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Sowell Goes From Bubble To Important Role as "Y" TE

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Chicago Bears: “Y” Bradley Sowell completes Matt Nagy’s tight end room

Bradley Sowell went from the roster bubble to potentially carving out a serious role in Matt Nagys offense

Early into the Matt Nagy hiring, we hung onto every word as we searched for an image of what type of coach he was. One note that he consistently went to was his urge for three tight ends.

He told reporters that he was stressing to Ryan Pace the importance of signing Trey Burton. To Nagy, he is the perfect tight end who highlights a room of three roles. When Nagy has three tight ends to fill his three roles, he sees his room as complete and firing on all cylinders.

While many see players as “tight ends”, he has a “U”, “Y”, and “F” tight end.

The “U” tight end is the player that Matt Nagy stressed for. This is a player who can motion anywhere from out-wide, to in-line and into the backfield. Trey Burton holds this role. Many fans will want to see an emergence from UDFA Dax Raymond, but for the most part, he was drafted as insurance for this role.

The “F” tight end can line up in the slot and split the seams down the field. This is the role that Adam Shaheen was drafted to play, as his size, speed, and basketball skills should stress safeties over the middle of the field.

Then, there is the “Y”. This is your traditional tight end. This is the in-line, power blocker. Sure, the “F” can slide in, and the “U” can pull block and chip on the edges. However, every team needs a “Y” to road grade, get downhill and finish on the goal line. In 2018 that was Dion Sims.

Of course, last season that did not happen. Trey Burton emerged in moments but was carrying the load with Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen dealing with injury issues. Shaheen got healthy towards the end of the season, but the team let Sims go, leaving a hole in their tight end group.

So, while Bradley Sowell is going to be considered a tight end. Matt Nagy sees him as a “Y”. In fact, he said that twice in the interview below, once going out of his way to say it.

Is Sowell going to run routes, and catch passes? He can. The element of surprise is there and wearing 85 means that he always an eligible wide receiver. We saw him finish on the goal line before and that is where a traditional “Y” will make his name.

However, in most cases, he is a sixth offensive lineman who can keep Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen lined up in their prominent receiving roles. This means more Burton motions and more Shaheen up the seams.

It also should mean a job for Sowell. Ben Braunecker has a skill set more suited to backup Shaheen, and Raymond plays similarly to Burton. The Bears need a “Y” tight end, and Bradley Sowell checks all of the boxes, and then some.

Expect Bradley Sowell to not only make the roster but. also, give us the chance to see a more diverse Matt Nagy playbook in 2019.

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There's been so much talk about our TE position that I felt this article might help answer some questions as to Nagy' thinking and end some speculation.

While many see players as “tight ends”, he has a “U”, “Y”, and “F” tight end.

So.....if it all goes according to plan Sowell fill take over Sims role as the inline "Y" and as he's already proven he can also be a receiving threat on the goal line and 2 pt conversions.  I'm gonna guess he may play 15-20 lbs lighter than he has in the past but he'll still be a monster size TE.

Shaheen and Braunecker will compete for snaps at "F" TE primarily as receivers on shorter routes and to threaten the seam.  Shaheen in particular should cause problems for DBs and smaller LBs and Braunecker has proven he can get open and catch.

That leaves Burton and Raymond whose more Zach Miller size to handle the "U" or "Move TE" role who can be lined up most anywhere.  So it's entirely possible we could end up with all 5 on the 53 man roster and eschew keeping a FB using Sowell instead.

I like his thinking on this.  The "F" and "U" positions are critical to his passing game and as we learned in 2018 both need adequate depth in the form of #2 guy who can step in and start due to an injury.  Braunecker has that ability already so Raymond will have to prove himself worthy of it.

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Posted (edited)

It'll be interesting for sure. I'm still not sure he sticks, they have invested so much into WR the last 2 years I just think it is going to be unlikely to hold 5 TEs.  Shaven can be the F and Y roles if he can stay healthy, Burton is a U only really, maybe an F. If Sowell sticks, he is one dimensional as a Y.

 

So that means one spot between Braunecker and Raymond. Who is going to be more versatile? Is Raymond going to be worth a damn on special teams?

 

I guess this could also mean Michael Burton is on his way out, as one of the 3 reserves can take the FB role too. I've been wanting to see an athletic big man move from DT or OT to a TE/FB role for a while. Scruggs and Sowell aren't really athletic like I was hoping, but Sowell at least seems to have decent hand-eye coordination.

While I was hoping for a Mailata or someone like that, I'll take this experiment too. 

Edited by Sugashane

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Interestingly enough few are commenting here on something that may have a major impact on how Shaheen will be evaluated going forward.

Up 'til now he's been used primarily as a "Y" TE when that's not why he was drafted.  His size alone makes it possible but his game has always been as a pass catcher.  Now he may finally get a shot at showing what he can do when that's his primary role instead of being more of a hybrid.

I'm not certain everyone here actually grasps how Nagy envisions and uses his TEs and I thought this would clear it up but from the lack of responses it seems to be most are content to go on seeing it all as they see it as opposed to what it really is.  That's fine.  Eventually it will make sense.

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10 hours ago, soulman said:

There's been so much talk about our TE position that I felt this article might help answer some questions as to Nagy' thinking and end some speculation.

While many see players as “tight ends”, he has a “U”, “Y”, and “F” tight end.

So.....if it all goes according to plan Sowell fill take over Sims role as the inline "Y" and as he's already proven he can also be a receiving threat on the goal line and 2 pt conversions.  I'm gonna guess he may play 15-20 lbs lighter than he has in the past but he'll still be a monster size TE.

Shaheen and Braunecker will compete for snaps at "F" TE primarily as receivers on shorter routes and to threaten the seam.  Shaheen in particular should cause problems for DBs and smaller LBs and Braunecker has proven he can get open and catch.

That leaves Burton and Raymond whose more Zach Miller size to handle the "U" or "Move TE" role who can be lined up most anywhere.  So it's entirely possible we could end up with all 5 on the 53 man roster and eschew keeping a FB using Sowell instead.

I like his thinking on this.  The "F" and "U" positions are critical to his passing game and as we learned in 2018 both need adequate depth in the form of #2 guy who can step in and start due to an injury.  Braunecker has that ability already so Raymond will have to prove himself worthy of it.

I do not see them keeping 5 TEs unless Sowell takes up an OL roster spot.

I agree, moving Shaheen to the 3rd TE role seems like it would be a prudent decision.

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1 minute ago, WindyCity said:

I do not see them keeping 5 TEs unless Sowell takes up an OL roster spot.

I agree, moving Shaheen to the 3rd TE role seems like it would be a prudent decision.

He could still slide into an OT role in an emergency but as it stands I think they like Coward as the Swing OT.  I think it may also depend on how much weight Sowell carries.  Is he gonna play TE at 300+ lbs or will he drop down to 285-290lbs?

IMHO if we're ever gonna find out just how effective Shaheen is gonna be as a pass catcher Nagy needs to keep him working as his "F" TE and let Braunecker handle the hybrid role backing up both Sowell and Shaheen.  IMHO that would be his best position.

Then I think Raymond should start out as Burton's #2 at the "U" spot because he's a natural pass catcher far more than a capable blocker.  He could also see some work as an "F" TE since by 2021 we could be looking at replacing both Burton and Shaheen.

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1 minute ago, soulman said:

He could still slide into an OT role in an emergency but as it stands I think they like Coward as the Swing OT.  I think it may also depend on how much weight Sowell carries.  Is he gonna play TE at 300+ lbs or will he drop down to 285-290lbs?

IMHO if we're ever gonna find out just how effective Shaheen is gonna be as a pass catcher Nagy needs to keep him working as his "F" TE and let Braunecker handle the hybrid role backing up both Sowell and Shaheen.  IMHO that would be his best position.

Then I think Raymond should start out as Burton's #2 at the "U" spot because he's a natural pass catcher far more than a capable blocker.  He could also see some work as an "F" TE since by 2021 we could be looking at replacing both Burton and Shaheen.

The 3rd TE [F] guy traditionally plays about 150 snaps a season. The position also traditionally receives less than 40 targets.

Going to be hard to show something with those numbers.

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1 hour ago, WindyCity said:

The 3rd TE [F] guy traditionally plays about 150 snaps a season. The position also traditionally receives less than 40 targets.

Going to be hard to show something with those numbers.

The Bears spread the ball around a lot so I'm not looking for any one receiver to dominate by a wide margin.  Typically ARob, Cohen, and Burton would get the most but I also expect Miller and Shaheen to see more throws and Patterson to take over many of Gabriel's screens leaving him more of a true deep threat.

Even if all Shaheen gets is 40-50 targets his catch percentage so far is 85% so you're looking at 34-43 catches many of which should go for a 1st down or be scoring plays.  If he can make a few downfield grabs and threaten the seam to open up others I'll take that for now.  I still don't feel he'll hit his ceiling in 2019.

Mitch needs to get more comfortable with him and where he's gonna be and that's gonna take some time.  As long as he's showing improvement as the season progresses he should be good for now then really break out in 2020 if he's got it in him.  Or....he fails to ascend and we begin to see him as all he'll ever be.

I dunno what more to say or what more anyone expects of him for now.  He's not Travis Kelce and he may never be in this offense.

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59 minutes ago, soulman said:

The Bears spread the ball around a lot so I'm not looking for any one receiver to dominate by a wide margin.  Typically ARob, Cohen, and Burton would get the most but I also expect Miller and Shaheen to see more throws and Patterson to take over many of Gabriel's screens leaving him more of a true deep threat.

Even if all Shaheen gets is 40-50 targets his catch percentage so far is 85% so you're looking at 34-43 catches many of which should go for a 1st down or be scoring plays.  If he can make a few downfield grabs and threaten the seam to open up others I'll take that for now.  I still don't feel he'll hit his ceiling in 2019.

Mitch needs to get more comfortable with him and where he's gonna be and that's gonna take some time.  As long as he's showing improvement as the season progresses he should be good for now then really break out in 2020 if he's got it in him.  Or....he fails to ascend and we begin to see him as all he'll ever be.

I dunno what more to say or what more anyone expects of him for now.  He's not Travis Kelce and he may never be in this offense.

The 3rd TE in the offense last season got 150 snaps and 5 targets, he actually got a little more in KC when Nagy was there.

So the question becomes does Shaheen continue as the Y TE and have 400 snaps and 50 targets? Or, does Sowell or someone else bleed away on those snaps and subsequently targets.

 

His target rate is way to low to look at that 85% number as something we can extrapolate out.

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4 hours ago, WindyCity said:

The 3rd TE in the offense last season got 150 snaps and 5 targets, he actually got a little more in KC when Nagy was there.

So the question becomes does Shaheen continue as the Y TE and have 400 snaps and 50 targets? Or, does Sowell or someone else bleed away on those snaps and subsequently targets.

 

His target rate is way to low to look at that 85% number as something we can extrapolate out.

Sowell isn't a receiver to any large degree.  That's not to say he won't ever catch a pass but he's being used more as a third OT/Blocker and we know this.  Shaheen may get some snaps at "Y" as well but I'm not looking for that to be his primary position.

I believe the article makes it clear that Shaheen's spot will be the "F" position in Nagy's offense in which the article also indicates it's primary responsibilities within the offense.  In effect as a receiver Shaheen is actually the #2 TE behind Burton at least for now so only 5 targets would be ridiculously low number to forecast for him. 

I'll stick with 40-50 which is still just 50%-60% of what Burton got last season and even if I chop his catch ratio to as low as 70% that's still 28-35 grabs. I agree that's not a ton of catches but on a team with as much receiving talent as we have it's tough to project more than that right now.  If anything we may see Burton's targets reduced but we can't even be sure of that.

At this point we're all assuming as a whole the team will stay as healthy all season long as they did in 2019 and that to may be impractical.  So we still have lots of moving parts now even before mandatory OTAs begin.  Not 'til camp and preseason will we really be able to get a better handle on it and just how good our depth at TE truly is.

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Is Sowell a for-sure answer? Patriots just cut Austin Sefarian-Jenkins...

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2 hours ago, Heinz D. said:

Is Sowell a for-sure answer? Patriots just cut Austin Sefarian-Jenkins...

Says he needs to take a month off to deal with "personal issues".  Like maybe his drinking problem has returned????

https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/patriots-cut-tight-end-austin-seferian-jenkins-as-he-deals-with-personal-issues-report-says/ar-AACnYOV?li=BBnba9I

This would be another possible reason why not.

Between injuries and disciplinary issues, Seferian-Jenkins played only 43 games in five seasons since being drafted in the second round by Tampa Bay in 2014. He has 116 career receptions for 1,160 yards and 11 touchdowns.

I'm far more interested in drafting or signing our own TEs and developing them. IMHO it's one of the harder positions to project so I believe in the approach Pace is taking.  Bring in as many as you can fit in a TE room and let them sort themselves out on the field.

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