I am an optimistic person by nature, often catching myself daydreaming. It all started post-draft and I had a chance to watch ample film on the draft picks and see what they could bring to the table. The assertion that Ryan Pace is trying to bring his version of the Saints offense to Chicago was obvious.
The thing is, these players have different skill-sets than their counterparts in New Orleans, well perhaps not Tarik Cohen. The offensive talent is raw but certainly intriguing. I would even go so far as to say that, when healthy, the collection of skill players on the Bears roster is as balanced and deep as any team in the NFL.
Please do not misinterpret what I am saying as the Bears roster is the best or the Bears offense is the best, that is not what I am saying. How many teams can boast the offensive line that the Bears have, notably the interior? How many teams have a 1-2 punch like Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, with a backup like Benny Cunningham? How many teams have 2 massive, athletic bodies at tight end AND 2 tall, agile and fast h-backs?
Ah but the weakness is the wide receivers, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s time to view Kevin White in a different light. It seems obvious that he struggles with routes and getting open, but what if you used his size in situations where size is required? Red zone, third downs, etc. He is a really good blocker, there is a good football player there, even if it looks different than how we wanted it to.
Most of us would agree that Cameron Meredith is poised for yet a further breakout and I fully support this notion. My belief is he has one last hurdle to overcome and that is to have supreme confidence in himself to be able to win every jam, every jump ball, every off-target pass. Every. Single. Time. Then, and only then, will he become a top receiver, until then, he will be very good but never reach his true potential. I am betting on this happening at some point this season.
The rest of the receivers are likely new to us. But as I have mentioned in previous posts, the Dowell Loggains offense tends to favor the slot position and underneath routes. Should both Kendall Wright and Victor Cruz make the team, those are two very solid options in the slot. Markus Wheaton is an x-factor for me. He brings the straight line speed that nobody else in the receiver room does.
Again, I didn’t say best, I said balanced and deep. These might not be huge names or top-10 players, but they are solid or better and when you have this many of them, you can win. My personal offensive philosophy is to spread the ball out and use as many of your weapons as possible. Gaining favorable match-ups by having a toolbox full of tools with varying skill sets. A tool for every job, if you will.
Based on what I have seen so far from Loggains’ offense, or Adam Gase before him, he has a similar philosophy. Being able to come out in 2-back or 3-tight end or 5-wide formations and have viable options is a boon for any play caller. We saw just a small taste of that Thursday night. But this isn’t about what the offense is going to look like when Mike Glennon steps on the field September 9. No, this is about what the offense looks like when the inevitable happens, when Mitchell Trubisky takes over...
First, let’s make a few assumptions about some players based on what we have seen so far. We all know who the offensive lineman are going to be, and frankly, they don’t factor into this conversation anyway. We are assuming that they stay relatively healthy and do their job.
I am assuming a backfield of Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen and Benny Cunningham. Tight ends Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen, Zach Miller and Daniel Brown. Wide receivers Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, Victor Cruz, Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright (The 6th receiver likely isn’t going to make much impact on offense as this is mainly a special teams position).
In my opinion, that is a pretty impressive group of talent and that doesn’t even account for the player who brings it all together. The player who has the most natural talent of any of these players. The player who is responsible for managing these particular skill sets. The quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky.
We don’t have a lot to go off of besides an outstanding debut performance. However, if you look back at the college tape, you see the same things you saw Thursday night. The athleticism, the arm strength, the accuracy, the ability to throw on the run, the play-fake ability and perhaps most importantly, the ability to spread the ball around.
This is where the offense gets exciting for me. We know that the offensive line can run block and protect. We know that Jordan Howard is an animal and can shoulder the load. How many rookie quarterbacks, heck, how many quarterbacks period can boast those two crucial ingredients to a well balanced offense?
So what can we expect to see once the inevitable happens? Well I think we will see a lot of the power running game that we saw last year but with a sprinkle of Tarik Cohen mixed in. Cohen’s ability to outrun defenders, slither out of tackles and catch passes is what brings the short game to another dimension. All of Howard’s shortcomings have seemingly been thrown right into the bowl of chicken salad that is Tarik Cohen.
We also saw what Cunningham brings to the table. A lesser combination of Howard and Cohen, but can be the perfect third-down back. Cohen as the joker back will likely be lined up at various spots around the formation. There is an awful lot you can do with these three, especially if there are 2-back sets in the playbook.
The strength of the passing game, at least on paper, is the tight end group. We already saw, on the very first play of the game last Thursday, a 3-tight end formation. Sims, Shaheen and Miller all checked into the game on first down. I think this is going to be a popular formation for the Bears this year. But what makes this especially dangerous is the fact that all of the tight ends can catch and run.
If this offense wants to run at its peak efficiency, they must take advantage of this. While 3-tight end formations are typically running formations, there are a number of possibilities in the passing game as well. We have already seen that Loggains is going to use the boot game a lot with Trubisky. So running play-action from a 3-tight end set, should be like taking candy from a baby, especially when you have to respect Howard and Cohen in the backfield.
That brings us to the receiver group. This appears, on paper, to be the least talented position group on offense. However, it also is the group that has the least amount of pressure on them of any of the position groups. With the talent of the backs, tight ends and the running ability of Trubisky, I feel that many defenses will choose to play the Bears tight. Meaning, they will likely have eight in the box, bringing in extra defenders and running coverages to muddy up the middle of the field.
This is where the receivers should be able to contribute. Easy completions on wide receiver screens against a heavy box, should result in positive gains and should be considered as a way to supplement the running game. I would expect to see 5-7 of these per game, if not more if the running game is struggling.
Dowell Loggains also likes to run a lot of “rub” plays, where he uses crossing routes to free up a receiver. Generally, these are not long routes but they do have the potential to turn into huge gains if the defenders are focusing on the run.
Trubisky has also shown deft touch on deep balls from what I have seen. This is where the speed of a Markus Wheaton and the jump ball abilities of Cameron Meredith and Kevin White will really benefit this offense. The play-action game should be really strong for the Bears. Generally speaking, the most effective deep passing game is off of play-action. I don’t think it will out of the realm of possibility to think that Loggains would take 3-5 deep shots per game.
The part of Trubisky’s game that might be the most overlooked is his running ability. I hate to say this but it truly is a complement. He reminded me a lot of Aaron Rodgers in eluding pressure. He seems to have a knack for getting out of trouble and has more than enough athleticism to create space to throw. Eventually, he will gain a rapport with his receivers and be able to direct them on the scramble drill a la Rodgers.
Additionally, I would be shocked if we didn’t see some run-pass options (RPOs) inserted into the playbook. On third-downs and inside the 10-yard line, these plays are exceedingly difficult to defend. Pick your poison; Jordan Howard, Deon Sims/Adam Shaheen/Zach Miller, Meredith/White or Trubisky keeping it. Those packages are eventually going to be virtually impossible to defend.
All in all, there is a lot of raw talent to work with here. Can Mitchell Trubisky be the glue that holds this offense together? To take it one step further, can Dowell Loggains take advantage of these players by getting the right match-ups? I hope so...I really hope so.
From where I am sitting, the future of this offense, and the team as a whole, looks very bright. When the inevitable happens, the real question for me is this: how long will it take before this offense becomes one of the most dynamic in the NFL?