Bears tight end Adam Shaheen, right

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Gabriel: What Can Adam Shaheen Add To Bears?

Shaheen has the potential to create mismatches and further open up the playbook.

Greg Gabriel
November 15, 2018 - 5:51 pm
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(670 The Score) Dating back to OTAs and training camp, Bears coach Matt Nagy was quietly excited about a weapon that hadn't previously garnered much attention: second-year tight end Adam Shaheen.

Unfortunately, Shaheen suffered a serious foot/ankle injury in a preseason game at Denver on Aug. 18, landing him on the injured reserve list. Finally, it appears Nagy may be able to utilize his new gadget. Shaheen has been practicing and is nearing a return, perhaps as early as Sunday evening when the Bears (6-3) host the Vikings (5-3-1)

So what will Shaheen bring to the offense? It's instructive to look at the offenses of the Chiefs and Eagles from 2017, as Nagy hails from the same coaching tree. In each offense, two tight ends were important. 

The Bears haven't had a player similar to Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce or Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. Bears tight end Trey Burton is a valuable 6-foot-3, 235-pound target, but in some ways he's more like a big wide receiver. He's not a huge, athletic tight end who can create mismatches. At 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, Shaheen can do just that, as he's a threat who will be difficult for opponents to deal with when he's healthy.

Shaheen has speed, quickness, a burst and great body control. It will be difficult for anyone in an opposing secondary to cover him, especially when they must account for other Bears weapons like Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel and Burton. I believe Shaheen will become a favorite target for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the second half of the season.

It's also worth noting that opponents have no tape of Shaheen being used in Nagy's offense, so the Bears have the element of surprise working to their advantage. Everything he does in the first couple of games will be new. 

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Shaheen is big and strong enough to play in tight at the Y position or be flexed out and used as a receiver. When in tight, Shaheen has the traits to knock linebackers off the ball and help the ground game. Burton is by no means a poor blocker, but at his size, he often gets stalemated. Shaheen can win the battle at the point of attack, which that means more yards on the ground.

For as big as he is, Shaheen is also plenty athletic. He has the ability to get in and out of cuts quickly to gain separation. If Shaheen plays this Sunday, there's only one player in the Vikings secondary who can cover him comfortably: free safety Harrison Smith. Still, Smith is 6-foot-2, meaning Shaheen will have a three-inch height advantage and a reach advantage. 

Where Shaheen could really make a difference for the Bears is in the red zone, and Nagy surely has some creative plays to take advantage of Shaheen's size there.

Shaheen can be used in a variety of ways. On crossing routes, his height and reach give him a huge advantage. He has the speed to stretch the field on seam routes from his position, and his run after the catch is good because of his natural traits. Beyond that, having to tackle someone that big wears on a defense. Daniel Brown and Ben Braunecker have previously been filling the Bears' No. 2 tight end role, and they just don't have the skills to add anything from a schematic standpoint.

The Bears only had four wide receivers active in their win against the Lions last Sunday. That may become the norm for the rest of the year. Once Shaheen is back, Burton can return to doing what he does best -- being the move tight end who's often flexed out. Burton can then be used in the slot more, which is what the Bears had in mind when they signed him in free agency. The interchangeable parts give the Bears an advantage schematically. 

The Bears offense has already been productive, as they rank fifth in scoring in the NFL. It can get even better with the return of Shaheen, who can bring an exciting new element. Nagy loves to use different formations and personnel packages in order to create coverage mismatches, and Shaheen adds to his ability to do that. 

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who's an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.​​​​