Mosher: Chicago Bears offense still struggling, but pass catchers doing their part
The Chicago Bears’ offense hasn’t taken off like everyone was hoping or anticipating. Through three games, they are averaging just 178 passing yards per game and Mitchell Trubisky has thrown just two touchdowns to three interceptions. Not quite the firepower we were expecting. However, it has been good enough to help the Bears get to 2-1. They are winning games despite massive transition on offense.
While the offense hasn’t put up as many points as Bears fans may have hoped, Matt Nagy’s usage of Chicago’s receiving targets is starting to make more sense. You are starting to see how the Bears want to deploy their weapons from week to week.
Nagy is going to use every weapon in his arsenal to keep defenses on their heels. On Sunday, when the Bears rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat the Cardinals, 16-14, eight players caught a pass, and seven caught at least two passes. Let’s take a look at how some of the Bears’ pass catchers played in this one.
For the first time all season, Trey Burton looked like the player the team was hoping for when it made him among the NFL’s highest-paid tight ends. Burton’s 55 receiving yards led the team, and his biggest reception was a 25-yard gain on a corner route. Because of his unique speed, Burton is one of only a few tight ends in the entire league that can make this play. Most tight ends wouldn’t be able to get to this spot, but Burton makes the play with ease.
The Bears are still learning how to use Burton— and that’s OK. Throughout his career, he has often been miscast as just a “joker” tight end who primarily does most of his work after the catch. But he is so much more than that. He is a brilliant receiver who can make plays down the field as well as in the short-to-intermediate game. It’s going to take some time for him to get acclimated to the system, but Burton is a weapon.
Allen Robinson is the clear-cut No.1 receiver in Chicago, but that doesn’t always mean that he is going to lead the team in catches, yards or touchdowns. It wasn’t the biggest day for Robinson, but he did have an impact. His biggest play of the game was a 39-yard reception in which Robinson ran a beautiful route to create separation down the field. Take a look at how he set up this defender for the easy catch.
For most of the day, Robinson was covered by All-Pro CB Patrick Peterson. But Robinson was able to make one “splash” play down the field, and it was enough to help the Bears win the game. Robinson isn’t always going to have big games, but he will make plays like this every now and then to help the Bears win. That’s exactly why they signed him. Robinson finished the game with three receptions for 50 yards.
And last but not least is rookie WR Anthony Miller, who was injured in this contest. However, he was able to make an impact before getting hurt. Miller finished as the team’s third-leading receiver, catching four passes for 35 yards. His biggest gain of the day came on a well-designed play by Matt Nagy that allowed his young receiver to get in space.
The Bears went to an empty set with running back Tarik Cohen in the slot. The Cardinals were forced to stay in their nickel defense because of the personnel package and played zone in the secondary. Arizona rushed five and the Bears hit them with a pseudo-screen play on the outside as Miler ran beneath two blockers for the easy gain.
This play was set up to gain around five or so yards, but Miller is so dynamic and agile after the catch that he was able to make a defender miss and turn this into a 15-yard gain on second-and-10. This offense is about creating easy reads and throws for the quarterback — and this is just one quality example. When you have this much talent at receiver, it’s just as simple as getting the ball into their hands in space as frequently as possible.
It’s worth noting that Taylor Gabriel, Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, and Benny Cunningham combined for 12 catches for 78 yards. For the most part, these are going to be the receivers who contribute in the passing game near the line of scrimmage. Don’t expect these guys to have big yardage totals, as their usage will likely vary from week-to-week.
It wasn’t an explosive game by any means by the Bears in Arizona. But you are starting to see flashes of how this offense is supposed to look. Chicago has all the weapons it needs. Now, it’s just about getting this offense to live up to its potential. I expect that to happen sooner, rather than later.