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Olsen, Smith see big role ahead in Martz's offense
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/15/2010 11:11 AM

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Brandon Manumaleuna is the kind of massive, tough-blocking tight end that offensive coordinator Mike Martz wanted, so the Bears obtained him in free agency.

Greg Olsen is the tight end the Bears drafted in the first round in 2007 with the idea of making him one of the centerpieces of the offense. To that end, Olsen's receptions have increased from 39 to 54 to 60, and his receiving yards from 391 to 574 to 612. His TDs have risen from 2 to 5 to 8.

But tight end has not been a staple of Martz's passing offense, so it remains to be seen if Olsen's numbers will increase or if his role as a pass catcher diminishes. Because of the speculation, Olsen felt compelled to refute speculation he wants out of Chicago.

"So far I have a great feeling about my role," Olsen said in a post to his Twitter account last week. "I have no desire to play anywhere but in Chicago."

That seems to be the intention of Bears coach Lovie Smith, too.

"He's going to be a highly productive guy in any offense," Smith says. "He's faster than most tight ends out there. He can block the way most other tight ends can, but in the passing game he is a step ahead. He can be successful in this offense; not can, will; he will be successful in this offense. He's a competitor. He's going to find a way. His role has increased as far as us going to him every year. I don't see that changing."

But, remember, it's not Smith's offense, it's Martz's. And Smith's characterization of Olsen's blocking acumen is wishful thinking at this point.

Olsen has WR-type receiving skills with soft hands and good speed for a tight end, but he has not shown much after-the-catch ability. He is a legitimate weapon in the red zone, but Olsen is not the type of blocker that Martz utilizes.

Manumaleuna, who previously played for Martz with the Rams, is like having another offensive lineman on the field. He can seal the end on run plays and protect the quarterback, but he does not figure to contribute much as a receiver, except as an occasional safety valve. He had just 5 catches for 13 yards last year.

Age and injuries seemed to catch up to Desmond Clark last year in his 11th NFL season. He caught just 19 passes, the first time in four years he had less than 40. Clark has provided a solid presence as a blocker and a receiver, but he turns 33 next week and may be the odd man out.

Six-foot-7, 262-pound Kellen Davis has all the physical skills to be an all-around tight end, but he has not progressed much since being drafted in the fifth round in 2008, although 3 of his 9 receptions last season were TDs.