Among the reasons the Chicago Bears offense didn’t reach its potential (as limited as it was) last season is because the unit didn’t play to its strengths. Especially when it turned over the keys to rookie Mitch Trubisky.
Not only did Bears’ decision-makers do the exact opposite of what could be considered the most logical thought processes, they thwarted the progress of the team’s two best offensive players while doing so:
Per @SharpFootball's preview, Mitch Trubisky went 98% shotgun at NC & Jordan Howard has been remarkably more efficient from gun than from under center. What did the #Bears do? 50% shotgun, 13% below league average. Just mind-blowing.
— suuma (@suuma810) July 9, 2018
Jordan Howard has rushed out of the shotgun 128 times during his first two seasons and has gained 831 yards. And while that comes out to an average of 6.5 yards per attempt, just 34 of Howard’s 276 carries in 2017 came out of the shotgun. That’s an alarmingly revealing set of statistics (ones that are indicative of poor decision-making at the top, especially considering Howard’s success in that area). If Matt Nagy can re-create what he did with Kareem Hunt as a rookie in Kansas City, however, then Howard could be in line for a big season.
Hunt led the NFL in rushing as a rookie last season and thrived running out of shotgun, where he made 47.8 percent of his carries. Had the Bears allowed Howard to run out of the gun at a 48 percent clip last season, his overall numbers would have looked better. Follow me for a moment.
If Howard received 48 percent of his carries from the shotgun formation and ran to his two-year career average, he would have gained 858 yards on 132 carries. That would have left Howard 144 caries under center, where he has averaged 4.0 yards per carry in his first two seasons. At that pace, Howard would have gained an additional 576 yards. So in theory, we could have been looking at a 1,434-yard season for Howard. Holy moly! Sure, we’d probably be thinking differently about Howard as he enters his third season in the pros had that been the case.
Nagy and Mark Helfrich replacing John Fox and Dowell Loggains at head coach and offensive coordinator, respectively, figured to help Trubisky grow into the franchise quarterback the Bears organization has long desired to find. But it turns out that this change could have a bigger impact on the running game, which has long been the backbone of Chicago’s offense. If the Bears can strike a balance between the ground and air attacks, perhaps this offense can find something it seemed to go out of its way to not achieve last season … success.