What do we know about Evan Rodriguez? We know the Bears drafted him fairly high. We know he is a tweener who is supposed to be an added piece to an explosive offense, but what else?
The rookie out of Temple has been compared to Aaron Hernandez and is supposed to give the offense flexibility and offensive depth. He has had a solid preseason and camp, but then again we haven't seen too much. This has been most likely out of design by the Bears, because they want his offensive package to be a surprise.
Still there is a good amount of what we know and what we have seen so far. At this point we can start to forecast what kind of player Rodriguez will be by knowing these five things about him.
Everybody has a past, and every now and then it comes up. Evan Rodriguez has been in trouble twice during his college career, and while it may not be a huge red flag anymore, it still raises some questions.
During his tenure at West Virginia in 2008, Rodriguez was kicked off the team after he had a felony assault charge against him. He allegedly grabbed a female resident hall adviser, pushed her into the wall and twisted her arm. The charges were eventually reduced to a misdemeanor.
In 2009, Rodriguez was arrested for disorderly conduct while at Temple. Since then he hasn't gotten into any trouble but best believe his past is on the minds of Lovie Smith and Phil Emery as he gets settled in to a big city like Chicago.
Although Rodriguez is on the small side for a tight end, but he still is a big guy. He is also a big guy with good speed. Listed at 6'2'', 244 pounds, he clocks in right around 4.56 seconds in his 40 time.
Speed like that allows him the ability to beat most linebackers or safeties in coverage. Figure Rodriguez to be a tough matchup for somebody to pick him up out the backfield or even if he lines up in the slot against a linebacker.
Where you might see his speed come into play the most is after the catch. Rodriguez has the ability to gain big chunks of yards as it will take time for teams to pick him up as he runs through the secondary. While other team's will be worried about the Bears' receivers and backs, Rodriguez will sneak up on plenty of defenses with his good speed.
Evan Rodriguez and Mike Tice
Evan Rodriguez is not a blocking tight end. If he is lined up in the backfield don't expect him to block for Matt Forte either. While he has a wide array of skills, blocking is not one of them.
For a tight end, he is undersized and will undoubtedly get pushed around by defensive players who make a living on the line of scrimmage. The furthest extent of his blocking will be in some pass blocking situations or the occasional bubble screen.
Don't expect Rodriguez to be an all-around tight end. His job is to get open, catch the football and make plays. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice will utilize him in that role and leave the heavy lifting to the other tight ends.
What could possibly be the biggest surprise of Rodriguez's game this preseason and training camp is his ability on special teams. He has been good. Real good.
With combination of speed and size, Rodriguez has been able to use that to his advantage on special teams. On the coverage teams he has been one of the first couple of guys down the field to cover a kick consistently this preseason. As he learns the role more under the tutelage of Dave Toub, he will only get better in lane discipline and tackling.
The Bears drafted him in the fourth round for his offensive ability, but his ability and awareness on special teams are welcomed bonuses they will take advantage of.
Now down to the important stuff—what he was drafted for and what is going to keep him in the NFL for years to come. Evan Rodriguez can catch. His catching skills should be compared more to a wide receiver rather than a tight end.
Rodriguez displays soft hands as he guides the football in. He has a terrific ability to go adjust his body in the air to make difficult catches. His routes are smooth, and he always makes sure he is in the right position to catch the football.
There is an art to being a great receiver. It takes a natural ability to be able to seal off defenders and see the ball all the way through. Rodriguez has that ability. It was the reason why he was drafted, and it will be the reason why he sees playing time.