We’re as unlikely to ever know exactly how much injuries factored in TE Adam Shaheen’s slow development in his first two NFL seasons as we are to know how much the injuries suffered by Shaheen and OLB Leonard Floyd in an exhibition game last August in Denver helped form Matt Nagy’s trailblazing punt-on-preseason philosophy.But we think it’s safe to say that they played at least some part in both.
Shaheen’s tally of 17 career catches is only four more than the 13 combined games that chest, foot/ankle and brain injuries have cost the 45th overall pick in the 2017 draft.
Nagy, believe it or not, last summer played his starters around 35-45 snaps in two preseason games — including Denver — before putting them on ice in the final two weeks after the trip to the Rockies that sent Shaheen to short-term IR and held back Floyd from becoming a difference-maker until only a few games before the big tight end’s Week 11 debut.
What we can expect to learn — and soon — is whether Nagy’s risk-reward calculation in sitting the big tight end and still-unknown NFL quantity for the entirety of this preseason pays dividends.
Count the reigning Coach of the Year among us inquisitive minds.
“I don’t truly know. I don’t know if he knows that,” Nagy said of his Week 1 expectations for Shaheen, who missed three days early in camp with a sore lower back before stacking practices while working with the first- and second-stringers ever since. “We won’t know until we get going. I look at the glass half full, and I always want to try to give everybody the benefit of the doubt. From what I’ve seen in practice, where he’s at, I feel like he’s in a good spot. I don’t feel like we’re in a spot where we have to worry that he can’t help us.”
That sounds at least semi-encouraging — especially regarding a player whose position coach said this spring required time to recalibrate his practice habits in order to go full-tilt rather than worrying about another injury.
Even more encouraging: Shaheen said Monday that he hasn’t felt as good as he does now perhaps since entering the league on the heels of his record-shattering career at DII Ashland University.
“Very, very good. Maybe the best — last year was rough — maybe the best since coming in as a rookie. Somewhere around there. Very excited to get out and play some football,” he said.
Keep in mind, Shaheen only days ago was in attendance for the surreal and shocking Andrew Luck retirement news in Indianapolis, and Tuesday, recently retired TE Rob Gronkowski also emotionally detailed the wrath injuries played in his early NFL exit. Shaheen is only 24, sure, but it’s a positive that he said his excitement hasn’t waned for a game that has been cruel to him over the past few years.
But Bears fans understandably might not share in that excitement to watch Shaheen. It’s not necessarily because they’ve written him off, but because of the burden he’s forced to carry despite no real track record of success, compounded by the fact that there’s even less proven production behind him and starting “U” Trey Burton at a vital position in Nagy’s offense.
Fair or not, Shaheen hasn’t really earned the benefit of the doubt he’s receiving from his head coach, who knows having two formidable tight ends is one of the best advantages he can find as a play caller but with knowlege of only one such asset currently in Burton.
But, as is the case with many aspects of Chicago’s offense entering the season, Shaheen, much like Bears fans, are putting their trust in Nagy.
“I think coaches have done a really good job,” Shaheen said. “We’ve done some different things to keep the guys that haven’t been playing to work us, conditioning wise. Also, just try to make it as game-like as possible … I’ve seen there’s been some injuries already. I think we’ve survived relatively unscathed. Hopefully it pays off for us.”