clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Bears Lack an Offensive Game Breaker

The Bears have had a good start to the season, but the offense is lagging behind the defense. Part of the reason is that they lack an exceptional playmaker.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears’ offense is a competent unit, but it is not a unit with an identity. Nor is it an offense with a truly dangerous weapon. Tarik Cohen has his moments, but he is 51st in the NFL in terms of yards per reception, and 13th in terms of yards per rush. He is 32nd in yards from scrimmage per game in the NFL (at 79.4). He’s clearly a great addition to the team, and he’s more than the gadget player some critics dismissed him as from the beginning, but he is not going to knock a defense on its heels. He doesn’t have enough carries to be ranked by Football Outsiders’ DVOA, even if he is their 8th-best receiving running back. Cohen is, frankly, a fantastic ‘2’ for an offense that has a 1-2 punch. That 1 just isn’t playing right now.

Meanwhile, Trey Burton is the 19th tight end in the league when it comes to yards after the catch, while only being 9th in terms of targeted air yards (per Next Gen stats). Burton is a solid 11th in yards per reception among tight ends. That’s not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is also not a dominating performance. Things get better for believers in Football Outsiders’ analysis, because according to them he is at least 11th in terms of DVOA among tight ends, and 7th in DYAR. However, he’s 71st in receiving yards per game. In other words, Burton is playing like a good tight end, and he’s earning the contract Pace gave him. What he’s not doing is forcing defenses to adjust to him, and he’s not taking over games.

“Deep threat” Taylor Gabriel is the highest-ranking Bear in terms of receiving yards per game, but he’s only 48th on the list. The low placement of the Bears on these lists is not an artifact of perfect ball distribution, because the Bears are 21st in receiving yards per game as a team. Instead, the receiving corps is adequate. It’s just not dangerous.

It’s hard to fault or credit Trubisky in any of this, either. By now, #10 has been analyzed and over-analyzed sufficiently. However, it’s enough to point out that even with a mediocre performance against the Bills, his passer rating is enough to keep him in the top half of quarterbacks without being in the top quartile. He’s 15th in ANY/A. In other words, he’s playing fine football. He has his ups and downs, and he’s keeping drives alive at times, but he’s not taking over games. That is neither a criticism nor an apology--it’s just an observation that even if nothing about Trubisky so far has elevated the Chicago offense on a consistent basis, it’s hard to build a reasonable case that he’s somehow keeping Burton or Gabriel from unlocking their potential.

What this leaves is three possibilities. The first, and probably the likeliest, is that the Bears are not going to have a true game-breaker on offense this season. They will have a quietly competent offense that serves as a counter-punch to their defense.

The second is that one of the players currently earning solid (but unremarkable) stats will take a step forward. That would be nice, but it seems unlikely that it would suddenly happen in a stretch of games that will feature the Vikings twice and the Rams.

The final possibility is that Allen Robinson will be a difference-maker, either by breaking games open himself or by drawing just enough attention to provide one of the others (Gabriel, Burton, or Cohen are the likeliest) a chance to truly shine.