Bears

Bears promote Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator in continuity statement

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Bears promote Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator in continuity statement

Bears coach John Fox said in his season-ending remarks last Monday that the team’s systems are in place and not dependent solely on coordinator Adam Gase as far as the offense is concerned. Fox was saying without saying it directly that not only the systems, but also the key coaching personnel were in place.

In a move that marks a clear statement of direction for the offense and makes a statement that continuity as well as talent will matter, the Bears promoted quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator to replace Gase, who took the job of head coach for the Miami Dolphins late last week.

“Dowell played a critical role on our offense last year,” said coach John Fox in a statement. “He’s an excellent coach with experience as a play-caller and a broad knowledge of offensive football.  He has earned the respect of our players because they know he can help them get better.

The Bears last season took a first step toward developing true continuity in their offense when the Fox coaching staff, including Loggains, took the quarterback abilities of Jay Cutler to another and sustainable level.

The next step came Monday when Loggains succeeded Gase.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

“As I mentioned at the end of the season, our systems are in place,” Fox said. “We will always look to evolve because the NFL is fluid and adapting is key to good coaching.  Dowell will help us build on what we started as we head into the 2016 season.”

What the Bears under Fox started was a solid, consistent philosophy built on his mantra of running the football. Loggains was working with Gase and Cutler as the architects of game plans consistent with that philosophy, regardless of what personnel were available for the passing offense. The Bears under Gase ran the ball consistently (45.7 percent running even in games with a healthy Alshon Jeffery, for example) with or without their top receivers, and Loggains can be expected to continue in that direction.

The Bears typically ran at least 25 times per game and never threw more than 45 passes (once, at Kansas City) in a game. Loggains has maintained a simple grasp on that factor in the overall priority of ball security.

“The unfortunate thing is that if you throw the ball enough, if you’re calling 44-45 passes in a game, you are going to throw interceptions,” Loggains said during last season. “Nobody in the history of the game has gone without one.”

With Loggains as Bears quarterbacks coach, Cutler reached a career-high 92.3 passer rating, with 64.4 completion percentage (311-of-483), 2.3 interception percentage and 7.58 passing yards per attempt all second-bests in his NFL career. His 11 interceptions were the fewest in a season in which he appeared in at least 15 games.

[MORE: Inside the Loggains-Cutler relationship and its effect on the Bears]

“I think Adam and Dowell and all the coaches have been selective in our gameplans,” Cutler observed late last season, “and then on game day as far as me going through my reads and not trying to do too much and force the ball to guys and just letting them naturally make plays because we have some playmakers even if we’ve lost some of our other playmakers.”

Loggains has eight years NFL coaching experience including two seasons as offensive coordinator and five as a quarterbacks coach.

In 2014, Loggains was the quarterbacks coach for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns finished the 2014 season with 3,678 passing yards, 11th-most in franchise history. Their 7.33 yards per attempt in 2014 was the highest for the franchise since 1992. Their 21 pass plays of 25 or more yards were tied for the second most by the franchise in the last 21 years and the most since 1995.

From 2008-13, Loggains was on the coaching staff of the Tennessee Titans, including serving as offensive coordinator in 2013 and during the final five games of the 2012 season. In 2013, the Titans were off to a 3-1 start as starting quarterback Jake Locker had a 99.0 passer rating, before injuries derailed his season. Locker finished with an 86.7 passer rating in seven starts (4-3 record).

From 2010-12, Loggains was the quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator of the Titans, working with Kerry Collins, Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck and Locker. The Titans’ 4,113 passing yards and 84.4 passer rating in 2011 are sixth and seventh-highest in franchise single-season history, respectively. In 2010 he helped Collins post the third-best passer rating of his career (82.2) and Vince Young register the highest passer rating of his career (98.6).

[ALSO: What offensive free agents could fit with the Bears?]

Loggains joined the Titans in 2006, working as a coaching administrative assistant for two seasons before being named a quality control coach in 2008, a role he held for two years. Prior to his time in Tennessee, Loggains spent the 2005 season as a scouting assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. His duties included assisting with opponent film breakdown, self-scouting and statistical analysis to be used in game-plan preparation.

Loggains has worked with several successful NFL coordinators during his time in the NFL, including Gase, Sean Payton, Norm Chow, Mike Heimerdinger and Chris Palmer.

The Newport, Ark. native was a four-year letterman as a quarterback and holder at the University of Arkansas, where he appeared in 50 games. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science and master’s degree in education. He was a two-year starter at quarterback for Abilene Cooper (Texas) High School.

Bears, Matt Nagy working at work-rest balance equation to pull back from annual injury abyss

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USA TODAY

Bears, Matt Nagy working at work-rest balance equation to pull back from annual injury abyss

The Bears are at rest right now. The weeks between the end of the final minicamp and the start of the “season” that runs from the start of training camp through the final game represent the last time most if not all players will be truly 100 percent until early 2019.

In not too many days the Bears will begin their training camp, upshifting the pace, depth and urgency of formation of the 2018 team. Along with that comes the annual dilemma, not unique to the Bears, of balancing practice and strength training to achieve the football maximum while simultaneously staying within a plan calculated to minimize what has become a Bears curse since the departure of the Lovie Smith staff:

Injuries.

Injuries not confined to camp and practices, but also to creating a landscape that results in minimizing injuries throughout the season. And it is a complex equation that the Bears are trying to balance, one that reaches beyond football and involves complicated factors.

Matt Nagy is putting a small fingerprint of his own, instituting an 8:15 a.m. start time for the vast majority of Bourbonnais practices, “to keep guys out of the heat for the most part,” Nagy said.

Practice limitations have been mandated by virtue of collective bargaining agreements. The quirk for the Bears has been that as practice intensity has been legislated downward, injury totals (using players on IR as an apples-to-apples measure) have risen. The debate then has gone to whether lessened practices in fact saves players or ironically results in more injuries in games because players have not been sufficiently hardened for the intensity spike that games are.

Along with that is the need to truly learn schemes and plays in live action.

“I think football is a game, like many games, that you have to get calloused to,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said during minicamp. “It’s like when we go out the first day of training camp with pads on, and guys are hitting a little bit. You’re going to be taken aback and get mad that the guy just hit you too hard. But then by a week or two later, you’re getting hit like that and don’t even realize it. You gotta get calloused.

“So I do believe, even though you couldn’t prove it objectively or quantify it, I do believe that it’s a problem.”

Do the Bears need to rest more?

Nagy has seen the value of rest. Andy Reid, the head coach when Nagy worked in Philadelphia and Kansas City, is a lofty 16-3 in games after off-weeks during his coaching career. Last year his Chiefs did lose a road game post-bye, but Reid was 4-0 in Kansas City’s other games coming off more than the normal six days between games.

Other than the Bears, the five teams with the greatest number of schedule-created off days in the 2017 season appeared to put the time to good use:

Team Off days 2017 record (*playoffs)
Kansas City 12 10-6*
Buffalo 8 9-7*
Chicago 8 5-11
San Diego 8 9-7
Philadelphia 7 13-3*

A case can be made that recovery days are often as important as the effort days, that athletes perform better after their bodies have had even a brief window to heal. Coaches, too. As one Tour de France cyclist told this writer, people go too hard on the easy days, so they don’t fully recover, and too easy on the hard days.

Two-a-day, padded full-go practices were once the norm. Now consecutive padded practices don’t happen in-season, and even in camp, the objective is not as it once was, to weed out, but to develop. “I think back in the day you could say that it was ‘super-hard,’” Nagy said. “Now I’m not sure you’d consider it ‘super-hard.’”

The correlation between rest and results is far from exact. Marc Trestman was adamant about players getting off their feet after practices, and yet few teams sustained the level of injury, particularly on defense, that his Bears did. Lovie Smith’s practices were in the heat of the days, camp and other, with occasional night practices as prep for night games.

Year Coach Camp practice Year-end IR
2012 Lovie Smith 2/2:30 p.m., 7 p.m. (three) 6
2013-14 Marc Trestman 9 a.m., 3:15 p.m. (three) 6, 10
2015-17 John Fox 9:35/11:15 a.m. 12, 21, 19

Apart from any empirical or other scientific information, anecdotal evidence suggests that rest is a significant factor in influencing outcomes. The most elementary casual indicator is the importance teams, coaches and players universally assign to in-season off-weeks. The break period is utilized for self-scouting, which is going on constantly anyway, but also for getting healthy.

If the cluster of a few days off (players are routinely given the off-weekend plus the preceding day or two to themselves) has some demonstrable physical benefits, then any structuring of normal weeks to build in recovery time stands to reason as a step toward healing during a 17-week stretch that leaves no one completely healthy.

But it’s not that simple, particularly in-season. “They’ll have off on Monday, then be back on Tuesday,” Nagy said. “And with the game-planning, you have to build that in, obviously.”

Positive offseason

At the risk of installing a jinx here, the Bears came through the offseason program without apparent severe injuries, and with key players (Leonard Floyd, Kyle Long, Allen Robinson) being brought along conservatively in their returns from ’17 season-ending injuries. At the same time, the requisite work was put in installing a new offense and reigniting a returning defense.

Training camp and preseason now are next-level intensity, and the Bears lost offensive linemen Eric Kush and Jordan Morgan, receiver Cam Meredith and long snapper Pat Scales in the time frame between the start of camp and the start of the regular season.

The objective moves to another level of managing the balance between preserving bodies for when it matters and getting done the work that has to be covered. Some of that was accomplished with some understandings of historical perspectives.

“I told the guys the analogy the other day, the history of training camp in the NFL where there was no such thing as OTA’s years ago,” Fangio said. “But years ago there were six preseason games and two-a-days for all that time. Then it went down to four preseason games and two-a-day’s. And when I say ‘two-a-days,’ they were two-a-days several days in a row.

“Now we’re to one-a-day’s with some legislated days off in there. These [offseason] practices are those practices that we’re missing that teams from the past had gotten. We view them as very, very important, and our guys have had good focus. So we’re working on the same stuff we always have, but I try to tell them that this isn’t an ‘OTA practice;’ this is a training camp for the guys of yesteryear without pads on.”

Tarik Cohen named to NFL.com's All-Under-25 Team

Tarik Cohen named to NFL.com's All-Under-25 Team

The Chicago Bears are entering 2018 with one of the best young backfields in the NFL. The combination of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will give defenses nightmares all season long, especially when both players are on the field at the same time. Howard brings a physical and grinding running style while Cohen can take it the distance from anywhere on the field.

Cohen's field-flipping ability makes him especially dangerous in the return game. He's so dangerous, in fact, that he was named to NFL.com's All-Under-25 Team as a returner.

Cohen contributed in every which way for the Bears in 2017, bringing an explosive element to Chicago's run game, pass game and return game. He finished in the top 10 in punt-return and kick-return average.

Cohen ended his rookie season with 87 carries for 370 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He added 53 catches for 353 yards and one touchdown as a receiver. He gained 272 yards and a touchdown on punt returns and 583 more on kick returns, bringing his season totals to 1,583 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns.

First-year coach Matt Nagy has been smitten with Cohen since the offseason workouts began. He's expected to use the second-year back a lot more than John Fox and Dowell Loggains did in 2017 which should give the 'human joystick' even more opportunities to make the kind of plays that will make him one of the NFL's most feared offensive weapons.