Through the first eight games of the season the Bears’ offense has underperformed. The unit is currently scoring 16.8 points per game, which is ranked 28th in the league. In six of the Bears eight games, they have been held to 20 or less points.
Clearly, the offense has some work to do but with at least 32 quarters left of football, a lot can be done.
Here are five ways the offense can make more of an impact in the second half of the season.
1. Open up the playbook
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains will be coaching for his job in the remaining eight games, so he might as well get creative with his offense.
Every team in the league should know by now that the Bears go-to play on first down is an under center handoff to Jordan Howard. I understand having continuity but why not throw a pass? Spread out the defense with multiple receivers, have one of them run a slant and see what happens. The Bears shouldn’t limit themselves on what they call on the first play of each offensive drive.
Those limitations have put the Bears in bad situations especially when it comes to third down. Usually, when the Bears fail to pick up positive yardage on the first two plays it seems like the offense submits on third-and-long, with a handoff. I want to see Loggains take more chances, even when his offense is behind the chains.
It’s no secret the Bears don’t have many threats at receiver and losing Zach Miller definitely doesn’t help, but Loggains needs to do a better job of putting his guys in positions to make plays. Let’s see the receivers in bunch sets, run different route combinations, use multiple personnel groupings, and hopefully that opens up the Bears’ playbook.
2. No more training wheels for Trubisky
A good comparison to Mitch Trubisky’s situation with the Bears is by thinking of an over-protective parent with their only child. In Trubisky’s four starts, he has thrown the ball 80 times, and only had 23 attempts total against the Ravens (16) and Panthers (7). The former No. 2 overall pick is obviously a valuable asset to the Bears, but wrapping him up in bubble wrap all season isn’t the best option for him to develop in Year 1.
Trubisky has just over 50 fewer passing attempts (80) than the 2016 No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in their first four games. Through Jared Goff’s first four games he had 136 passing attempts and Carson Wentz threw 135 times. Both Goff and Wentz had to get accustomed to a new offense, had limited weapons but still earned valuable throwing reps and are having fantastic seasons in their second year in the league. For a young quarterback, he needs these reps to help him progress moving forward.
Trubisky needs to be let loose and they have a great opportunity to do that in the second half of the season. Four of the seven remaining opponents rank in the bottom half of the league in terms of passing yards allowed per game. The Eagles are ranked the lowest at No. 29, the 49ers follow at No. 28, the Lions come in at No. 23 and finally the Browns at No. 17. These teams will allow the Bears to throw the football and will hopefully allow Trubisky to make up for the reps he missed during the first half of the season.
3. Get young tight ends involved
With Zach Miller out for the season, this means that second-round pick Adam Shaheen and third-year player Daniel Brown should become more involved in the offense. According to ESPN, since 2015 Miller is ranked first on the team with 11 touchdowns and is second behind former Bears’ receiver Alshon Jeffery in receptions (101) and reception yards (1,161). The offense lost a reliable asset in Miller but the young tight ends must do their best to replicate the lost production.
To make up for the touchdowns the Bears should use Shaheen. He’s had a limited role to start off his Bears’ career though, in the first eight games he has been targeted twice, has only one reception and a touchdown. With Shaheen being listed at 6-foot-6, 278 pounds the Bears must utilize him more in the red zone. They can do this by splitting Shaheen out wide, forcing one-on-one coverage with a linebacker and having Trubisky throw a jump ball to see if the mammoth of a man comes down with the catch.
To help make up for the receptions, this is where Brown’s background at receiver can be beneficial. In 39 games at James Madison, Brown had 91 receptions for 1,450 and 17 touchdowns. Now, I don’t expect much from Brown but he can make plays when given the opportunity. Brown is also similar in size to Miller with both being listed at 6-foot-5 and weighing about 245 pounds. Brown was also a guy I liked to replace Miller at the beginning of the season. He is capable of running every route, and with limited weapons, the Bears could use all the help they can get.
(Notice I left Dion Sims out, he is only 26, but he has been a disappointment so far this season.)
4. Inman’s time to shine
Dontrelle Inman went from being the Chargers’ No. 5 receiver to the Bears’ No. 1 receiver. Despite the disparity in talent at the position for the two teams, Inman becomes a much-needed weapon for the Bears. According to ESPN, the Bears are dead last in receiving yards this season and Kendall Wright’s 259 receiving yards is the second lowest among leading receivers for each team, only the Bills’ Charles Clay has less yards with 258.
In a little over three seasons with the Chargers, Inman had 107 receptions for 1,463 yards and seven touchdowns. Inman will have a chance to solidify himself as Trubisky’s new go-to guy and potentially provide a spark the Bears’ passing game. The Bears acquired Inman on October 25, and he will see his first game action against the Packers on Nov 12, which gives him roughly 18 days to learn the Bears’ offense.
With limited time to familiarize himself with the playbook, I want to see Inman’s role in the game plan increase week by week. One of these Bears’ receivers needs to stand out to hopefully earn a contract extension in 2018. With eight games remaining, if Inman wants to be a part of the Bears’ future he needs to prove himself starting against the Packers.
5. Get Cohen more involved in offense
Tarik Cohen started 2017 as the rookie sensation that was sweeping the nation. Against the Falcons in Week 1, he lived up to his nickname “The Human Joystick” by reversing field on a handoff and going for a 46-yard run in the opposite direction. His speed and elusiveness made it difficult for opposing defenders to bring him down. Let’s not forget he is also is “a threat” in the passing game, one pass attempt, one touchdown.
But teams eventually figured out how to stop the 5-foot-6 playmaker and the Bears have been using him less frequently in the offense. In the Bears last two games against the Panthers and Saints, Cohen has had only four rushing attempts and two receptions (one for 70 yards).
Moving forward, the Bears need to put Cohen in situations where his speed creates mismatches against opposing defenders. Cohen is a good route runner and he proved that on his 70-yard reception against the Panthers. He pressed up field, sold the corner route and separated from his man on the post. I would like to see Cohen get more involved in the passing game, either by going deep or lining up wide in a bunch set for a screen pass.
In the run game, the Bears need to use him on pitches or have him line up wide and come in motion to get an inside handoff. Cohen is a difference maker and the Bears need to find the right way to use him.