The Bears’ conservative, run-based game plan on Sunday succeeded in limiting risky throws for Mitch Trubisky against a tough Ravens defense, but did have some unintended consequences.
Specifically, holding back the passing game also cut into the playing time of the team’s most productive wide receiver: Kendall Wright.
Just when it looked like Wright had emerged as one of Trubisky’s top targets, he played only 25 of the team’s 80 snaps (31 percent) on Sunday – the lowest percentage of snaps for Wright in 2017. Only Josh Bellamy (two snaps) was on the field for fewer plays among receivers.
Trimming Wright’s playing time surprisingly thrust receivers Tanner Gentry and Tre McBride into starting roles and increased exposure. Fans pining for Gentry to get a chance saw the undrafted free agent rookie on the field for 95 percent of the team’s snaps, though he was targeted with just one pass. McBride picked up a significant chunk of playing time, too, registering more than 70 percent of the snaps for the second straight week. This was a departure from the norm for the Bears, whose actions suggest the team is willing to try anything to find a set of receivers that works.
Of course, the outside-the-box approach needs to be tweaked by Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains and Wide Receivers Coach Zach Azzanni. These two offensive coaches would be wise to strike a balance between finding out what they have in their young, untested, and blossoming receivers (McBride, Gentry) and developing their rookie quarterback with the help of an experienced veteran (Wright).
These are important times for players like McBride and Gentry, especially if you consider GM Ryan Pace’s history. Pace might have a knack for unearthing diamonds in the rough at receiver having worked for the Saints when the team drafted Marques Colston in the seventh round in 2006 or discovering a hidden gem in undrafted free agent Cameron Meredith. While it’s important to find contributors from every avenue, it’s also important for Trubisky to have a reliable pass catching target on the field – which is where Wright comes in.
For what it’s worth, Wright was on the field for 13 of Trubisky’s 16 pass attempts. That’s probably a trend that will continue for the rest of this season.