I found this chart that analyzed the percentage of run plays by run concept shared by Jeff Ratcliffe of Pro Football Focus interesting.
The breakdown of run plays by concept in the 2016 NFL season: pic.twitter.com/TzWI7E9sTl
— Jeff Ratcliffe (@JeffRatcliffe) March 14, 2017
Only three teams ran a higher percentage of outside zone concepts, and just two teams had more yards before contact per attempt (for offensive lines) on outside zone concepts than the Bears in 2016. Further, the Bears tied with the Falcons for yards before contact on runs up the middle – a number that was beat by only four other teams.
All this to say, for as important as the quarterback position is now (and will be in the future), the Bears need to truly commit to Jordan Howard as their main source of offense. Based on the situation as currently constructed, he is due to get an increase in workload in 2017. If he doesn’t, then the team will have wasted another year of a quality running back’s brief prime.
Howard’s success will depend on how well the offensive line in front of him performs. The group, overall, was strong in 2016, and figures to be again with a healthy return from Kyle Long, especially on the interior.
Still, some improvement at the tackle spots, especially with a new quarterback in the fold, would be ideal, even if the running game remains the focus.
Even though the team struck out on signing right tackle Ricky Wagner, who instead signed a monster $47.5 million ($14.5 million guaranteed) five-year deal with the Detroit Lions, GM Ryan Pace went to a familiar formula in adding depth by signing backup offensive lineman Tom Compton. Pace’s move seems to have organically created a potential competition along the line, which would be the latest attempt to have competition breed success.
CSN Chicago’s John Mullin writes that Compton isn’t sure of the Bears’ plans for him are just yet, but pointed out Compton’s play as a swing tackle in zone runs – which, if you’ll note the charts above, the Bears ran at a high percentage in 2016.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.