The tight end is one of the most difficult positions to learn in the NFL. Rookies who have an instant impact on their teams, like Kyle Pitts in Atlanta, are exceptions to the rule. So when Cole Kmet wrapped up his rookie campaign, which began without a traditional training camp due to COVID-19, with just 28 catches for 243 yards and two touchdowns, it wasn’t surprising. However, what has come as a surprise to some is that Kmet has also had a slow start to the season.
It’s clear that Kmet has grown this season, but so far it hasn’t been as much as some fans had hoped. Midway through the season, Kmet has already surpassed his yardage tally from last year and is tied with 28 catches. But he was excluded from the end zone. It has also been a tough start to the year, as Kmet only racked up 81 yards of 10 catches in the first five games.
Tight ends coach Clancy Barrone believes, however, that some of the factors that led to Kmet’s slow start were beyond his control.
“A big part of this growth process is putting time into the task with the same quarterback,” Barrone said. “It’s 一 and it’s for a lot of people in this attack – it’s their fourth starting quarterback in about 20 weeks … It’s also an important part, trying to get that chemistry between the tight end and quarterback and that’s really true for all of them, not just Cole.
And as Kmet has started to develop a certain chemistry with Justin Fields, he seems to have passed a milestone, with 203 yards of 18 catches in the Bears’ last four games. Outside of production and chemicals, Barrone says he’s noticed another difference with Kmet recently in the field.
“I think his confidence is obvious,” Barrone said. “You watch his confidence as a road racer and his perception of offense and knowing which roads should be open versus what coverages and how to adjust certain roads for certain coverages and that sort of thing. With that, I think he grew a lot.
That growth paid off the most in Week 9 against the Steelers when Kmet set a career-high 87 yards.
“We definitely hope this is something we can build on,” Barrone said.
Kmet will have a great opportunity to build on his success against the Steelers coming off the bye, when the Bears face the Ravens. The Baltimore defense was one of the worst teams to defend on tight ends, already giving up two 100-yard games and six total TDs on tight ends.
If Kmet can continue their uptrend, that will go a long way in helping the Bears’ offense improve as a whole in the second half of the season.