What Chicago Bears Offense Might Look Like In 2018
The Chicago Bears offense was far too predictable last season. I know it, you know it, the Bears know it, their opponents know it, the players know it, and now, they are admitting it.
Predictability has been a criticism of Dowell Loggains going back to his days as the Offensive Coordinator of the Tennessee Titans. When he left that position, his former players had eerily similar things to say about him.
Recently, Jordan Howard had the following to say on Good Morning Football:
You can also see Rich Campbell’s (@Rich_Campbell) take on it here.
So how will the Bear’s offense be different this year? How will a team that has been mediocre to average on offense for years, and has leaned almost exclusively on its defensive credentials, bring not only respectability to their offensive game, but also excitement and production?
A New Custom Blended Offense
The answer appears to be by bringing in and blending both the newest generation of the West Coast Offense (WCO) and the Spread Offense with its Run Pass Options (RPOs).
No coach worth his salt will design and run an entire offense by himself. He leans on his staff to help with play concepts, designs, verbiage, instruction, and evaluation. That means that you should see a blend of Matt Nagy’s WCO and Mark Helfrich’s Spread Offense. It should be creative, it might even be explosive, but one thing it cannot be is boring.
Numerous writers from various outlets have detailed what players might play which roles. Others have attempted to figure out how the offense might benefit specific players. I hope to give you an overall look at the structure of the offense itself and what kinds of plays in general that you will see.
It is apparent from watching the Kansas City Chiefs late season games this year that Nagy prefers to run plays from an 11 personnel set one Running Back & one Tight End). Though Chiefs do keep a Fullback on the roster, which bodes well for Michael Burton, they do not use one very often in their offensive sets.
You will see a number of three Wide Receiver sets including bunch sets, stack sets, trips, twins, and other alignments that feature three receivers. This means that the Bears will not only need to ensure that they have two starter quality outside receivers in the stables at the start of the season, but also that they are comfortable with their options in the slot as that third receiver will see a larger number of snaps than most slot receivers.
Nagy’s offense, like Reid’s before it, uses many different formations. They run many of the same plays from different sets. This will help to ensure that the defense has a hard time getting a bead on exactly what the Bears are planning to do before the snap. The worst thing that you can be on offense is predictable, and as we have detailed above, the Bears have been very predictable the last few years.
What Difference Will It Make?
This unpredictability should help to give the Bears the offensive edge denied to them since Adam Gase left. It will give second year Quarterback Mitch Trubisky a chance to throw the ball with larger windows and more options. How you ask? By changing the offensive focus.
The last two years the Bears have run a fairly straightforward offense. No, I do not mean run run pass, I mean that they have run out of running formations, passed out of passing formations, and the ones where they did not were so few and far between that they were fairly easy to sniff out for the defense.
Nagy and Helfrich will use formations as weapons. They will force the defense to line up against one formation and then will use motion or pre-play shifts to force the defense to adjust and give away their coverages and assignments. Howard will also benefit from these as well as he will have an easier time predetermining which running lanes to watch.
They will keep the defense guessing during the entire pre-play, but then will look to keep them guessing by using option plays and routes.
By using the Run Pass Option, the Chicago Bears offense will force the defense to commit to run or pass before they decide which they will do. In essence, they will use the training and reaction of the defense against it. In the NFL, all you have to do is create a momentary hesitation in the defense to give yourself a big edge offensively.
This is what modern NFL offenses do, and the best ones do it very well. They do not allow the defense to get a read on what they are doing and force them to react as opposed to pre-reading the play and being there to meet the ball when it arrives. You will see a lot of this as it is the signature style of both Head Coach Matt Nagy and Offensive Coordinator Mark Helfrich.
But What About The Running Game?
For those of you concerned about Jordan Howard and the running game, please allow me to assure you that he will be just fine. Not only will he enjoy far more breathing room by not having to run against stacked boxes with eight to nine players, but the Bears will stay with the zone running game that he has executed well and flourished under.
In fact, the new RPOs in the offense should allow him some extra room to get going before taking on tacklers. That should give him even a larger advantage in the area where he excels, picking up yards after contact.
How Different Will It Actually Be?
It is hard to attempt to compare what we will be watching next year versus what we have had to endure this year. The difference could easily be compared to the different experiences between driving a simple and reliable Ford sedan versus driving a Ferrari sports car. They may ultimately attempt to do the same thing (transport their passenger from point a to point b), but there is almost no way to compare how they do it.
All I can say is buckle up and enjoy the ride, Bears fans. We are going to be in for a special treat that is very long overdue.
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