Say What!? The Bears Were the NFL's Best (and Worst) RPO Team in 2017

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Say What!? The Bears Were the NFL’s Best (and Worst) RPO Team in 2017

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Bears News

The Chicago Bears’ use of run-pass option plays were limited under Dowell Loggains. And even when those plays were called, there were only two true outcomes (good runs, bad passes). Go figure.

Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner shares which teams were the best and worst when running RPOs in 2017. And as it turns out, the Bears boasted the highest yards per carry average in the league as they averaged 8.1 yards per rushing attempt on RPOs. For the Bears to have been this good running the ball before Matt Nagy came into the fold and added more of that RPO action into the playbook is a sign of good things to come.

Loggains didn’t call on RPOs often last season, though he probably should have done so. Because when he did, they were memorable. Like this Mitch Trubisky touchdown run against the Bengals and this scoring scamper by Jordan Howard against the Lions. Clearly, something was working here.

While it should come as no surprise that Bears rushers excelled when RPOs were called, it’s mind-numbing to wonder why more such plays weren’t put into action last season. Specifically, why wasn’t Jordan Howard’s number called more often?

Howard was one of the NFL’s most productive backs when running out of the shotgun formation, posting a 5.1 yards per carry average on 34 attempts in 2017. And to think, Howard was even better as a rookie when he averaged 7.0 yards per attempt on 94 carries out of the shotgun. Why the Bears scaled back on shotgun runs when Howard clearly shined in those situations is an example of why the franchise needed a shift in organizational philosophy on that side of the ball.

(Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

While the Bears’ RPO-based running game was a cut above the rest of the league, their passing attack showed that it had a long way to go. The Bears’ averaged just 3.4 yards per attempt on RPO passes, which was tied with the Cleveland Browns for the lowest in the league. There were a variety of factors that played into this lowly numbers, and the hope is the Bears have solved some of them by overhauling the wide receiver position in the offseason.

Trey Burton believes the Bears’ RPOs can be “unguardable” next year, and the numbers in the running game suggest he has a point. But if Chicago’s offense is to dial it up a notch, it will need to improve significantly in the passing game.

The Bears figure to be an RPO-heavy team this season, and players along the offense have openly discussed the influx of RPO plays coming from Coach Nagy. Further implementation of run-pass option plays into the Bears offense should make for a more entertaining and productive unit in 2018. And it’s good to know there are pieces in place for it to happen.


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Luis Medina

Luis is the Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and you can find him on Twitter at @lcm1986.