The Bears' offense was bad last year. I know that. You know that. The Bears (hopefully?) know that.
But *extremely 30 For 30 voice* what if I told you just how bad they really were? Would you be interested in that? You wouldn't be? Sorry, got a quota to hit.
In a fascinating new study written by Rotoworld's Hayden Weeks, the lack of modern wrinkles in Chicago's offense are made painstakingly clear. Weeks took an analytically-slanted look at every NFL offense, and friends, it's a rough read:
4th Down Aggressiveness: 23rd
Pass Rate on Early Downs: 9th
Pass Rate While Trailing: 13th
Play-Action Rate: 27th
Downfield Pass Rate: 16th
Middle of the Field Pass Rate: 5th
Pre-Snap Motion Percentage: 30th
Outside Run Rate: 20th
Shotgun Run Rate: 5th
Offensive Pace: 22nd
Overall, Weeks ranks the Bears as the 22nd best offense in football based on the above metrics. If there's any hope whatsoever, it comes from his short write up of Nagy's offense – but still, temper your expectations:
If I incorporated the front office, the Bears would be much lower, but I think Nagy holds his own in terms of in-game analytics usage. He’s just been dealt a horrible hand at quarterback and with the offensive line. Nagy opted for a decent pass rate on early downs (9th) and while trailing (13th), plus uses shotgun a lot and targets the middle of the field (5th). There are a few things holding him back from jumping into Tier 3, however. The Bears weren’t aggressive enough on fourth downs (23rd) and didn't use play action (27th) or pre-snap motion (30th) nearly enough. Maybe the quarterback change sparks change.
Bears: Use play action! Just try it! I promise you'll like it.
The Chicago Bears have a lot of strong bounce-back candidates entering the 2020 season. Mitch Trubisky immediately comes to mind, as does Khalil Mack, whose streak of double-digit sack seasons ended at four last year.
Perhaps no player needs a bigger bounceback than running back Tarik Cohen, the pass-catching dynamo who was anything but in 2019. Cohen ended the season with a career-high 79 receptions but flipped them into just 456 yards. His 5.8 yards per catch was by far the lowest average of his career and has led to questions about whether he can truly be an offensive weapon in the NFL.
Cohen is in a contract year, so of course, he needs to boost his stock by proving he can flip the field anytime he touches the ball. According to ESPN, he's the most likely candidate to be that bounce-back player for the Bears this season.
After being one of the most dynamic receiving backs in the NFL in 2017 and 2018, Cohen took a big step backward in his third season. Combining 2017 and 2018, he ranked behind only Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara in PFF receiving grade. Last season, however, he ranked 24th of 32 running backs who saw at least 40 targets. He dropped more passes, broke tackles at a lower rate and produced significantly fewer explosive plays. It was completely uncharacteristic based on what we saw from him in his first two years in the NFL, so it would be a surprise not to see him bounce back in some capacity in 2020.
The Bears are set up for Cohen to succeed in 2020. Only David Montgomery is slotted ahead of him on the running back depth chart, and Montgomery's skill set doesn't really conflict with the role Cohen plays anyway. In fact, Chicago could use Cohen and Montgomery at the same time, with Cohen lining up in the slot and playing more receiver than running back.
Regardless of how he's used, the expectations for Cohen to have a statistical resurgence are fair. His 2018 season, when he ran for 444 yards and added 725 more through the air (with eight total touchdowns), is more in-line with what we should see from him in 2020.
On Monday morning, Bears' safety Eddie Jackson went on Good Morning Football and single-handedly blew up every single identical roster projection that are appearing on the internet these days:
There's even a tiny bit of precedent here! Jackson played receiver in high school, and has actually already appeared on that side of the ball for the Bears a few times back in 2018. He's also very clearly one of the team's best playmakers. Defensive players getting offensive snaps has all the exhilaration of position players pitching, without any of the unspoken condescension. He also scores like, 75% of the time he touches the ball (honestly, it's more fun for you if you don't bother fact checking this) and after 2019's offensive performance, beggars can't be choosers. Let Eddie Jackson play offense. Let Akiem Hicks play offense. Let Khalil Mack punt the ball if Khalil Mack wants to punt the ball. It's fun and it makes things exciting and positions are stupid.
For what it's worth, it already sounds like Jackson and Nagy are on the same page about all of this:
Who's against this idea? Seriously. Remember 2018? Santa's Sleigh! Oompa Loompa! Chumbawamba! We could have that again. We could have it all.