Thursday football starts tonight with the Chicago Bears at the Green Bay Packers. I may not have NFL Network (thanks, Time Warner Cable!), but you may. If you do, you'll see the Bears' secret weapon on offense. That would be fourth-round pick Evan Rodriguez.
Rodriguez could be the versatile weapon for the Bears that Chris Cooley was for some many years for the Redskins. At Temple, Rodriguez was primarily a pass-catching tight end. But he also lined up at H-back, in the wing and in the slot.
When Rodriguez was drafted, Bears general manager Phil Emery cited the Temple product as a "move tight end," with an emphasis on being a fullback and receiving tight end. In Chicago's first game, Rodriguez didn't register on the stat sheet, but he made a difference.
In the first quarter, Rodriguez executed a cut block on the Colts' Tom Zbikowski. The open field block helped spring running back Matt Forte to a 32-yard run. On a Michael Bush touchdown run later in the drive, Rodriguez laid a key block again on Zbikowski, opening a hole for Bush.
Rodriguez also helped the Bears close out the game. As the fourth quarter close, the Bears only had to run out the clock for a win. On a pass play, Rodriguez was lined up offset of Forte. Rodriguez picked up a blitz by lineback Kavell Connor. That allowed quarterback Jay Cutler to step into the pocket and complete a touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery, another rookie.
Speaking of Jeffery, he had three interceptions for 80 yards and a score in Week 1. He could be in for another good week. The Packers only gave up 191 yards, but that was to Alex Smith and the run-heavy 49ers. The Packers' Tramon Williams will be busy with the Bears' Brandon Marshall. That should leave Jeffery to being Cutler's first read on many plays. If he does, look for Rodriguez making more critical blocks.