The Chicago Bears figure to have a different look on offense in 2018, and there are two numbers that could play heavily into making it happen if they trend in opposite directions compared to where they were last season.
An increase in big plays and a decrease in drops should lead the Bears’ offense into some better days ahead.
Chunk plays like this hookup between Mitch Trubisky and Tarik Cohen and this bomb from Trubisky to Josh Bellamy were few and far between last year. No wonder the Bears had the worst deep passing game in the league under Dowell Loggains. But that’s going to change in 2018, as NFL Network Dan Orlovsky explains here:
Orlovsky found himself “impressed” with Trubisky’s accuracy as a rookie and believes we’ll see an up-tick in that number because of the upgrades in talent around him. Diving into some of the Bears’ pass-catching numbers from last season, it appears as if the ex-Lions quarterback might be onto something here.
Allen Robinson figures to be the game-changer here. In his two big seasons, Robinson had 23 catches that gained at least 25 yards, scored 20 touchdowns, and dropped just eight of the 302 passes thrown in his direction. Robinson will garner a ton of attention from defensive coordinators and secondaries, so the Bears’ other new additions will need to step up. And at least recent history suggests they won’t disappoint.
Taylor Gabriel has just two drops to his name dating back to the 2016 season and has been targeted 101 times. Back in 2016, Gabriel came away with seven catches of 25+ yards. Last season, Bears wide receivers combined to haul in seven such passes. Gabriel figures to take over in a role held by Kendall Wright, in that he plays the slot even though he isn’t necessarily used only as a slot receiver. Wright (who had three drops – the most among Bears receivers last year) doesn’t have nearly the big-play potential Gabriel possesses (Wright didn’t have any catches of 25+ yards last year) , and the numbers suggest Gabriel’s hands are more reliable. That means some more sustained drives could be on the horizon.
Trey Burton had just one drop last season. While he was targeted just 31 times, it’s worth pointing out that Dion Sims had three drops and was targeted just 29 times in 2017. It would come as a surprise if Sims’ snaps weren’t slashed because of Burton’s presence as the “U” tight end in the Bears’ offense.
Trubisky’s accuracy wasn’t always there in his rookie season. Though to be fair, that should have been expected if you consider the ebbs and flows that come with life as a rookie and the talent around him.
The hope is that the rough days are behind Trubisky. Remember when he got off to a rough start with a 47.5 percent completion rate in his first four games? I’d rather forget those, to be honest. Because even though the Bears pulled off wins against the Ravens (who should have made the playoffs if not for an epic Week 17 choke job) and the Panthers (who came awfully close to snagging the NFC South), they also lost a pair of one-score contests where a more accurate Trubisky could have given the team a better chance to pull off a win.
Trubisky really didn’t take off until after the bye week and a seven-game run where he completed 64.5 percent of his passes and posted a respectable 83.1 passer rating. I’m intentionally leaving off the season-finale in Minnesota because 1) it was an absolute slog of a game and 2) there was nothing to be gleaned from a team just playing out the string on the eve of a coaching staff’s dismissal.
Various factors will play into whether or not the Bears become the Cinderella story some think they can be. One happens to be the growth of Trubisky from Year 1 to Year 2. Improved accuracy is one of those things Trubisky needs to work on to make everything else around him work. If it does, and the other things fall into place, the Bears will find themselves running an offense worth watching in 2018.