Chicago Bears Don't Have Many Options with Evan Rodriguez

Andrew Dannehy@@ADannChiBearsCorrespondent IJune 7, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 02:  Evan Rodriguez #48 of the Chicago Bears runs onto the field during player introductions before a game against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on December 2, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Seahawks defeated the Bears 23-17 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Evan Rodriguez's second arrest of the offseason should put his future with the Chicago Bears in jeopardy, but the team isn't left with a lot of options.

By now, most Bears fans know Rodriguez's story. He had issues with the law in college, was arrested in March and then arrested again earlier this month for driving under the influence.

Some—such as ESPN's Kevin Seifert—have speculated the Bears may be moving on from Rodriguez. Ultimately, they may not have a choice but to stick with him.

It's important to note that Rodriguez was cleared after his first arrest. It's become popular to say he made two mistakes this offseason, but if he was cleared of all wrong in the first one, it appears it was someone else's error.

However, there's no excuse for getting arrested again less than two months later.

Bears general manager Phil Emery has used the word "disappointed" more than he would like about his 2012 fourth-round draft choice, but he doesn't have many other options.

A few weeks ago, I went over the unique skill set that Rodriguez brings to the Bears and how they could get the most out of him.

He's already proven to be a very good blocker, but his speed and ability to catch the ball are what make him an asset to the Bears.

Those are skills that Matt Forte indicated the Bears are going to use this year. In an interview on the team website, Forte specifically mentioned the fact that fullbacks will be running more routes in the passing game this year.

Fullbacks who can block effectively and make an impact as a receiver are simply hard to find.

Rodriguez is the only fullback listed on the Bears roster. Kyle Adams has played there some in the past and is likely going to be Rodriguez's backup at the position. Adams doesn't have quite the build teams look for in fullbacks and isn't nearly as athletic as Rodriguez.

The rest of the tight ends on the Bears roster appear to be limited to that position. Perhaps Gabe Miller could become an H-back, but he has issues of his own.

The Bears have a couple big halfbacks in Michael Bush and Harvey Unga, but their ability to block is an unknown. With Bush, especially, it is an option they could explore in order to get their best players on the field.

There isn't much left on the free-agent market.

There are some guys who are capable blockers but don't offer anything in the passing game. There are also players who—like Rodriguez—were H-backs in college and fullbacks in the NFL, but they haven't stuck with NFL teams.

The Bears could move some players on their own roster or bring in a free agent, but it seems highly unlikely that they'll find a player with the same—or even similar—skills as Rodriguez. Rodriguez was taken in the fourth round for a reason. He has talent, and that will always be the key ingredient to winning in the NFL.

The next option would be to change personnel groupings so a fullback isn't as involved in the offense, but there are problems with that as well.

The Bears seem to want to run the ball, and the best way to do that would be with a bigger package—either one tight end and one fullback, or two tight ends. However, in order to run an effective offense, they have to keep the defense guessing by being able to pass out of those formations.

Chicago doesn't have much versatility at the tight end position outside of Martellus Bennett. This is another spot where Adams could help, but he hasn't been effective in the past.

Steve Maneri and Brody Eldridge are strictly blockers, who offer just about nothing in the passing game. They are essentially Matt Spaeth clones, only worse.

Nearly every Bears fan is excited about Fendi Onobun, but he's struggled to catch on just as a receiving tight end, so it seems unlikely the Bears would ask him to block much, or that he'd be able to do it well. 

Should the Bears use more three-wide-receiver sets with one tight end, it will be more difficult to run, especially with a questionable offensive line. The Bears also lack depth at receiver. Should they suffer an injury there, it would be hard to go three-wide very often.

While we're still mostly in the dark about the Bears' plans, the fact that they've made an effort to involve the fullback position in the passing game directly reflects on what the coaching staff thinks of Rodriguez.

Rodriguez made a big mistake. There's no denying it. He'll be punished by the league and almost certainly by the team. 

At the end of the day, it's a mistake Rodriguez and the Bears will both likely have to live with. 


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