Bears

ESPN lists Bears' offensive weapons as NFL's 5th-worst group in new rankings

ESPN lists Bears' offensive weapons as NFL's 5th-worst group in new rankings

Now that you've clicked (thanks!), look away, Bears fans. 

In a newly-published, rankings-style piece from ESPN's Bill Barnwell, the Bears' offense once again finds itself in bad company. What stings about this particular post is that it has literally nothing to do with quarterbacks. 

Barnwell ranked all 32 NFL teams based on their 'offensive weapon' groups, and you know it's bad when it's faster to find the Bears writeup by manually scrolling down instead of using the provided hyperlink jump. Chicago's group came in 28th, which is certainly fair – albeit lacking much optimism – given 2019's performance across the board. Here's how Barnwell sees it: 

Allen Robinson deserves better than this. Having spent his entire career catching passes from Blake Bortles and Mitchell Trubisky, he will get a comparative upgrade this season if the Bears start Nick Foles. The former Penn State star held up his end of the bargain a year ago, racking up 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns on 154 targets. Anthony Miller finished the season with 656 yards and averaged nearly 1.5 yards per route run, but drops and shoulder injuries have been a concern through his first two seasons, and the former second-rounder likely profiles best as a full-time slot receiver.

The other weapons on this roster all failed to live up to expectations, although much of that was due to injuries. (Tarik Cohen's seven drops on 103 targets are the exception.) Players like Cohen, Ted Ginn Jr. and Cordarrelle Patterson could be intriguing supplemental pieces in the right scheme, but it's difficult to count on coach Matt Nagy making the most of their ability. Free-agent signee Jimmy Graham's contract was universally panned, but even leaving the money aside, he was anonymous last season in a Packers offense desperate for a second receiving option and turns 34 in November. David Montgomery is the big hope for the Bears to climb up these rankings, but as a rookie, he was below average by every running measure I could find.

What's especially depressing is comparing this year's ranking with the previous two of the Nagy era. Going into 2018, the Bears' ranked 9th (!!) and last season they found themselves at 17. In a span of three years, Nagy's offense has managed to fall 19 spots in the eyes of one of the NFL's most prominent writers. Ultimately, is this all that important? Probably not! But it's a stark reminder that the Bears' offense has a whole lot to prove this season, and that goes way beyond the quarterback position. 

Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

First, the good news: The Bears can win Super Bowl LV.

Why not? It’s August.

If Matt Nagy can find the right quarterback and Ryan Pace’s play to overhaul the tight end room pays off, this offense could be a ton of fun to watch. And if the addition of Robert Quinn gives the Bears the sort of fearsome pass rush we expect it will, this defense should be among the best in the NFL – and more than good enough to win a Super Bowl.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bears news and analysis.

There’s absolutely no part of me that’s going to tell you the Bears cannot win a Super Bowl before we’ve seen them practice, let alone play a game, in 2020.

“We want to win a Super Bowl,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “Every day we come into the facility, all our meetings and things like that, I think that our coaches are doing a really good job for everybody to keep that in mind and that's the main thing.”

Okay, but you’re probably waiting for the bad news. I just didn’t want to start with it. Because while it's not impossible for the Bears to make a Super Bowl run, there's a big reason why it feels unlikely. 

The Bears’ formula for winning in 2020, seemingly, is pairing a good enough offense with an elite defense. It’s what got them to the playoffs in 2018 as NFC North champions. It’s what could get them back to the playoffs again this season.

But an “eh, it’s fine” offense coupled with an awesome defense is not a formula that wins you a Super Bowl in 2021. As the last 10 Super Bowls tell us, it pays to have a great offense – and doesn’t matter if you have a great defense.

The last 20 Super Bowl participants, on average, had the sixth-best offense in a given year as ranked by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. The average ranking of their defenses was about 12th.

It’s been even more pronounced over the last four years. On average, a Super Bowl team in that span ranked fourth in offense and 16th in defense.

Only two teams in the last decade reached a Super Bowl with an offense outside the top 10 in DVOA (Denver in 2015, Baltimore in 2012 – notably, both teams still won). Eleven of the last 20 teams to make a Super Bowl had a defense outside the DVOA top 10, including last year’s Kansas City Chiefs.

MORE: Why you shouldn't worry about Allen Robinson getting a contract extension

So the Bears, as currently constructed, do not appear built to win a Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done – we’re not all that far removed from the 2015 Broncos hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with the No. 25 offense and No. 1 defense – but recent history suggests it’s unlikely.

That is, unless Nagy can find the success his former peers (Doug Pederson, Andy Reid) had with his offensive scheme. Make no mistake: Offense leads Super Bowl runs, with defense a supporting character. Not the other way around. And it feels like the Bears have it the other way around. 

 

SUBSCRIBE TO THE UNDER CENTER PODCAST FOR FREE.

2020 Bears may finally be unlocking Cordarrelle Patterson, running back

2020 Bears may finally be unlocking Cordarrelle Patterson, running back

When Cordarrelle Patterson signed a two-year deal with the Bears, people were pumped. He had just won a Super Bowl with New England, having morphed into a playable running back somewhere along the way. Already one of the NFL's most unique players, his fit in Matt Nagy's offense was easy to see. His first season in Chicago didn't quite live up to the hype, though he remained one of the NFL's best kick returners. Still, he wasn't featured much in the run game; after running the ball 42 times for 228 yards in New England, Patterson only had 17 rushes with the Bears.

Headed into 2020, it sounds like that may change: 


Patterson's been in meetings with the running backs, not with the wide receivers. And when they signed him to a two-year, $10 million deal before last season, they really had visions of using him creatively. In fact, when he went to sign the contract, he walked in and saw on the board – Nagy had written on the board plays, and creative ways to use Patterson. They didn't get around to it last year. Expect them to get around to it these year. Again, he is in with the running backs to learn everything about the position – the protections, and everything, so when he's lined up back there, you don't necessarily know if he's going to get the football. And Dave Ragone, the passing game coordinator, has been a guy that's been working with Patterson. 

Well that's exciting! Although shouldn't Patterson maybe still be in some meetings with the wide receivers? Like just a few? Don't think we missed the Eddie Jackson comment from Garafolo up front, either. It's all happening.