By: Johnny Hatelak
In Adam Shaheen, the Bears have an NFL ready tight end. He has the size, 6’7″ 280, the measurables, and maybe the most important thing that makes him pro ready is the fact he played in a pro offense in college. It’s the reason I think fellow rookie Tanner Gentry will make the team and contribute which I wrote about here. I realize Gentry is a far cry from the stability Shaheen has as far as a roster spot is concerned, and likely impact, but my point is the fact that most college players come from the spread and come with a learning curve in system knowledge give pro system players a leg up.
No area of the football field will give the Bears a bigger boost by Shaheen’s presence and skill set than the red zone. An area of the field that was particularly perplexing to last seasons offense. Now, a lot of that can be chalked up to how many injuries they had particularly at the quarterback position, but that would merely explain why they lacked the personnel to excel in that area of the field. When things are tighter and bunched up and defenses have less area to cover it then comes down to talent and less about the scheme. How does your talent match up against there’s? Mainly at quarterback to be able to throw through tight windows either by sheer arm strength or proper timing, anticipation, and accuracy. It also helps to have a massive human being with great hands and athleticism to throw to which kind of eliminates the need to have a QB be so precise or armed with a cannon arm. This way, covered or not, touchdowns still happen and should happen often with Shaheen as his 16 touchdowns in 12 games last season at Ashland tells you quiet a bit about his impact.
On the film study, I’ve chosen his draft breakdown video via youtube against Northwood. On this video, you basically see him blocking most the time which he does a very good job at. There is one of him early in the tape where he gets juked and whiffs on a block, but essentially got the job done as he made his first block and then the second level whiff forced the defender to take a different path to avoid being blocked and thus taking himself out of the play. Shaheen has gotten negative reviews on his blocking by some and I can’t figure out why. I feel this will be an area of strength once he gets his technique refined. You can tell he wants to block which is half the battle right there. That willingness to engage and he certainly is willing. Shaheen loves the physical nature of the sport for sure.
You also see him lined up everywhere. Inside as the Y, in the backfield as the H-back, and outside as the X and sometimes even the Z. It’s all about getting him matched up on the weak link of the defense.
On the first play at the 3:10 mark he’s essentially in 10 personnel even though he is the tight end. Here he’s to the left of the formation with two Wide Receivers to his left and another Wide Receiver to the right of the formation. He’s lined up as a Y and no tight end on the line. The Running Back lined up on the quarterbacks hip out of shotgun formation. At the snap, Shaheen runs a crossing route from left to right into the flat and vertical. By the looks of it, he was the quarterback’s secondary option as he was looking left all the way. As the pocket breaks down the quarterbacks looks right and slings it 38 yards down field where Shaheen makes a beautiful high point grab twisting and contorting his body in the air and snatching it out of the air perfectly for the touchdown! It was just like he was boxing out for a rebound showing his basketball skill set.
At the 4:03 mark of the video, he is lined up at the same 10 personnel formation as before. This time, the interior Wide Receiver to his left motions across the line to the right side of the formation. At the snap Shaheen runs a shallow cross flat route and gets the ball around 5 yards deep into his route in the right flat and gets pushed out of bounds for an 8 yard gain. Here he shows fluidity and excellent hands plucking the ball away from his body and catching it on the dead run without breaking stride for a near impossible route to defend. One I’m sure the Bears will use on 3rd down a lot to keep the chains moving.
On the very next play at the 4:19 mark of the video, Ashland is in 11 personnel. Shaheen is tight to the left tackle on the line at the strong side. As the ball is snapped he makes it look like he’s about to engage the left Defensive End in pass protect, but than accelerates past him into his route. Here he runs an out and go route he flattens out along the sidelines in the right flat of the field and gets behind the defense catching the ball in stride for another big play touchdown downfield.
In this video, you see why he got the name baby Gronk. He’s a large man with athleticism and fluidity who can block, catch and run any route you ask of him. So far, he’s been showing he can dominate at the NFL level by being a camp sensation. We have all yet to see what he does against NFL defenses designed to stop him, but from what we have seen so far at this point, it’s pretty clear that he’ll be difference maker in the Bears offenses for years to come.