Chicago Bears wide receiver Tajae Sharpe did exactly what bubble players are supposed to in the preseason. The veteran journeyman is trying to latch on with a receiver-needy Bears team, and with injuries to Byron Pringle and Velus Jones Jr., Sharpe took advantage of his reps with the starters Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Sharpe led all Bears receivers with two catches for 44 yards, including this ridiculous grab along the sideline on a perfectly placed ball by quarterback Justin Fields:
“Just kind of gave him a signal out there and threw the ball up one-on-one,” Fields said of the pass to Sharpe. “Of course, preseason, you’re going to see a lot of man coverage, so just gave him a shot, and he came down with it. He’s a great receiver, has great ball skills, has great routes, so I’m excited to see what he does for us this season for sure.”
Did you catch the last part of what Fields said? He officially endorsed Tajae Sharpe as a final roster guy; as one of his targets for the 2022 season. And while Fields doesn’t have a formal role in deciding who makes the team, if Sharpe is one of his preferred targets, you can bet on No. 88 being on the opening-day squad.
The analytics support Fields’ praise. According to Pro Football Focus, Sharpe had the highest grade of all Bears players in Week 1’s preseason game. In fact, Sharpe’s 93.3 grade was an elite mark for a player who once looked like a long-term starter for the Tennessee Titans during his rookie season.
To be fair, Sharpe’s grade was the result of a limited sample size. He only played 16 snaps, 11 of which were passing plays. He struggled as a run blocker, scoring a 59.0 in that department. Darnell Mooney, by comparison, scored an 80.7 in the run game.
Tajae Sharpe signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears after playing the 2021 season with the Atlanta Falcons. He totaled 25 catches for 230 yards and zero touchdowns last year. His best season came in 2016 when he registered 41 catches for 522 yards and two scores.
Despite his inability to latch on as a consistent starter in the NFL, there’s confidence in what Sharpe will bring to the Bears in 2022.
“I think Tajae is a lot like Darnell where he can adjust to balls thrown at him and stuff like that,” Fields said. “Of course he has that savviness off the ball, and then of course he’s probably two or three inches bigger than Darnell, too. He has a good range. He has great hands, like I said before, great ball skills. Like I said before, I’m excited to see what he can do for us this year.”