The Chicago Bears haven’t had a great passing offense since Marc Trestman’s first year in Chicago, and production has been trending downward in the two years since John Fox took over.
But things could be on the upswing if the team finds a way to make the most of their top receiver’s best skills.
Earlier in the offseason, we learned about Cameron Meredith’s top-end route running skills. The undrafted free agent out of Illinois State owed the best double-move in the NFL in 2016, which helped lift the second-year player to a breakout season. And more could be on the way, especially if he makes a deep connection with Mike Glennon:
Jets WR Quincy Enunwa showed outstanding deep ball ability last year. Can he be the Jets' top receiver in 2017? pic.twitter.com/UoYX8qiIdy
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 17, 2017
Meredith wasn’t the NFL’s best at catching the deep ball, as Quincy Enunwa of the New York Jets took home that honor with an 80 percent catch rate. However, seeing Meredith second on the list as the only other receiver catching deep passes at a 70 percent clip says something about the leaps he made in development and production in 2016. Further, seeing him above standout receivers such as Michael A. Thomas, Amari Cooper, and Doug Baldwin also shows the kind of company Meredith keeps in this particular category.
Further (x2), having a 70 percent catch rate on deep balls (among receivers with 10 targets) when league average is 36.6 percent is nothing to sneeze at, especially when considering which quarterbacks were throwing to him – it’s not like Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley were noted deep-ball artists.
We don’t have much of a sample to diagnose when it comes to Glennon’s deep-ball proficiency, so we’ll have to go back to 2013 to dig into some numbers. Glennon didn’t throw a ton of deep balls in his 13-start-first-season, but Pro Football Focus ranked the then-Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback in the top-10 in deep accuracy. As a rookie, Glennon completed 45 percent of his deep passes. Case Keenum (53.1%) topped the list, before being followed by familiar names like Aaron Rodgers (52.8%), Russell Wilson (48.3%), and Peyton Manning (48.2%). Oh, and Glennon showed a proficiency in turning the deep ball into scores, throwing seven touchdowns against one interception on those attempts.
The Bears’ passing offense left much to be desired with Hoyer, Barkley, and Jay Cutler making the throws in 2016. But maybe a change in philosophy that takes advantage of Meredith’s deep-ball ability will add another layer to an offense that needs more than Jordan Howard’s excellence to threaten opposing defenses in the coming year.
And if Glennon can re-capture the magic of 2013, it would go a long way toward reaching respectability on the offensive side of the ball.