Obviously, there is a lot to be disappointed about in the 2019 Chicago Bears. The regression of Bust-in-Progress Mitchell Trubisky is probably the biggest frustration, with the collapse of Nagy’s offensive aspirations as the leading competitor. However those two issues are ranked relative to one another, they should probably be the first two listed. The erratic failures of Eddy Pineiro need to be mentioned, too. However, there are lesser issues, as well.
1). The Mack-Pagano Disconnect
Maybe Mack is having an off year, but this year has seen a dramatic fall-off in his production in a very short time, and Sunday night’s game illustrated why. The point of having a versatile edge player like Leonard Floyd is that this frees up a dominant edge rusher like Mack to attack the quarterback.
Instead, time after time, Mack is dropped into coverage. He is tasked with playing like a general linebacker, even, not even an edge rusher. In short, his talents are being misused. This might account for his low numbers, because a player like Mack (like many running backs, honestly) need to be able to work at their position to find their angles and to set up their successes. Mack is not being given the chance to do that. This is not to take the blame completely off of Mack, however. He is obviously not producing when given the opportunity.
The Pagano defensive system, nonetheless, is not helping out Mack at all. To borrow an overused phrase, Pagano is being too cute. Instead of putting his best players at the positions of their greatest strengths, he is preferring exotic looks. It’s feels sort of like when Devin Hester saw fewer returns so he could work on his skills as a wide receiver.
2). The Hiestand Shuffle
James Daniels was a highly-touted, highly-gifted, and highly-drafted interior lineman who settled into his role as a left guard last season. Cody Whitehair saw his first Pro Bowl as a center. Harry Hiestand is a widely-lauded offensive line coach. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that Hiestand flipped Whitehair and Daniels, right? Obviously, there are a number of explanations for why the offensive line has struggled.
Leno is on the wrong side of 27, Massie was always just a functional piece, and Kyle Long has been replaced with Rashaad Coward. Perhaps more importantly, the offensive blocking scheme has clearly been prioritized to favor the passing game. However, it would be inaccurate to say that Daniels and Whitehair thrived in their new position.
So, of course, the two players have returned to their original position. This sort of shuffling is disadvantageous to an offensive line, which relies on consistency. It’s bad for player development, and it can result in the much-dreaded DMS. Ultimately, however, the fact remains that the offensive line has talent but it is not providing any sort of advantage to the team (they are 23rd in DVOA for pass protection and 28th for run protection), and that’s disappointing given that the unit was a strength last season (7th in DVOA in DVOA for pass protection).
3). David Montgomery
Some of Montgomery’s lack of production is probably due to the offensive line, and some of it is probably due to the ineptitude of his quarterback. However, Montgomery was the highest overall pick the Bears had for 2019, but with a DVOA of -10.2% (27th in the league) on a pace for barely a thousand yards from scrimmage, Montgomery is following in the footsteps of other Ryan Pace third-round picks: Hroniss Grasu, Jonathan Bullard, and trade-up to get Trubisky.
In other words, he’s on the field, sure, but he’s underwhelming (3.48 yards per attempt, or 39th among qualifying running backs). Thanks to favorable rounding, he has the same yards per attempt as Jeremy Langford (though fewer yards per reception).
4). Roster Management
Does it matter that the Bears spent a 7th-rounder on Kerrith Whyte Jr. only to have him signed off the practice squad by another team? Probably not. Does it matter that they have likewise gotten zero snaps out of Stephen Denmark and Riley Ridley? I guess not. How about the fact that Duke Shelley has only played 37 snaps to date? Well, umm…
In essence, the Bears have positioned their roster so that the entire draft class of 2019 amounts to David Montgomery. More than that, after the top three selections in 2018, they only drafted players redundant with other draftees or free agent signings. If the team were flush with draft picks, this might make sense. However, there is no sign that the roster is being developed, and so the Bears are bringing the same converted swing tackle back as tight end repeatedly instead of kicking the tires on Dax Raymond, and they are stashing extra wide receivers on the practice squad instead of taking a flier on a quarterback or guard.
Emery was criticized for leaving a bare cupboard when Pace came in. What is being left in the cupboard for whomever is the GM in 2021? Hitting on late-rounders doesn’t matter as much when a team is getting excellent production out of its early-rounders. Adam Shaheen would be an excellent late-rounder.