Nov 11, 2021

11/11/21: After 25 games, what do the Bears have in Cole Kmet?

11/11/21: After 25 games, what do the Bears have in Cole Kmet?
(USA Today Sports)

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Happy Veteran's Day to those of my readers who have served. 🇺🇸

Also: Since it's the 11th day of the 11th month, a happy day to Jeff Shantz, Luis Aparicio, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin White and Don Kessinger.

Wednesday's results
Bulls 117, Mavericks 107
DePaul 97, Coppin State 72
NIU 30, Ball State 29

Tonight's schedule
No games

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Taking stock of Cole Kmet so far

By Brendan Sugrue

Now that the majority of the fanbase is all in on Justin Fields, is it safe to say the most polarizing draft pick still on the team is Cole Kmet?

It sounds odd, but Kmet seems to have quite a few supporters who see his potential as his role in the offense continues to grow.

Others, however, don't feel he's athletic enough to be a star tight end in this league.

So we ask the question: After 25 games in the NFL, who exactly is Cole Kmet?

The tl;dr version: Kmet is a big target in the passing game who is hard to bring down, a solid blocker, and someone who is finally coming into his own.

Kmet was the Bears' top draft choice in 2020, selected in the second round of last year's draft out of Notre Dame. At the time, Ryan Pace decided to draft for need rather than best player available as the tight end position was in shambles after the 2019 season.

Pace likely reached for Kmet and passed up players like wide receiver Chase Claypool and safety Antoine Winfield, but he saw a need that he thought the local kid could fill. Kmet struggled to get going for much of his rookie season, but came on strong over the last five games, providing a glimpse of what could be coming in the future. He finished the year with 28 catches for 284 yards and three touchdowns.

But even with his late production, Kmet had his detractors coming into 2021.

Some analysts believe Kmet lacks the ability to create separation and isn't athletic enough to be an effective receiving threat in the passing game. Those criticisms aren't totally outlandish as Kmet plays more of the "Y" tight end — someone who can block and run shorter routes to move the chains.

"U" tight ends, such as Jimmy Graham, are more often than not split out wide and used as receivers downfield. Kmet's role made him an easy target for criticism.

This summer, I took a look at various tight ends drafted over the last five years or so and how their second seasons in the league compared with their first.

In short, if you took the average increase from the 12 top-tier tight ends listed in the article and applied it to Kmet before the season, it predicted he would have around 72 targets and 47 catches for 497 yards and three touchdowns.

Halfway through this season, Kmet is on pace for 81 targets, 51 catches and 527 yards. He hasn't yet scored a touchdown this year, but Kmet has already matched or exceeded his other rookie totals. He's also getting downfield more, nearly doubling his yards before catch from his rookie year (6.8 in 2021 compared to 3.8 in 2020).

Now, let's add in the Fields factor.

The rookie quarterback is building a connection with his young receivers, namely Kmet and Darnell Mooney. Fields appears comfortable finding Kmet in the middle of the field, whether it's running free past the linebackers or double covered on a curl route. The ball finds its way to Kmet and somehow gets caught in heavy traffic as a safety net. The two players have a chemistry and they even said it out loud in a moment that went viral following Monday's 29-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Putting the "bro" talk aside, you can see the chemistry on the field. Kmet had a career-high 87 yards receiving during Fields' best game of his young career. If the quarterback is going to be successful, it will be in no small part due to Kmet's ability in the passing game.

And let's also not forget his role as a blocker, where he's been superb for much of the season, both in run and pass-blocking situations.

What can Kmet improve?  He still isn't the smoothest runner and he needs to be more involved in the red zone. But you have to be encouraged by what the sophomore tight end is doing all over the field. He's making the grade so far and his arrow is definitely pointing up.

Bulls: How fun is this team right now?

Five players scored in double-digits and the Bulls knocked down 15 three-pointers in a controlling 117-107 win over Dallas.

  • Lonzo Ball had his best game as a Bull, hitting 7-of-10 three-pointers for a 21-point night and keeping a lid on Luka Doncic (20 points on 6-of-18 shooting including 1-of-6 from three.)
  • Alex Caruso, Nikola Vucevic and Ball played tic-tac-toe before Zach LaVine dropped a 360-degree exclamation point (above) — as well as some expletives that earned him a T.
  • The Bulls are 8-3 and are tied for the best record in the East with the Wizards. (Hey, another team that's benefitting from the Lakers' poor offseason decisions!)

Next: The Bulls kick off a five games in eight days road trip with a Friday night date against Steph Curry and Golden State. The Warriors are 10-1.

NIU: Huskies hold on in wild finish against Ball State

No B.S. taunting penalties here. NIU kicker John Richardson drilled a 32-yard FG with no time left to give the Huskies a 30-29 win over Ball State in Wednesday night MACtion.

  • The game featured three lead changes in the final three minutes and moved the Huskies to 7-3. They own a one-game lead over Central Michigan in the West with two to play.

1. Alex Caruso went on JJ Redick's podcast and talked about how the Lakers' lowball offer ended up with him in Chicago. Pro Basketball Talk

2. Rick Morrissey says we need a long break from both Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Sun-Times

3. RIP to Clyde Emrich, the Bears' strength coach since 1971 and the team's longest-tenured full-time employee. Chicago Bears

4. Mario Tirabassi on how the Hawks should handle bringing Lukas Reichel up from Rockford. Bleacher Nation

5. I don't even want to know what this 72-pound carp was eating in the Humboldt Park lagoon before it was caught over the weekend.  Sun-Times

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