The heavy focus when it comes to offensive weaponry for a quarterback is wide receivers. That is how it’s always been since the passing game became a serious thing in the late 1970s. It makes it easy to overlook how much the tight ends have evolved in recent years. Top offenses always seem to have them. This is why it’s somewhat unusual that people aren’t talking more about Cole Kmet.
Nobody would accuse the former 2nd round pick of being Travis Kelce or George Kittle, but his improvement in 2021 feels like it’s being undersold. Despite a broken scheme and three different quarterbacks, he still managed to catch 63 passes for 613 yards. That was good for 17th and 16th, respectively, among all tight ends. The only problem was not catching any touchdowns, which isn’t entirely his fault.
One needs targets in the red zone for that to happen.
Kmet didn’t get enough. Weird considering his a giant 6’6 target. Putting that aside, it’s fair to say the guy was better last year. Not great, but better. If he could produce like that with almost everything around him being a mess, then it stands to reason he can drastically improve with a more cohesive scheme. Pro Football Focus thinks so. They listed him as one of their six biggest 2022 breakout candidates.
“Kmet’s uptick in targets from his rookie season (46) to his sophomore campaign (89) was significant. He took on an elevated role in last year’s passing game, setting the stage for a 60-reception season and career-high 63.4 receiving and offensive grades. Now in Year 3, he has a chance to be a breakout star thanks in large part to questions at Chicago’s offensive skill positions.
While second-year quarterback Justin Fields has the continued emergence of draft gem Darnell Mooney (74.7 grade in 2021) to look forward to, the Bears’ offense is otherwise barren of proven weapons. However, Kmet’s 94.8 receiving grade on medium depth targets (10-19 yards downfield) perfectly plays to one of Field’s passing strengths (78.1 medium passing depth grade) and could be the basis for a breakout in 2022.”
It feels like a back-handed compliment saying Kmet will break out only because the Bears don’t have enough receivers. That isn’t surprising. In truth, the statement itself has validity to it. Kmet built a strong connection with Fields during last season before the QB went out with injuries. Now he’ll be in an offense under new coordinator Luke Getsy, who has proven able to elevate the tight end position many times.
Cole Kmet also doesn’t have to worry about competition.
The Bears have made a number of changes to the tight end position with new arrivals like James O’Shaughnessy and Ryan Griffin, but nobody would mistake them for being legitimate threats to Kmet. They’re veteran additions that fit well with the offense and also bring special teams backgrounds. Everything points to this being Kmet’s show. At least for this season. The Bears want to see how he does.
Plenty of people are skeptical. That is natural. Some of them because he doesn’t come across as a genuine receiving threat, and others because they never liked him coming out of the draft. It isn’t easy to gauge what expectations should be. In truth, his yardage from last year was good. The big improvement wanted from Cole Kmet should be touchdowns. They have to get him more opportunities in the end zone.
That shouldn’t be a daunting task.
Then again, the Bears have always made competent offense seem daunting for time immemorial. Kmet can be a strong contributor to this team. It comes down to how he’s used. Getsy promised to work his scheme to his players’ strengths. If that was the truth, expect more good things from the 23-year-old tight end.