On Thursday afternoon, Allen Robinson broke down some plays from the Bears’ Week 1 loss to the Packers last season.
In Robinson’s Instagram live stream, he highlighted a third-and-4 play at the end of the first quarter. Robinson explained to his viewers the technique he used to beat the press coverage against Packers cornerback Tony Brown. After he watched the video for a second time, Robinson briefly talked about his teammate Cordarrelle Patterson.
“We got that big ‘Diesel’ in the slot … shout out to my boy CP,” Robinson said. “One of the best playmakers I’ve ever played with.”
There is no denying that Patterson is someone who can make big plays. In 2019, he lead the league with 825 kick-return yards and finished second with his 29.5-yard average.
But Matt Nagy didn’t play Patterson enough on offense or put him in the right positions to best exploit a defense last season. Patterson only had 28 offensive touches (17 rush attempts and 11 receptions) for 185 total yards.
Luckily, Ryan Pace told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine that he envisions Patterson playing a bigger part on offense this season.
“Yeah, that’s a guy Matt and I have talked about just making sure we’re maximizing his talent,” Pace said. “Obviously he’s an explosive, talented player. That can be at running back, receiver, returner. We’re going to make sure we’re getting the most out of that player because he’s too talented not to.”
As Bears fans know, actions speak louder than words. Remember, Pace also said at the NFL Scouting Combine that Mitch Trubisky would be the starter in 2020. Now, there is an open quarterback battle.
Let’s say Pace and Nagy are actually committed to “maximizing” Patterson’s ability. The first thing Pace and Nagy have to do is go back and watch how the New England Patriots used Patterson in their offense in 2018.
In 18 games with the Patriots (including playoffs), Patterson had 70 offensive touches (45 rushing attempts and 25 receptions) for 517 total yards and four touchdowns: 238 yards rushing and 279 yards receiving. He also accounted for 16 explosive plays, which are 10-plus-yard runs and 15-plus-yard receptions, giving Patterson a 22 percent explosive play rate.
To compare, Patterson only had four explosive plays with the Bears, and the team finished with 67 last season, resulting in a seven percent explosive play rate, the worst in the NFL.
One way the Bears could better utilize Patterson is to compliment him with tight end J.P. Holtz.
A majority of Patterson’s biggest plays with the Patriots happened when he had a fullback in the backfield. With fullback James Develin as the lead block, Patterson scored one touchdown, rushed for 91 yards on 17 rushing attempts and averaged 5.4 yards per carry in 2018.
Even though the Bears rushed for a season-high 162 yards using Holtz as a fullback against the Chargers in Week 8, Chicago only put Holtz in the backfield three times when Patterson was lined up as a running back.
Here is a good example of Patterson picking up good yardage on the ground against the Packers in 2018 with the help of Develin. On this 7-play, 69-yard touchdown drive, Patterson ends the drive with four straight runs to break up a 10-10 tie in the final minutes of the second quarter.
Make sure to have sound on to hear my analysis.
Another way the Patriots had success with Patterson that the Bears should look to replicate is by incorporating more jet sweeps.
New England called 11 jet sweeps for Patterson, and he rushed for 90 yards total on those plays (8.2 yards per carry). The Bears, on the other hand, only called four jet sweeps for Patterson, which went for 21 total yards.
Against the Bills in Week 16, Patterson rushes for 66 yards on four runs — three were jet sweeps. This play below is the third jet sweep of the game and it goes for 27 yards.
Of course, Patterson is also capable of making plays as a receiver. While he was with the Patriots, he caught six passes that were over 15 or more yards, and that resulted in a 24 percent explosive play rate.
A simple yet effective play that needs to be in Nagy’s offense is this 55-yard touchdown concept. Here against the Dolphins in Week 4, running back James White lines up outside the numbers. He then motions to tighten the formation, and at the snap, he picks the defensive back covering Patterson, which then causes confusion among the two secondary players. Patterson catches the ball with plenty of space and makes one cut to eventually get into the end zone.
Here is one last example the Patriots used to get Patterson the ball in space. In Week 13 against the Vikings, Patterson initially starts as the outside receiver. He comes in motion before the snap, slightly “blocks” Everson Griffen and peels back to the flat, where is his wide open for a 24-yard gain.
There are so many different formations, positions and plays the Bears can use the 6-foot-2, 238-pound playmaker. Nagy did try to experiment with Patterson taking direct snaps last season, but those three attempts only gained one yard, so maybe that specific play can be forgotten.
But if Nagy utilizes Patterson and Holtz in the backfield more often, implements more jet sweeps and continues to draw up plays to scheme Patterson open, this should, at the very least, give the Bears options on offense.
Everything falls on Nagy, though, to think of the best ways possible to effectively use Patterson in 2020.