Not too long ago the Bears Tight End group was considered a weakness of the team. Mainly due to the uncertainty of Zach Miller after he had undergone his second career repair of the very same Lisfranc ligament. There was also the unknown of young but promising players such as Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker, and MyCole Pruitt. You can see why most were pretty underwhelmed by the prospects of that group so the Bears made it a goal to get that group shored up.
First move they made was adding free agent veteran, Dion Sims via the Miami Dolphins before also drafting Adam Shaheen in the second round of the 2017 draft. The Sims signing makes sense as he played under Bears former Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase so system familiarity was a big plus, as well as his blocking and the fact he seems to be ascending as a pass catcher too. Still, most so called experts were underwhelmed at the time of the signing except for the few.
Well, fast forward to the present and suddenly the same so called experts are now deeming the Tight End group as a deep talented group and a team strength after watching a few camp practices. A big reason for this is because of Dion Sims. He’s a very big man who moves well, has soft hands and deceptive speed to threaten the seam. Everyone already knows about his blocking ability.
Sims is a player you can leave in for 3 downs without tipping your hand on whether on whether or not it’s a run or pass play. There also is the fact the Bears will run a lot of two Tight End sets and maybe even their fair share of heavy personnel sets with three Tight End sets. My film study section should offer plenty of insight to how Sims will be used as the Gase offense and the Loggains offense are very similar. Both contour their systems according to their personnel and run a hybrid system with elements of Air Coryell (mostly Martz variant), Erhardt-Perkins, and the West Coast offense. So versatility is the name of the game with both systems. I’ll be analyzing his pass catching and stay away from his blocking as we all know that part of his game is sufficient.
The first play I’m going to highlight is against the New England Patriots in a 2016 week 2 contest. The balls on the Dolphins 37 yard line on a first and ten with 0:26 left in the first half. Miami’s in 11 personnel (1 RB/1 TE) with Sims to the right of the formation and two Wide receivers to his right in a stack look. The other Wide Receiver is on the left as the flanker (Z) receiver and the running back at the Quarterbacks left hip in shotgun formation. Sims is set up with his hands on his knees as though he’s about to block the Edge rusher to his side.
At the snap, he releases out of his stance into a pattern and is picked up by the nickel back who is five yards off playing outside leverage. Simms sees this and runs up the seam than about 4 yards into his pattern goes into an in breaking crossing route into the left flat. The Flanker runs the same pattern underneath Sims route as they cross each other in the middle of the field. Likely a rub concept but Sims’ man was well up the field and not affected by the play, but this allows Sims to front him and give him an unobstructed pass with the Nickel Corner in trail technique. Had the corner played inside leverage and undercut the route the Flanker would have essentially screened Sims’ man.
The pattern’s timing is nearly disputed as the inside cornerback gives the split end (X) receiver a jolting chuck at the line of scrimmage and shoves him into Sims, but Sims shows good balance and strength to have him bounce right off without breaking stride. Sims catches the ball 16 yards into the flat and carries the trailing defender for five more yards for a 21 yard gain. Here, you see his fluidity and speed as well as his hands as he snatches the high pass right out of the air without breaking stride. Expect to see these types of combo/rub routes in various forms out of various formations and personnel groupings.
On the next play, the Dolphins are playing the Cleveland Browns in week 3. The situation is 3rd and 24 at the 2:28 mark of the 2nd quarter. The ball is on the Browns 31 yard line. The Dolphins are in 01 personnel (0 RB/1 TE) with Sims to the left of the formation on the Left Tackles shoulder in a three point stance. At the snap, he runs up the seam 10 yards on a curl route and turns for the ball, catches it, and turns up field and gets physically tackled for two more yards. While this play wasn’t a special one nor did it yield special results as it pretty much meant the Dolphins would have to settle for a field goal, it is a route you can expect to see a lot of from Sims. Most of them on third downs looking to convert and move the chains. Here, Tannehill just took the yardage for a closer field goal attempt.
The next play is going to be from the same week 3 game against the Browns now in overtime with the Dolphins on their 22-yard line on a first and ten. The Dolphins are in 11 personnel with two Wide Receivers to the right of the formation and Sims on the same side a yard off the line of scrimmage offset from the Right Tackle. The other Wide Receiver (X) is to the left of the formation with the running back directly behind the quarterback about five yards back with Tannehill under center.
Sims then motions from right to left and settles for a split second to the left of the tackle. At the snap Tannehill runs a play action fake to the running back in a misdirection play while Simms runs across from left to right just behind the line of scrimmage. Tannehill then rolls out to his right with misdirection to the left and hits Sims streaking into the right flat just beyond the line of scrimmage in stride as Sims turns up field towards the right sideline breaking a tackle from a pursuing linebacker and for another 5 yards before sprawling out of bounds. A very imaginative play that had Sims wide open against a fooled and confused defense for a huge 18 yard gain. Again, Sims shows off his excellent athleticism and hands on this play.
The one thing the Bears have on their roster is athletic tight ends who are willing and for the most part effective blockers. This will go a long way into keeping the defense guessing on run or pass as well as having to stay honest and not being able to overload on one side of the field or on one aspect of the offense as in stacking the box or flooding the zone with defensive backs. This along with an effective running game should aid the wide receivers in getting favorable one on one matchups on the outside. If the Bears can get just competent and consistent quarterback play this offense can not only be surprisingly good but perhaps even dynamic with the infusion of new playmakers like Dion Sims.