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Is TE Cole Kmet good? Answer remains murky amid Bears’ offensive struggles

There’s certainly some promise, but a clear answer would’ve been nice by now on a player they took No. 43 overall last year.

Kmet has 81 catches for 782 yards and two touchdowns in 31 career games.
AP Photos

Is Cole Kmet good? That’s a simple question, and it would’ve been nice to have an answer by now.

But, like other talented young players on the Bears, any assessment of his progress has been undermined by the team’s myriad disorders. Kmet spent his first season playing with Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles as his quarterbacks and listening to coach Matt Nagy spend the first half talking about getting him more snaps but not actually delivering.

Kmet is certainly playing more in his second season, but many of the issues afflicting the offense at large remain.

Justin Fields might one day become a star, but he certainly isn’t there yet and has had plenty of rookie travails. Nagy’s system isn’t working regardless of who’s calling the plays. And the offensive line has struggled enough that the Bears are frequently asking tight ends to help in protection.

When those factors are weighed, Kmet’s 53 catches for 539 yards look rather decent. But the Bears drafted him as the top tight end in his class, No. 43 overall, hoping he’d be the solution to their perennial problems at the position.

To his credit, Kmet’s yardage is more than any Bears tight end had in 2019 or ’20, and if he gets another 31 yards, he’ll be their most productive tight end since Martellus Bennett in 2014. And his two-year totals of 81 catches for 782 yards are the most of any tight end in his class. The Browns’ Harrison Bryant is next, and his stats are about half that.

But from the start, Travis Kelce has been the name that has come up most often in comparisons. That’s an impossibly high bar for Kmet, given that Kelce is a three-time All-Pro and counting. He has nearly double Kmet’s yardage this season.

“He’s been the best in the league for a while now,” Kmet said. “The rapport he has with his quarterback and his feel for that offense are just pretty special, so definitely things that you watch and you aspire to be like.”

Tight ends tend to take awhile, similar to quarterbacks, but the Bears are hitting a point where they need to know whether Kmet is the real deal. He hasn’t done enough for them to cross tight end off their list of needs going into next season, and he’s one of many players still out to prove something in the last two games.

It’s an opportunity to make a strong case for himself as a central part of the Bears’ future. Kmet had 10 catches for 120 yards over the last two games and needs to stack a couple more good ones on top of that.

While the numbers haven’t been convincing, Kmet has grown in his grasp of the offense and ability to read coverages. The offense will almost certainly be changing, of course, with Nagy nearly certain to be fired, but much of what he has learned will carry over.

“Just being more comfortable with coverage recognition and being more confident in what I’m seeing on the field,” Kmet said of his growth this season. “There’s looks you’ll see throughout a season that obviously I’ve never seen before, but the more you play, you become more comfortable.

“You take all these reps that you get throughout the season and you log them in the memory bank, and it definitely helps develop your route-running. Definitely something I’ve been working on since the spring and something I think I’ve been doing a better job with as the year is closing down here.”