What does Dontrelle Inman bring to Chicago Bears?

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04: Dontrelle Inman
SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04: Dontrelle Inman /

The Chicago Bears traded for wide receiver Dontrelle Inman. What is the skill set that he brings?

It is not the flashiest of names, but with the Chicago Bears trading for Dontrelle Inman, they are admitting that they believe they have a roster ready to compete. Wide receiver needed an upgrade with one catch in the past two games from outside pass catchers. The Bears found a low-risk chance on Inman to improve that group. There is still a lot of unknown with Inman regarding his ceiling. He is in his fourth season but hardly saw the field as a  rookie, played about half of the season in his second season, and is on pace for even fewer snaps in year four.

With injuries to Travis Benjamin, and Keenan Allen in 2016, Inman started a full season and caught 58 passes for 810 yards and four touchdowns. He showed off a skill set that is at the least an upgrade for the Bears offense.

Route Running

Dontrelle Inman wins with his feet and body fluidity. He is a player who has the savvy to sit in zones but also has the movement to manipulate defenders. That is why 37% of his receptions went for first downs in 2016. Of those, 30% came on third down. He has a way of winning with four routes; curls, comebacks, outs, and posts.

Curls and comebacks

His curls and comebacks are his bread and butter. He was targeted 27 times on curls and comebacks and posted a 66% completion percentage with 7.5 yards per attempt. Curls and comebacks resulted in over one-third of his total number of first downs.

Posts and outs

While he was not as efficient on these routes, these are where he earns respect as a big play threat. 40% of his total yardage came on these routes. Philip Rivers averaged eight yards per attempt on these routes to Inman and went for one touchdown as part of six plays going for 20 yards or more.

What he brings

These four routes and his ability to hold a poker face as to which one of them he is going with is what creates his separation and makes him a worthy NFL wide receiver.

Take the play below for example. First Inman breaks out, then it looks like a post and it gets the safety turned around long enough to create separation towards the sideline. This play resulted in a 17 yard gain.

Below, Inman breaks the safeties ankles. Inman draws the idea that he is running a post and turns it into an out route and an easy 32-yard touchdown pass.

Inman is at it again. The respect for the post or the comeback route opens up the outside and Inman takes advantage for 21 yards. Look at how much space he makes for himself.

The idea that Inman can turn any of these steps into that safe comeback and turn around is what makes every move he makes so tough to decipher. You do not want to get burnt, but you do not want to give up that easy completion either. Below is his best play of the season. Inman sells hard that he is going to his curl route. “It is his bread and butter, it was second down, they were looking

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for quick yards” thinks the safety. Inman puts on a show and embarrasses the safety for a 52-yard touchdown. His arsenal and ability to sell multiple routes until the last minute set up the limited athlete with an easy splash play.

Moving with the quarterback

Philip Rivers was under pressure a lot last season. He is not mobile like Mitchell Trubisky, though. In his limited opportunities, Inman has shown the ability to play in an extended play situation, which will certainly occur with Trubisky. Below, Inman runs a cross from right to left. The Texans pass rush changes the plan, and Rivers scrambles to his right. Inman gets eyes on Rivers and moves with him to find space back on the right side. Inman picks up a big 25 yard gain.

The limited ability

No one can make an entire post praising Dontrelle Inman. There is a reason he fell out of favor with the Chargers. As mentioned he is a very limited athlete. He relies on that footwork and savvy and would not be able to make splash plays or any plays down the field without it. 46% of his receptions came with one yard or less after the catch.

Inman also wasted 10% of his targets on passes he should have caught. 5% of his targets were lost to drops. 5% were situations where he should have caught the ball, was in a contested catch situation and did not hold on or make a play. What is also worth noting is that he did not record a single contested catch all season. His ability to create space with those four routes truly is all that he brings to the table.

Below, his limited strength and contested catch ability cost him. Inman is running his noted curl route. However, Marcus Peters is a top notch cornerback and is onto Inman. He is one of the cases where Inman was outmanned, and this turned into an interception and a sixteen-yard return for Peters.

 How does he fit?

Last season Inman played 51% of his snaps on the outside. However, he caught 70% of his targets on the outside compared to 43% of his targets in the slot. It should mean that the Bears are using Inman to upgrade on the outside and keep Kendall Wright in the slot.

The question will be if Tanner Gentry or Tre McBride loses the snaps. Gentry is the better threat down the field, but McBride is better in contested catches. Those are the two areas Inman lacks in.

Either way, neither have thrived in the NFL in any way like Inman. Neither has been able to create separation down the field in the way that he has. Inman should be instilled into the lineup and could create a solid connection with the extend passing plays, and the quick curls and comebacks to set a rhythm in the passing game that has not been there.

Inman is a free agent this offseason, but if the scheme were a fit he would be crazy to leave it for another situation. The trade was certainly win-win situations on both sides. Inman will have half of a season to prove his worth, and the Bears will see what they have in a seventh-round lottery ticket of a veteran wide receiver who at the very least upgrades the biggest weakness of the team.