clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bears coach Matt Nagy: ‘How do you not get excited’ about rookie tight end Cole Kmet?

The Bears began virtual organized team activities Monday, bringing together rookies and veterans alike for video calls.

Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet speaks during a press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday.
Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet speaks during a press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday.
AP

In an ordinary offseason, coach Matt Nagy wouldn’t be forced to evaluate the Bears’ top draft pick from one side of a computer screen.

But that’s what he did last month, when he tried to stump tight end Cole Kmet about the Bears’ playbook during the team’s virtual rookie minicamp.

‘‘I can’t trick him,’’ Nagy said last month. ‘‘He knows it all. So, No. 1, some of the advice that was given to these young players heading into 2020 is to understand your playbook. . . . [That] is going to be the most important thing you can do than in any other year because you don’t have a lot of time and you don’t have coaches to see what you can and can’t do on that field.

‘‘This kid has that. I guarantee you — and I’ll put it out there — he will know this playbook inside-out. That’s not going to be the issue.’’

In any ordinary offseason, Kmet, a Notre Dame alum, wouldn’t be participating in his first all-team meeting via the internet. The Bears began virtual organized team activities Monday, bringing together rookies and veterans alike for video calls.

Real information-gathering won’t come until the Bears are allowed to practice — or until Nagy can sit in the same room with his players. Still, consider Nagy optimistic (even more than usual) about Kmet.

He has noticed a trend in the 20 or so guest speakers — elite athletes from across all sports — who have spoken to Bears players on Zoom.

‘‘They’ve got that ‘want,’ ’’ Nagy said. ‘‘They’ve got that little different thing that makes them great.’’

Nagy said he sees that in Kmet. And, yes, he claims he can tell from Zoom meetings.

‘‘What [Kmet] is going to have to grow with is understanding the defenses in the NFL, understanding how strong a defensive end is that he’s going to have to block as a 9-technique or a 7-I technique on a blast play to the outside,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘It’s different — what the speed’s like, when the ball comes on you, when the coverage changes.

‘‘He’ll do that because he has the ‘want.’ When you see that feeling of someone like Cole, you see the personality, the size, the strength, the makeup. How do you not get excited about that? I am, and I’m looking forward to his future.’’

It would be wise for Nagy to temper his expectations, though.

Tight end is the most difficult position, save for quarterback, to learn. It combines blocking skills and terminology required of offensive linemen — against the best edge rushers in the world — with pass routes required of tight ends. That’s particularly true for Kmet, who primarily will play the ‘‘Y’’ spot — an in-line blocker — rather than the ‘‘U’’ position that splits out wide. The Bears gave veteran Jimmy Graham a two-year, $16 million deal to play the ‘‘U.’’

Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, Kmet is the 92nd tight end to be selected among the top 43 players of the draft. Forty-six — exactly half — finished their rookie season with fewer than 250 receiving yards.

That’s no mere reflection of a more run-friendly league in decades past, either. Since 2014, four of the 10 tight ends drafted among the top 43 — Mike Gesicki, Hayden Hurst, Eric Ebron and Austin Seferian-Jenkins — finished their rookie season with fewer than 250 yards receiving.

Rob Gronkowski had 42 catches for 546 yards as a rookie in 2010, ostensibly making him as effective as the Bears’ Trey Burton was in 2018. Eagles star Zach Ertz had 36 catches for 469 yards as a rookie.

Then there’s Travis Kelce, who played exactly one special-teams down as a Chiefs rookie in 2013. He grabbed his coaches’ attention in the first game of the next preseason by catching a post pass against the Bengals and sprinting 69 yards — past the cornerback and safety — for a touchdown.

‘‘That’s when we knew, ‘Wow,’ ’’ said Nagy, a Chiefs assistant at the time. ‘‘Is Cole Kmet that? No. That’s not who he is. They’re different styles. But what we see in Cole is a player, whether it’s the ‘Y’ position or the ‘U’ position, the ceiling for him is so high. Because, No. 1, he wants it.’’