Bears hope to use Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet in offense more

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How Graham and Kmet can impact Bears offense together originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Heading into this offseason, there was some speculation that Jimmy Graham could be a salary cap cut casualty. I’ll take the L and admit I was one of those who thought Graham’s time in Chicago was over when I wrote about the cap crunch in early March. All the telltale signs were there: Aging veteran, one year left on the deal, up-and-coming player seemingly ready for more playing time, and plenty of money to be saved. After taking a look at how Cole Kmet’s snap count increased over 2020, while Jimmy Graham’s snap count decreased, it seemed like an easy decision.

Turns out determining Graham’s future with the team was easy, just not in the way many expected.

“There was never any curiosity, I don’t think, within our building whether he was going to be back or not,” said Bears tight ends coach Clancy Barone when he addressed the media ahead of rookie minicamp. “We knew from Day 1. The guy led our team in touchdowns. He’s, I think, No. 4 on the all-time NFL list for tight ends touchdowns and so forth for their careers. He’s invaluable.

“The thing also with Jimmy, he’s a great culture guy for the locker room and he gets it. He’s a guy a lot of people lean on and so forth and listen to and so trying to build that great culture in the locker room, Jimmy is a guy that I think is part of that foundation.”

Graham and Kmet did develop a special bond last season. At the end of the year, Graham told NBC Sports Chicago about how much he relished taking Kmet under his wing, playing beside him on the field and watching him begin to flourish. As Kmet became more and more comfortable in the Bears offense, Graham and Kmet began playing together more and more, as well.

In the first half of the season, the Bears used two tight ends on the field 21.4% of the time. But in the second half of the season, the Bears were deploying two tight ends 29.4% of the time. In Week 15, that number peaked, as the Bears ran two tight end sets for exactly half of all their offensive plays.

So now that it looks like both Graham and Kmet will be in the fold again, could the Bears take a page out of the Patriots’ book and threaten opposing defenses with two athletic tight ends even more?

“You have two guys that are 6’6” and 6’7” that can be a nice big-bodied target and those make matchup advantages for the Bears,” said Barone. “When you have one out there, you have one big guy that can be a big target advantage and when you have two out there, it doubles your chances obviously. So, yeah, we like to do that more often if possible, but everything depends on the gameplan part of it.

“We’d like to get both of those guys out there. They’re both athletic guys that can catch the ball very well.”

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