Bears

Bears, Chargers facing same problem with opposite offenses

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Bears, Chargers facing same problem with opposite offenses

Every so often, something in the NFL makes close to no sense at all (actually, it happens a lot but this is about just on-field stuff).

The offensive lines of the Bears and San Diego Chargers would be one of those instances.

The Bears, who are philosophically rooted in running the football, have fielded four different starting-five’s in the span of seven games. They’ve started three different centers, and only right tackle Kyle Long began the Minnesota game at the same spot he was to start the season.

The Chargers, who are passing on 66 percent of their offensive snaps, have opened with five different starting-five’s over their eight games. Those include three different left guards. Only right tackle Joe Barksdale has been in the same place all eight games.

[MORE BEARS: No feud feelings between Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler…mostly]

Yet with all those lineups in front of quarterback Philip Rivers and the NFL’s second-highest number of pass attempts (354), the Chargers are a respectable 15th in sacks per pass play, despite trailing going into the fourth quarter in six of their eight games – meaning opponents knew full well that a pass-based offense was even more tilted toward Rivers throwing.

 And the Bears, without Alshon Jeffery for four games and an offense declared for the run – the Bears have run 43.3 percent of their snaps despite leading in just two of their seven games – are an equally respectable 16th in rushing average (and tied for 13th in sacks percentage.

 “We’ve dropped back to pass more than [all but Houston] in the league and [the O-line has] done a heck of a job with all the combinations of guys we’ve had out there,” Rivers said. “I have a great deal of confidence in them. Obviously we want to get guys back but I feel comfortable wherever we are there… .

 ”We just kind of keep going. We have a resilient bunch, like a lot of teams that feel that way. It’s the next man up so we’ve got to just keep on rolling. But it’s been a tough stretch.”

 If it sounds familiar, it’s because the same tune comes out of Halas Hall, a place where as recently as 2013 the team started the same five linemen for all 16 games.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

 Offensive lines rely on cohesion and coordination and the Bears have struggled to run the football with the success they require: five straight games failing to rush for 100 total yards.

 “I think with the amount of pieces that we’ve shuffled around, we’re improving in that area, especially from one week to the next,” said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “I know the numbers don’t say it, but there is a lot of things that we’re doing well. We just have to make sure we get more guys doing the right things consistently. We were having one or two guys here and there kind of either bust or not finish, and we just do a better job of finishing.”

 

Pro Football Focus: Bears could be surprise playoff team in 2018

Pro Football Focus: Bears could be surprise playoff team in 2018

There's a lot of optimism about the Chicago Bears in 2018  because of the incredible offseason had by GM Ryan Pace. It started in free agency with several big-name additions on offense and continued in the NFL Draft with the selection of Roquan Smith, arguably the top all-around defender in the class.

Pace now finds himself in unfamiliar territory. He's entering a season with actual expectations. While those expectations vary, one thing is consistent: Improvement is expected.

According to Pro Football Focus, Chicago should end up challenging for a playoff spot.

No less than five additions on offense this offseason could make key impacts for the Bears, including wide receiver Allen Robinson who was one of the NFL’s best in 2015 before a down year in 2016 and essentially missing all of 2017 through injury. He’s joined at the position by Taylor Gabriel, who had three touchdowns on throws 20 yards or further downfield in 2016 and rookie Anthony Miller, who was tied for fourth among wide receivers in this draft class with 19 missed tackles forced on receptions. Add in tight end Trey Burton, who had three touchdowns from just 16 targets when lined up in the slot and rookie offensive lineman James Daniels from Iowa and it’s easy to see why this offense led by Mitchell Trubisky has the potential to trend upwards big time in 2018.

The Bears were one of five teams PFF listed as a surprise wildcard candidate. The road to the post-season will be challenging, however. Not only do all of the new pieces have to gel, but they have to do it while playing in one of the toughest divisions in football.

The NFC North could have three teams -- not including the Bears --  playing in January. The Vikings may be the most talented club in the NFC and the Packers will always be a contender with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. The Lions have some vulnerability, but they've had more success than Chicago in recent seasons.

Still, Pace deserves credit for winning the offseason.

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

NFL owners voted for sweeping changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, a decision that presents a new challenge for Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor.

Player safety was the focus of the rule change. Collisions will be reduced and the play will look more like a punt than the traditional kickoff fans have become used to. Here's a breakdown of what's coming in 2018:

With less contact and physicality in the play, Tabor's game planning will be tested. Kickoffs won't require as many power players like the ones traditionally seen in the wedge block. Skill players like receivers, running backs and tight ends could be viewed as more valuable special teams pieces, as was suggested by NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.

Tarik Cohen could become even more lethal under the new rules. If kick returners end up with more space to navigate, Cohen will improve on the 583 return yards he managed as a rookie. He'll conjure memories of the recently retired Devin Hester.

The ability to contribute on special teams is critically important for players on the roster bubble. It'll be interesting to see if the Bears apply the approach suggested by Brooks. If they do, undrafted players like Matt Fleming and John Franklin III suddenly have more value and a better chance to make the team. 

For a complete breakdown of the new kickoff rule, click here.