, $32 million contract to be the ‘‘U’’ tight end in Nagy’s offense. It’s a hybrid role that lines up everywhere and one that Burton has an understanding of coming from the Eagles.

But Burton’s arrival doesn’t necessarily mean Adam Shaheen and Sims will be featured sparingly. The opposite is happening at Olivet Nazarene University.

Nagy is experimenting with packages and formations that feature all of his tight ends, a position the Bears consider one of their strongest overall.

Shaheen and Sims are lining up everywhere in Nagy’s offense. They’re running routes that weren’t featured much last season under Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.

‘‘We’re testing the waters with all these guys,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘We’re going to move them around, try different packages.’’

It’s obvious what Nagy is looking for, too.

‘‘[Nagy’s offense] definitely exploits defenses,’’ Sims said. ‘‘It shows matchups and mismatches. It puts [defenses] in a bind with us because we have so many weapons. It’s tough to defend a lot of guys and the concepts, as well. It’s just like backyard football.’’

Monday offered glimpses about what might be ahead for the Bears’ tight ends. Shaheen, in particular, stood out in practice. He made leaping catches over nickel back Bryce Callahan and a combination of safety Deiondre’ Hall and cornerback Michael Joseph for touchdowns. Burton also caught a touchdown pass in red-zone drills.

‘‘You’ve got really good players from top to bottom in the tight-end group, just really good guys on and off the field,’’ Burton said. ‘‘It’s been fun to be around them.


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‘‘Each of us has our own skill set, and I know the coaches will maximize that. They definitely make it fun to come to work every single day.’’

Burton is under pressure to produce as one of the Bears’ high-paid free-agent signees, but Nagy’s use of Shaheen and Sims can reduce some of the burden on him.

Shaheen, the Bears’ second-round pick last year, should warrant attention wherever he lines up. That wasn’t the case last season because the Bears lacked imagination with him. Each of Shaheen’s 12 receptions as a rookie came out of an in-line, three-point stance. Nagy will change that.

‘‘I know [Nagy] looks for the athletic tight ends, guys who can stretch the field, win the one-on-one matchups,’’ Burton said.

Burton and Shaheen can do that, but the Bears also value Sims. Several times, general manager Ryan Pace has called Sims the Bears’ most improved player.

For Sims, it helps to be in a better offense for tight ends.

‘‘It’s going to be pretty scary for the other [defenses], especially when we come out running,’’ Sims said. ‘‘A lot of guys expect us to be slow and not to be able to run because of how big we are. But I think we’ll able to shock a lot of teams this year.’’

Want your Bears training-camp update without delay? Each day of summer practice, Sun-Times beat writers Patrick Finley, Adam Jahns and Mark Potash will share exclusive insights on the workout and interviews in a livestream conversation at 1 p.m. daily through Aug. 12. Catch their live analysis and ask questions on Twitter using the hashtag “#BearsBeatLive” or send them directly to @suntimes_sports. Also, follow Sun-Times Sports on Periscope to be notified of each live report.

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