As an assistant coach, Matt Nagy grew up under the Andy Reid learning tree, and Reid is one of the most forward thinking offensive minds of all time. Reid’s roots are squarely in the west coast offense, but he’s shown an ability to adapt and to learn other concepts to keep things fresh for his teams. Nagy’s first year running the offense with the Chicago Bears wasn’t record setting, but we saw innovation for the first time in a long time, and the groundwork was laid to what should be a breakout in 2019.
Part of that breakout will center around the new faces his team added in free agency. This team will still only go as far as Mitchell Trubisky will take them, but with a new running back and a new play-maker (WR/KR/RB) joining Allen Robinson II, Tarik Cohen, Anthony Miller, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, and for now, Jordan Howard, the offense has a multitude of weapons that defenses will need to scheme against.
Nagy’s new tailback, former Seattle Seahawk Mike Davis, has never been the number one option, but he had a mini-breakout last year averaging a career high 4.6 yards per carry (514 yards). He also hauled in 34 receptions, and he did so while playing only 37% of the offensive snaps. He’s not a burner, but there’s a suddenness to his game that will add a dimension to the offense in 2019. “He was a guy that can make you miss between the tackles.” Nagy said from the NFL owners meetings on Tuesday. “He has that in him. We liked that. We thought that would be a good addition to our side of the ball on offense.”
Adding a play-maker like Cordarrelle Patterson to the mix also has Nagy excited.
“You see what he did in New England with the jet sweeps, the [end] arounds, the screens, and I think that’s a good fit for him,” Nagy said. “For me it’s kind of like a kid in a candy store. You get to kind of pick which candy you like best, put it together and figure out what he does best. When he gets here and he starts getting on the field and we see what he can do mentally and physically, that’s when we start formulating it all and putting together some things that we’d like him to do within our offense.”
Patterson is one of the best kick returners in the history of the NFL, but he’s going to have a versatile role all over the offense with the Bears. He only played about 20% of the offensive snaps last year for the Patriots, with another 16% on special teams, but he made the most of his 5.7 touches per game by returning kicks and lining up everywhere on offense. He racked up 76 all-purpose yards per game and 5 total touchdowns last year.
Nagy also weighed in on his defense’s new safety and nickleback. The Bears didn’t re-sign Adrian Amos or Bryce Callahan, two popular and productive players, but they both moved on to big paydays with the Packers and Broncos respectively.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine will try to fill the shoes of those two players, but the Bears are confident they can do it.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that Amos’ production picked up once he was paired with Eddie Jackson the last two seasons, so now that Clinton-Dix will slide into the role next to an All-Pro in Jackson, we’ll have to see if he can bounce back to his Pro Bowl form.
“We just felt like here’s a great opportunity for him coming to this defense and this city and this organization. And it’s a great opportunity for us where it could fill a role at that spot—two guys that played together at Alabama with Ha Ha and Eddie [Jackson]—and it could be a win-win situation. That’s what we feel like we’re going to get from Ha Ha joining our culture and our group of guys. He’s super excited to do that.”
I think Amos is a solid football player, and will be fine in Green Bay, but I also think Clinton-Dix is a good fit for the Bears defense. He’s a different type of safety, but with the way Chicago’s offense should be able to score points, Chicago will need a guy that can cover, and that’s where he has the edge over Amos.
And speaking of covering, Nagy believes their new nickle can do that as well.
“He’s one of those guys where he’s always around the football,” Nagy said. “He’s feisty. He’ll stick his nose in there on a nickel slot blitz. He’ll go in there and take your legs out. He plays the game hard, and he’s not a big guy. I always thought he was just kind of sticky. That slot receiver, if you were running a corner or a post route, he was always right on your hip.”
That description reminds me of their old nickle corner, Callahan, whom I do think is a better player. Part of the reason the Bears went with Skrine is his relative good health throughout his career. Callahan’s injury history had to be considered, and he’s still not cleared to workout and will probably miss minicamp for Denver.
But Nagy and the Bears have moved on from 2018 and they expect their new faces to help them build off their 12 win, NFC North championship, and get even further this season.
Which of these four do you think will make the biggest impact?