NFL

Former Chicago Bears TE Ryan Wetnight dies aged 49

By Sports Desk May 02, 2020

Former Chicago Bears tight end Ryan Wetnight died on Friday after a battle with cancer, aged 49.

Wetnight played for the Bears from 1993-99 as an undrafted NFL free agent out of Stanford.

He totaled 172 receptions for 1,522 yards with nine touchdowns in seven seasons with Chicago.  

His best campaign came in 1997, when he had 46 catches for 464 yards and a touchdown. 

Wetnight also appeared in 10 games for the Green Bay Packers in 2000.  

Wetnight underwent treatment for stomach cancer in 2018 and was declared cancer free in January 2019. But doctors discovered an inoperable tumour in his stomach last September. 

He is survived by his wife, Stacey, and sons, Scott and Zach.  

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    Joe Burrow showcased enough in his Ohio homecoming to suggest he has a chance to be the Cincinnati Bengals' saviour at quarterback.

    But, after the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft saw a promising rookie season snuffed out by a serious knee injury, there is as much tension as there is excitement surrounding the Bengals.

    Burrow tore his ACL and his MCL in a Week 11 meeting with the Washington Football Team, the Bengals losing four of their six games with him on the sideline to finish 4-11-1.

    The relatively smooth transition Burrow made to the pros should raise hopes he can be the man to eventually bring success to a franchise that has not won a playoff game since the 1990 season.

    Yet recoveries from injuries as severe as that of Burrow's are far from guaranteed and the holes on a roster that still looks some way from legitimate contention could mean another year of struggle for Cincinnati.

    That may spell trouble for head coach Zac Taylor, who heads into year three as head coach with just six wins to his name.

    What do the Bengals need to do to produce more tangible signs of progress in 2021? 

    We used Stats Perform data to look back on their 2020 and their offseason moves so far to identify areas of focus for the coming year.

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    The set-up in Cincinnati was not conducive to success for a rookie quarterback, and the numbers bore that out in 2020.

    Cincinnati ranked 30th in yards per play with an average of 4.92 while they were 28th in yards per pass play (5.48).

    Yet Burrow's individual numbers from his 10 games suggest he was the right pick for a team that has been nothing short of moribund since their trip to the postseason in 2015.

    Burrow ranked seventh in the NFL in yards per game (268.8) across his 10 appearances for Bengals from Week 1 to 11, with his average impacted by his injury against Washington.

    He had five 300-yard passing games and averaged a poor throw every 13.1 attempts, a better rate than Josh Allen (11.4), Deshaun Watson (11.9) and Lamar Jackson (12.5).

    However, Burrow's numbers as a deep-ball passer were very disappointing. His 23 pass completions of 20 yards or more were two fewer than Dak Prescott, who played only five games, and he completed just eight of his 42 attempts of at least 21 air yards.

    Burrow's passer rating on those throws was 53.9, 26th of 28 quarterbacks with at least 25 such passes.

    He likely would have fared better going downfield had he benefited from greater protection. Burrow was sacked on 7.34 per cent of his dropbacks, the 10th-highest rate among quarterbacks with at least 200 dropbacks.

    But Burrow can have confidence in his receivers. Tee Higgins' 908 receiving yards were the third-most among rookies in 2020 and both he and Tyler Boyd, who had 841 yards, proved dependable options on third down.

    Twelve of Higgins' 14 third-down receptions went for a first down, while Boyd moved the chains on 15 of his 19 third-down catches.

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    Cincinnati's tally of 67 negative plays forced was 30th in the NFL, with the negative play yardage of minus 208 yards the lowest in the league.

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    The Bengals lost their most disruptive pass rusher from last season as edge rusher Carl Lawson departed for the New York Jets in free agency.

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    Jackson had double-digit pass deflections in three of his four seasons with Cincinnati and is coming off a year in which he had a burn percentage in coverage of 46.5, his lowest since his rookie campaign (34.7).

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