Friday, July 29, 2011

Greg Olsen Trade to Panthers Hardly a Reason for Angelo Bashing

tommie-hunter-nuccio.jpg (620×389)
The arms are cocked and the stoning of Bears general manager Jerry Angelo is about to commence following the trade of tight end Greg Olsen to Carolina.
Mine is one arm which won't be lifted -- at least not for the loss of Olsen.
In four Bears seasons, Olsen showed he can catch a pass and sometimes gain yardage after the toss provided no one touches him. 
Last year he had one catch longer than 25 yards until the playoff game-starting TD bomb he caught against Seattle.
For every big game Olsen had in Chicago, there was a game like the 2008 loss at Carolina when he lost two fumbles (caused by current Bears safety Chris Harris). 
Olsen never really fit the true tight end mold as defined by Chicago tradition or even the NFL in general. Tight ends are supposed to gain tough yards after contact, like Mike Ditka. Olsen usually went down with the first tackle attempt, as average catches between 10.6 and 9.9 yards in each of his four seasons indicate.
Each of the last three seasons at training camp I wrote about how Olsen thought he had improved as a blocker, his teammates -- particularly tight end Desmond Clark -- thought he had improved as a blocker, and how coaches thought he was now a better blocker. And each season his lack of blocking ability became an issue. 
A scout very familiar with the Bears at one game last year laughed at my suggestion Olsen had become a better blocker. "Better than what? A wide receiver?" was his retort.
This was not a Chicago-tough tight end. In fact, the offense under Ron Turner actually seemed to flow better when Desmond Clark was the starting tight end.
The argument can be made that Olsen never got the chance to show what he really could do in Chicago because of the Bears' offensive scheme. Certainly Mike Martz doesn't know what to do with a tight end any more than he knows how to develop a running game. 
However, the West Coast attack former coordinator Ron Turner used was made for a tight end like Olsen. And although he caught 153 passes in three seasons in this attack, Olsen never really rocked opposing defenses the way top tight ends like Jason Witten, Todd Heap, Antonio Gates, or Jermichael Finley, have. 
Olsen had a reputation for being a good red zone receiver. Yet only two teams had worse scoring percentages in the red zone than the Bears last year with Olsen. So what can they lose by dealing him?
It's hard to believe that the offense can be worse scoring points in the red zone with Matt Spaeth blocking near the goal line.
A year ago the Bears couldn't get a second-round pick from the Patriots when Olsen was available, so they kept him. So they got an extra season out of him, got a third-rounder for him, and avoided paying out a lot of money -- cash which can now be spent for Matt Forte's new deal -- on a player they showed they can't use and who hasn't really impressed anyone as being special.
Oh, Olsen will probably go on and make a ton of catches for a 4-12 or 3-13 Carolina team this season because they'll be trailing and throwing every down. Maybe he'll even come back to haunt the Bears in Soldier Field when the Panthers come to Chicago Oct. 2. 
More likely, he'll get many catches on plays that end after he's hit once.

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