Despite prominent roles for fellow draft-mates Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson, and Mitch Trubisky, second-round tight end Adam Shaheen continues to struggle finding consistent playing time well into his rookie season.
Shaheen’s battle continued in the team’s Week 6 win against the Baltimore Ravens, a game in which he was on the field for just 19 of the offense’s 80 total plays. Further complicating matters: 17 of those 19 snaps came on run plays, which don’t exactly leave a lot of room for Shaheen to shine in the ways we know he can. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Bears ran a lot on Sunday (53 times to be exact), but that game did serve as the latest example of how the Bears have used Shaheen all season.
According to Pro Football Focus’ data, Shaheen has been a run blocker on 55 of the 66 total snaps he’s participated in this season. Add three pass block snaps, and Shaheen has been in a blocking role 87.8 percent of the time. That is much more than expected for a player who was supposedly drafted because of his potential as a quality pass catching target on a team lacking just that.
However, Shaheen has played on just eight passing snaps and has been targeted just once in six games – hardly enough time to build a successful rapport with his quarterback. And while his one target was a memorable one, the fact remains he hasn’t been used as an option in the passing game often enough.
Finding playing time for Shaheen wasn’t going to be easy with returning starter Zach Miller and free agent Dion Sims in the fold, but his usage in the Bears’ offense has been questionable six weeks into his rookie season.
Dion Sims led Bears tight ends with 69 snaps against the Ravens, with Zach Miller seeing the field on 55. According to Pro Football Focus, neither excelled while on the field blocking the run. Sims posted a 37.7 run block grade, while Miller wasn’t that much better at 40.5. Beyond trying to figure out where Shaheen fits in all this, the Sims-Miller dynamic continues to be a bit of a head-scratcher.
Miller has played 18 fewer snaps this season, but PFF lists him as the seventh highest graded tight end in the league. Additionally, Miller has been one of the highest-graded run blockers with an 81.6 grade that ranks fourth among players at his position. And yet, Miller has played on just 94 run block snaps. Meanwhile, Sims has played on 179 of the team’s run snaps, but owns a 41.0 grade that ranks 59th among 70 qualifiers. Something isn’t adding up.
In any case, it’s conceivable that – based on his usage thus far – Shaheen’s presence on the field has become the equivalent of a pitcher tipping his pitches. Perhaps that is one of the reasons the Bears offensive play calling seems predictable. By sending Shaheen onto the field, the Bears have shown an extreme tendency to run, which has kept the rookie from developing as a pass catcher in live-game situations. Hopefully, that changes soon and we see Shaheen reach the pass-catching potential on which he was drafted.