Bears Reserves Called Upon as Trubisky Targets

Jesper Horsted and Riley Ridley could take on bigger roles for the Bears Thursday at Ford Field against the Detroit Lions, but using inexperienced players could shackle the offense.
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Tight end Jesper Horsted and wide receiver Riley Ridley could be through toiling in obscurity.

The Bears simply have to hope both are toiling in the end zone come Thursday at Ford Field, considering the offense's troubles scoring.

Concussions to tight end Ben Braunecker and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel mean roles for Horsted and possibly Ridley against the Lions.

"They've been around in training camp and stuff so we've got a good chemistry with those guys," Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. "But it's got to be an exciting opportunity for those guys to step up and see their first action. So I know they're excited.

"They've been working their tails off in practice. Injuries are one of those things, you've just got to deal with it. Next-man-up mentality and when that guy steps in you've just got to believe that they're going to be on the same page with you and get those reps in practice and hopefully it translates to the game."

Horsted actually got on the field for four plays on offense and caught a 4-yard toss last week, but the Bears still had Braunecker playing then. Now, without him, the role should increase.

"It was good to get the rust off and get the nerves off a little bit," Horsted said.

Normally the U-tight end position Horsted plays is vital in the Bears offense but with Trey Burton on injured reserve and now Braunecker down, it's going to mean trying to incorporate within the attack a player who was a wide receiver last year at Princeton. This type of personnel move could inhibit the game plan.

"I don’t know if it inhibits play calling, it just inhibits certain things," offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. "Just like, if, hey you're down to two backs this week, you're not going to be in a three-halfback alignment. And just knowing that if, hey, somebody's shoelace breaks, you have to run in there and know what to do. You just have to have that next guy ready to go."

Horsted said he knows what to do because Braunecker helped mentor him, but it's still a big jump from Ivy League wide receiver to blocking at tight end.

"They put me in good positions because there's certain stuff they could do that I would feel less comfortable in but they did a good job of doing stuff that I'm pretty familiar with because I've been practicing a lot," Horsted said. "So at this point they know what my talents are and they're putting me in position to succeed."

It definitely is a different position for Horsted.

"It's like different body position, so starting in that three-point stance is different for running routes and for blocking," Horsted said. "I would say also it's just all kind of new. So it takes time just to get adjusted to it and to learn what's good and what's bad in the position."

The Bears had seven tight ends on their roster, counting the practice squad. Now with Adam Shaheen's foot still hurting and the injuries to Braunecker and Burton, they're left with Bradley Sowell, Horsted and former Redskin J.P. Holtz. They also have Dax Raymond on the practice squad.

"We all kind of joked about it at the beginning of the season and the middle of the season how many tight ends we've had," coach Matt Nagy said. "It's come to help us here a little bit to at least get through and see where some of these guys are at.

"It also gives a guy like Horsted a chance to see what he can do. It presents some opportunities for some."

Ridley is a total mystery. The fourth-round draft pick from Georgia has been on the 53-man roster all season but hasn't been active yet for a game.

Without Gabriel, the Bears still have Javon Wims to fill in but could use Ridley in case they want to go to four- or five-receiver sets.

"so where I've seen him grow the most is with patience," Nagy said. "It's hard, these kids come from these big programs that are successful, the big fish in the small pond, and it kind of flips on them.

"But he's been a true pro. He's trying to learn every day after practice. He takes advice. Very patient. I know it's killing him, because he wants to be out there. With Taylor here up in the air, we'll see what kind of chance this gives Riley."

It wouldn't be a shock if Gabriel's concussion takes him out of the lineup for more than this game. He already suffered one concussion earlier this season against Washington.

"You know, any time you deal with the word concussion it's always a concern," Nagy said. "When you deal with multiples, you just hope that these guys are OK. It is a violent game.

"You want to make sure that, whatever you're doing, you're putting the player (in position) that they're taken care of health-wise."