ESPN’s Bill Barnwell ranked the offensive weapons of each team in the NFL and he had the Chicago Bears way down at 28th overall behind Washington (32nd), the Jaguars (31), Dolphins (30), and the Jets (29).
Heading into the 2018 season Barnwell had Chicago’s offensive weapons ranked 9th, and before the 2019 season he had them ranked 17th, so it’s quite the downward trend for the Bears.
To be clear, he categorizes weapons as the tight ends, running backs, and wide outs (with the WRs mattering the most), and not the quarterback, linemen, or scheme. He also weighed his rankings so a team with top end talent meant more than a team with solid depth. He laid out his entire ranking system before his countdown and you can check that out here.
Here’s his reasoning for putting the Bears as the 5th worst.
Allen Robinson deserves better than this. Having spent his entire career catching passes from Blake Bortles and Mitchell Trubisky, he will get a comparative upgrade this season if the Bears start Nick Foles. The former Penn State star held up his end of the bargain a year ago, racking up 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns on 154 targets. Anthony Miller finished the season with 656 yards and averaged nearly 1.5 yards per route run, but drops and shoulder injuries have been a concern through his first two seasons, and the former second-rounder likely profiles best as a full-time slot receiver.
I can’t decide if this is the homer in me, or if I really think better quarterback play can elevate the weapons, but I see this group as having the potential to be a top half group of weapons in 2020.
At receiver, I really do expect Miller to finally break out and build off his solid second half from a year ago, and I don’t see him profiling “as a full-time slot receiver” as a negative. With Robinson starting at the X, and Ted Ginn Jr.’s speed giving the Z a boost, Miller can thrive if the quarterback can get him the ball. When watching film it was Miller that seemed to be missed the most last season.
But back to Barnwell...
The other weapons on this roster all failed to live up to expectations, although much of that was due to injuries. (Tarik Cohen’s seven drops on 103 targets are the exception.) Players like Cohen, Ted Ginn Jr. and Cordarrelle Patterson could be intriguing supplemental pieces in the right scheme, but it’s difficult to count on coach Matt Nagy making the most of their ability. Free-agent signee Jimmy Graham’s contract was universally panned, but even leaving the money aside, he was anonymous last season in a Packers offense desperate for a second receiving option and turns 34 in November. David Montgomery is the big hope for the Bears to climb up these rankings, but as a rookie, he was below-average by every running measure I could find.
Cohen has to prove his drops were an aberration and not who he is moving forward, but he still has the do-it-all skill set and electricity to make a difference in the offense. I wrote about Montgomery here, but I see him making a bigger impact in 2020.
I would love to see Patterson used in a more creative way every now and again, but also simply lined up more at tailback. He’s proven to be a quality back-up running back at a few stops now, so let him get a few carries a game.
Add Graham’s name to the long list of Bears with something to prove, but realistically speaking the Bears don’t need to see the All-Pro Graham from his Saints’ days, they just need a tight end that can give them some Trey Burton-esque production (50 catches or so), and Graham can be that in this offense.
I understand the criticism that Nagy gets after his 2019 offense crapped the bed, but with a quarterback in place that he trusts to run his offense we should see some different things in 2020. One issue the Bears have had under Nagy is the QB not always placing the ball in a place to give his weapons a chance to pick up yards after the catch. Some of that is due to Nagy’s use of routes where the receiver sits down, but there have been too many instances where the pass simply wasn’t out in front of a streaking receiver. If the 2020 quarterback — whoever that may be — can hit his guys in stride more, the effectiveness of the weapons will go up.
Whether or not the Bears’ weapons trend the other way on Barnwell’s 2021 list will come down to quarterback play and play calling this seson.