Chicago Bears: The offensive transition to a run game

Chicago Bears (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bears might have an identity this season, and its foundation resembles something Matt Nagy has not deployed. That identity could be the run game. Matt Nagy got the explosive quarterback he has always wanted in the draft, gained his dream pass-catching running back in 2019, and found his route running speed demon in the 2020 NFL draft.

Matt Nagy came in as a superstar quarterback in the arena football league to head coach a defensive-minded football team in the Chicago Bears. Most people including me, saw a heavy passing game becoming the game plan each week with Matt Nagy as head coach.

Surprisingly that wasn’t the case in year one for Matt Nagy and the Chicago Bears. The team attempted 512 passes while the defense fought 612 passes on the season. 512 pass attempts put the Chicago Bears right in the middle of the NFL for pass attempts.

The Chicago Bears rushed the ball 468 times compared to their defense seeing 339 rushing attempts. The Chicago Bears were seventh in rush attempts in 2018. So what happened in 2019? The Chicago Bears had 395 rush attempts, good for 20th in the league and ranked 14th in pass attempts (580 attempts).

Many would think the most significant difference was Jordan Howard. Maybe they are right to a point. However, Howard had 250 carries with 3.7 yards per attempt (YPA). In 2019, David Montgomery had 242 carries with 3.7 YPA. The two running backs weren’t all that different, catching the ball out of the backfield either.

Now, 2020 Montgomery was heavily involved in the passing game with 68 passing targets, but he had about the same number of carries. Montgomery just ran more efficiently. The most significant difference would be Tarik Cohen and the blocking. I believe Matt Nagy trusts his running backs as players.

Adding in more talented depth behind the two running backs should help keep them fresh. The Chicago Bears needed to focus on adding offensive linemen; that was a given. But it was the type of blockers the Chicago Bears acquired. Elijah Wilkinson wasn’t a splash signing, but it was almost fully guaranteed.

Most of what I have heard about Wilkinson has been negative. But that is because he has been playing the wrong position the past two seasons. Wilkinson is not a tackle. While he is still not the best pass blocker, Wilkinson’s playstyle is moving people in the run game. He had a 70 PFF grade as a run blocker in 2018 when he was playing guard.

Dazz Newsome is another outstanding run blocking receiver. Newsome does bring more slot and returner talent to the team. He is one tough guy to get around when he is downfield blocking. There are many reasons with UNC had two 1,000 yard rushers.

I expect that Matt Nagy figures out who fits where on the offensive line and branches his offense from the run game. After all, the future franchise quarterback ran an offense that wasn’t based on him throwing the ball all over the yard. Justin Fields with Ryan Day ran a gap zone offense which is all about pounding the ball inside with large agile guards.

Ryan Day believes in sucking in defenders to take advantage of one on one deep shots downfield. That is why Justin Fields takes his time when looking for a home run. The opportunities aren’t always there, so Fields takes full advantage of the situation when it is applicable.

Next. Compare David Montgomery to the 2019 RB class. dark

If Matt Nagy and Ryan Day are as good as buddies as it seems, the offense Ohio State might be similar to what Matt Nagy has been trying to run in the NFL. Only time will tell, but a rookie’s best friend is a running game. Heck, so is Andy Dalton’s.