When talking about the Chicago Bears receiving corps, most of the discussions continue to hover around the wide receivers. The return of Allen Robinson after missing OTAs. The hopeful improvement of Darnell Mooney and the arrival of veterans Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd. However, nobody would argue that one of the most pivotal subplots of 2021 for the Bears offense will be the maturation of Cole Kmet.

He was the top draft pick in 2020. So the organization had high expectations for him. While he didn’t explode in any sense as a rookie, there were glimpses of the player he might become. One with a rare mixture of size, power, and athleticism to become a three-down player. Not just as a receiving threat like everybody expects but also as a more than credible blocker. The latter seemed to emerge more often last year.

Tight ends generally don’t truly break out until their second season.

That makes this year a big one for Kmet. Was he worth the pick the Bears spent on him? Based on the latest buzz out of OTAs and minicamps, the 22-year old is fully intent on making a statement. According to Adam Jahns of The Athletic, Kmet was a persistent thorn in the side of the defense every single practice.

“Then on Thursday, Fields followed up his interception in the red zone with a barrage of touchdown passes to several different receivers. His most accurate was a touch pass over coverage to running back Ryan Nall. His strongest went to tight end Cole Kmet in the back of the end zone after a quick scramble to his right.”

When Jahns unveiled his five players who stood out the most over the past couple of weeks, he had the tight end squarely at #1.

“1. Tight end Cole Kmet: The ball always seemed to find him, regardless of who was at quarterback.”

This is exactly what you want to hear. No slows starts. You want Kmet to be asserting himself right away. Obviously, it’s still early in the offseason. He’ll have to do the same in pads during training camp. Then comes the hardest part. Translating that practice success to the field on Sundays. His steady improvement last year offers hope he is fully ready for that challenge. Especially if the Bears get more consistent play from the quarterbacks.

Andy Dalton may be a great fit with Cole Kmet

The longtime veteran will be the starter this season unless Matt Nagy goes back on the message he’s preached for weeks now. If that is so, then it could be a beneficial development for Kmet. Dalton has a lengthy history of helping tight ends be productive. Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert both made the Pro Bowl with him throwing them the ball. Last year Dalton Schultz finished with a career-high 615 yards with his help.

Chances are good that if Cole Kmet manages to get open this year, Dalton will find him. Something neither Mitch Trubisky nor Nick Foles could do often enough last season. It will be interesting to see where Jimmy Graham factors into this. He’s still on the roster and proved last year he can be a receiving threat with nine touchdowns. Will the Bears look to sacrifice some of his targets in favor of getting Kmet more involved?

That remains to be answered.

The preseason should be enlightening in this regard. Nagy said he plans to get the starters some serious action. Perhaps they’ll provide a taste of what they have planned for Kmet. Or maybe he’ll flash some of that improvement he keeps showing in practice. One thing is for sure. The Bears’ offense becomes considerably more dangerous if he starts to blossom.