Bears

Kromer-Trestman pairing points to balanced firepower

983213.png

Kromer-Trestman pairing points to balanced firepower

The problems on offense were the focus going into this offseason, beginning with the firing of Lovie Smith and expanding with the hiring of Marc Trestman as head coach. That intensified again Wednesday when Trestman, noted quarterbacks mentor and offensive coordinator through his 17 years of NFL experience, made his first big hire also on offense and made it in the direction of addressing the offensive line.

Aaron Kromer, an offensive line coach with Northwestern, the Oakland Raiders (where he worked with Trestman in 2002-2003), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints (2009-2012), will be Trestmans offensive coordinator, as first reported Wednesday by ESPN.

RELATED: Alouettes GM confident Bears made right choice with Trestman

Kromer also served as interim head coach through the Saints first six games in 2012 with Sean Payton and Joe Vitt serving suspensions.

Studying the Saints

Despite the upheaval surrounding the staff and organization as a result of the bounty scandal, the Saints were No. 3 in scoring with 28.8 points per game and No. 2 in yardage with 411 per game. By comparison the Bears topped 400 yards just three times all season.

There was little subtle about the New Orleans offense. While young quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson were fascinating the NFL with read-options, pistols and such, Drew Brees was doing what he always does.

Just throw, baby, of the Saints 1,067 plays, 697 (65.3 percent) were pass play.

Very significantly, however, Brees was sacked just 26 times, or once every 25.8 plays more than twice the rate Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell were going down.

That was being accomplished by scheme, Brees and Kromers offensive line despite losing Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks through free agency.

Kromer-Trestman indicators

Kromer was the Raiders offensive line coach in 2002 when they reached the Super Bowl and then-coordinator Trestman was helping quarterback Rich Gannon have an MVP season.

The Raiders were a passing offense with Gannon throwing on 61.2 percent of the plays that year. He was sacked 36 times, or once every 18 dropbacks.

The most striking aspect of that offense, which was second in the NFL in scoring, was its balanced use of weaponry. Jerry Rice led the Raiders with 92 catches for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns. But the No. 2 receiver was a running back Charlie Garner who caught 91 passes while he and Tyrone Wheatley were combining for nearly 1,400 yards.

Add to that wide receivers Tim Brown (81) and Jerry Porter (51, nine TDs) and the result was a diversified offense that totaled more than 6,200 yards. No Bears team has ever totaled more than the 5,837 in 1985, one of only two Bears teams managing even 5,800.

Staffing similarities

While not arrived at the same ways, the new 1-2 structure of Trestman-Kromer is similar to the 2010-2011 Bears alignment on offense of Mike Martz as coordinator and Mike Tice the line coach. Martz did not hire Tice but the combination did produce an 18-8 stretch before Jay Cutler was injured in the 2011 season.

Why Dion Sims' return may not lessen Adam Shaheen's role in the Bears' offense

11-22adamshaheen.jpg
USA Today

Why Dion Sims' return may not lessen Adam Shaheen's role in the Bears' offense

Dion Sims was limited in practice on Wednesday, but he participated — marking the first practice he took part in since Oct. 27. Sims said he feels “great,” so assuming he’s getting closer to playing on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, that begs the question: What does it mean for Adam Shaheen?

The short answer, according to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains: Not much. 

“We don’t want to slow down his progress,” Loggains said. “And as long as he’s making steps in the right direction — we’re high on Dion Sims as well — but we do not want to slow down Adam’s progress that way.”

Shaheen has caught all six of his targets the last two weeks, totaling 80 yards with a touchdown and displaying some encouraging chemistry with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (who was his offseason roommate after the pair were drafted in April). Against Green Bay and Detroit, Shaheen played 52 and 73 percent of the Bears' snaps, respectively. 

The Bears didn’t use Shaheen in Sunday’s critical two-minute drive against the Detroit Lions, though, turning to Daniel Brown instead of their second-round draft pick. Loggians explained that he didn’t want to overload Shaheen with responsibilities after his elevation on the depth chart due to Sims’ illness and Zach Miller’s season-ending injury. So Shaheen was tasked mostly with first- and second-down plays, while Brown became the Bears’ third down and two-minute guy at tight end. 

“It was mainly so Adam could focus in on his role,” Loggains said. “And as he keeps growing that way, we’ll  keep expanding that package for him. But that was the reason why.”

The Bears need Shaheen’s role to expand, though, for him to meet the usual expectations placed upon a 45th overall pick. There are going to be some situations, especially running ones, where Sims has to be on the field, possibly at the expense of Shaheen. But if the Bears were to step back and take a bigger-picture look at their offense, there are some good signs of Shaheen and Trubisky growing together, just as the team hoped when they made the pair their first two selections in the 2017 draft. The return of Sims shouldn’t disrupt that growth. 

“He’s earned the play time the last two weeks,” Loggains said. “He’s played better and better and he had some things on the first level in the blocking game that he needs to improve on that Dion is really good at because he’s played a little bit longer. We do want to play him, continue to grow him, continue to grow him and grow the reps that way, especially without having Zach here. So there is a role that — we’re still missing a little bit of a role that we’re kind of splitting between Adam and Dan. 

“But we’ll continue to play him more, and each game will be a little bit different, how it dictates. But yes, we do see him, his role just like Tarik (Cohen’s) to continue to grow weekly.” 
 

There are no rookie ‘freebies’ for Mitchell Trubisky, but Carson Wentz a good lesson in patience

11-22mitchelltrubisky.jpg
USA Today

There are no rookie ‘freebies’ for Mitchell Trubisky, but Carson Wentz a good lesson in patience

The Bears like that Mitchell Trubisky is his own toughest critic, with the quarterback consistently owning his mistakes and shortcomings to his coaches, teammates and the media. After he missed an open Benny Cunningham near the end zone in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains wanted to rip him, but Trubisky was already “really upset” as he arrived on the sidelines about making such a poor throw. 

After the game, Trubisky said “there’s no rookie excuse,” for some of the struggles he’s had, and for his 2-4 record as the Bears’ starting quarterback. But to an extent, that excuse is valid, even if Trubisky has no interest in using it. 

“He shouldn’t give himself a pass,” Loggains said. “He should hold himself to a very high standard, because we do. but we all know the reality of the situation. He (hasn’t played much) since high school. Every day to this point that he’s taken the field, he’s played better. 

“That’s what we keep telling him — keep stacking good games, we’re gonna keep playing better around you, we’ll keep putting you in good situations, and the wins are going to come.”

Not only is Trubisky currently tasked with learning the Bears’ offense, and the wrinkles that are added to it each week, but he also is still getting comfortable with a group of players he either didn’t play much with, or at all, during training camp, when he was the third-string quarterback. And on top of that, he’s having to deal with opposing defensive coordinators knowing that, and continually throwing looks at him that they haven’t put on film before. 

The experiences and knowledge that will help Trubisky succeed aren’t gained in a week or a few games. They’re gained over the course of a season, and right now, Trubisky is halfway through his first year (he’s made six starts, and barring something unforeseen, has six more to go). 

Consider the growth of Carson Wentz, 2016’s No. 2 overall pick, who’s made tremendous strides in Year 2 as a starter in the NFL. Almost every relevant statistic for Wentz has been significantly better in 2017 than it was in 2016:

Year GS Record Comp% Yards Y/A TD TD% INT INT% Rate Sack%
2016 16 7-9 62.4 3,782 6.2 16 2.6 14 2.3 79.3 5.2
2017 10 9-1 59.7 2,430 7.6 25 7.9 5 1.6 103.4 6.7

That growth can be attributed to a number of things, including the Eagles staffing their offense with weapons like Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi. But Wentz deserves most of the credit for the strides he’s made thanks to applying the experience and knowledge he gained as a rookie to what’s now a 9-1 Eagles team in 2017. 

“It’s really expected when you’re drafted high and play right away that in the second year you transition well and really deliver for your team,” Trubisky said. “It’s good to look at those guys and see where they’ve gone from Year 1 to Year 2 and just talk to them about being a leader in the locker room and trying to improve (off) the weaknesses they see.”

So Trubisky is at least cognizant of the bigger picture, and Loggains has tried to remind his rookie quarterback of the incremental gains he’s already made through six starts. Trubisky wants to be better, and will continue to be hard on himself in his efforts to get better. 

But the optimistic outlook is Trubisky has all the talent and intangibles to follow the Year 1 to Year 2 path taken by Wentz. Perhaps a year from now, we’ll look back on this Bears-Eagles matchup and say it actually wasn’t the optimistic outlook, but the realistic outlook. 

“To me, when you’re in the situation we’re in right now where you’re not winning as many games as we want to, you have to celebrate small victories,” Loggains said. “And for us, with Mitchell, it’s, hey, you did what you needed to do in that two-minute drill to take us down and get us in position. So the growth that way, those one-possession games, he’s going to be the reason why we win those games.”