Last year after hiring Matt Nagy and making a litany of moves to help the entire offense, many fans expected the Chicago Bears to make the leap from a bottom five offense to perhaps a top-10 unit.
In 2017, the Bears stone-age offense ranked 30th in yards and 29th in points, and it was lead by a rookie Mitchell Trubisky, who started a majority of games.
Well, in Nagy’s first year as coach the offense improved to 21st in yards and ninth in points.
Overall the yardage gained went from 4,599 yards in 2017 to 5,502 yards in 2018. Not quite the jump fans wanted, but it was a nearly 20 percent improvement than the year before.
As great as that is, even more so when considering almost every player on the offensive side of the ball was in a new offense, the offense is going to need to be better, considering the defense will likely regress in 2019.
While the Bears may not have the most top-end talent in the NFL, they do have one of the deepest pool of skill position players, especially after the incorporation of David Montgomery, Riley Ridley, Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis into the offense.
The question is:
What do they need to do in order to move into the range of the other top tier offenses?
Since 2010, the average fifth-ranked offense has earned 6,171 yards, which means the Bears would need to gain an additional 669 yards compared to last year.
Statistically, the 2017 New Orleans Saints offer a good template to get to the requisite yardage to become a top-5 offense in 2019. In 2017, the Saints were a well-balanced team that ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing and fifth in passing.
Though the Bears might not end up with a 1,200-yard receiver as the Saints had in Michael Thomas, they have more than enough depth to make up for it.
Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson are all veterans who have proven their worth in this offense and have an established rapport with Trubisky, which should continue into next year.
That along with the expected second-year jump of Anthony Miller and the additions of Ridley and Patterson offers Trubisky a plethora of options at wide receiver.
At running back, Montgomery is likely to handle the bulk of the carries much like Mark Ingram did for the Saints, while Davis is a good depth piece who can be used to help keep Montgomery fresh throughout the year.
And even though Tarik Cohen and Alvin Kamara are different players stylistically, both are dual-threat running backs that can fill up the stat sheet running and catching the ball.
So, without further ado, here is what a top-5 offense could look like if they were to beat the 6,171-yard threshold mentioned above.
Mitch Trubisky: 369/566, 4,421 yards, 65.2%, 34 TDs, 11 INTs
**Note: There are always some incompletions without targets, which accounts for the six additional incompletions.
As you can see, none of the Bears receivers in my predictions passed 1,000 yards, but the wealth is well spread out as nine players have over 200 receiving yards and at least 29 targets.
With Miller’s previously mentioned jump plus newcomers in Ridley, Patterson and Montgomery commanding significant targets, Gabriel and Burton are likely to see fewer throws their way, and that is reflected here.
Much of this is also contingent on Trubisky’s improvement as a quarterback, which will be necessary for the Bears to remain a playoff team. However, he is going into his second year in this offense with his top five pass catchers returning, and year three overall, so it is not hard to imagine him getting even better this year.
Just a couple of notes as far as the players go. I chose Marvin Hall over Javon Wims because of special teams and the fact that Ridley and Wims are similar players, but Ridley was a fourth-round pick this year.
I also chose not to include any undrafted free agents, most notably Emanuel Hall and Dax Raymond, mainly because it is hard to predict if they will even make the team even though they both have a good chance.
In 2018, the Bears had a run to pass rate of 46 percent to 54 percent. Nagy wants a balanced offense and in all likelihood, this is how the Bears will make the move to a premier offense in the NFL.
Overall though, the Bears really struggled with efficiency in the running game last year as Jordan Howard only averaged 3.7 yards per carry and 4.1 yards per carry as a team. Despite being a fan favorite, Howard quite honestly held the offense back.
In 2018, 50 percent of his snaps came on running plays, which is far too predictable for an NFL offense, and he was rarely used as a receiver out of the backfield. For comparison, during his rookie year, Kareem Hunt was in on running plays on 46 percent of his snaps.
Adding two running backs who can be more active threats in the passing game should theoretically open things up for the running game as well.
Moving on to those backs, Montgomery will most likely see 15 to 16 total touches per game even in a crowded running back room, and I expect him to do well with those touches in his rookie year.
Meanwhile, Cohen had 99 carries in 2018, but after adding two new running backs and Patterson, who the New England Patriots used as a running back on occasion, this number could take a dip in 2019.
As for Trubisky, he showed his prowess as a runner last year, and I see no reason why that should change in the upcoming season.
Overall, when adding the 2,011 rushing yards to the 4,240 passing yards, the total yardage amounts to 6,251 yards over 1,027 plays.
That’s well above the average threshold of 6,171 yards for the No. 5 ranked offenses since 2010. Additionally, the 6.1 yards per play would have ranked sixth in the NFL in 2018 and tied for second in 2017.
Both the rushing and passing offense would have ranked ninth overall last year in the above scenario. The only two teams ranked in the top-10 overall in terms of both rushing offense and passing offense last year were the Patriots and the Rams and both made the Super Bowl.
While some of the projections for players are on the optimistic side, none are unrealistic when considering that many players will be going into year two of Nagy and company’s offense.
Even though it might seem outlandish to predict a top-5 offense in Chicago, the Bears certainly have the talent to get there. The onus now falls on Nagy, Trubisky and the rest of the offense to make it happen.