The Chicago Bears are off in Week six meaning it’s time for a bye week breakdown. Their 3-2 record is the same as it was through as many games last season but they are tied for third in the division. The defense has been just as ferocious as last year’s iteration but the offense has regressed. Of course, it isn’t as simple as defense good, offense bad.
So over the next week, this space will be used to assess the performance of each position group so far. The defense was covered already, so next up is the offense. The group was viewed as a liability last year. Their putrid performance so far has them more closely resembling the iceberg that sunk the Titanic.
Chicago Bears Bye Week Breakdown: Offense
Just as it was with the defense, everything starts upfront. Unlike their defensive counterparts, though, the Bears offensive line has been under siege (literally and figuratively) the entire season. They currently have the 26th ranked offensive DVOA, per Football Outsiders. A lot of the blame has to be on the line that ranks 19th in pass protection and 25th in run blocking.
Tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie have been bad so far in 2019. Leno leads the entire NFL in penalties drawn and penalty yards. The $37 million left tackle, signed through at least 2022, ranks ninth among tackles in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate. Massie ranks 57th for Pass Block Win Rate but his contract is ninth among right tackles in total value.
The interior of the line hasn’t fared much better, but for different reasons. Center and left guard has been in transition with James Daniels and Cody Whitehair swapping roles. Daniels has struggled in returning to his natural position. Whitehair’s recent extension makes his contract the fifth-richest among left guards.
Kyle Long has looked like a shell of himself and even graded out as the worst offensive player in Week 5. Pro Football Focus has not been kind to the Bears front five either. Whitehair grades out the highest receiving a 67.7. That is followed by Massie and Daniels with scores of 61.3 and 61.2, respectively. Leno’s 50.4 and Long ‘s 37.5 bring up the rear.
The preseason brought imagery of a new and improved run game. A three-headed monster of Mike Davis, David Montgomery, and Tarik Cohen (dubbed Run DMC) was supposed to fill the shoes of Jordan Howard. Through five games the Bears trio has 284 combined rushing yards to Howard’s 248. They also have 95 carries to 53 for Howard in Philly.
Montgomery has predictably emerged as the preferred workhorse in the offense. After getting six carries in the opener, the third-round rookie has received double-digit carries in every subsequent game. He hasn’t done much with them, though. He is a mediocre 18th in carries on the year, but he is 29th in yards. That puts him at 39th in yards per carry.
Davis was talked up by the team in the offseason but has seen his role reduced as the weeks have gone by. The five carries (and seven targets) he received in the opener is his season-high. Cohen has seen far more use as a receiver than a runner. He has 17 carries for 37 yards on the season but turned 31 targets into 20 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.
Offensive line woes don’t absolve Montgomery. He can do a better job of attacking holes instead of dancing behind his poor blocking. His and Cohen’s usage is also fairly predictable, though the latter’s numbers are skewed due to his operating almost exclusively as a slot receiver for a game. There also hasn’t been a consistent commitment to the run this year.
Allen Robinson (43 targets, 31 receptions, 377 yards, two touchdowns) is this group’s saving grace. He is on pace for over 120 targets, 93 grabs, and 1,100 yards. He’s 12th in targets and receptions and 16th in yards. But per No Checkdowns, Robinson has a 9.5 created reception percentage, the highest for receivers with at least 20 targets.
Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller have had rough starts to their seasons. Gabriel at least had a solid showing Week 3 against the Washington Redskins but has been out since suffering a concussion late in that game. Miller has severely regressed after scoring seven touchdowns as a rookie. But he also ranks just a few slots below Robinson in created catches.
Tight end has been an abject disaster and it isn’t a new issue. Trey Burton was signed to a lucrative contract to be the move tight end in this offense but has caught five or more passes only three times and gone for 40-plus yards just four times since signing. Adam Shaheen has never developed into anything close to what some thought he could be when healthy.
Robinson is the only receiver to qualify for Football Outsiders DYAR metric where he ranked sixth. Burton qualified but ranks 39th out of 41 qualifying tight ends. They need their role players to step up like they have shown they can. Of course, that requires the ball to be consistently delivered on time.
Where to begin. Coming into the season fans and media alike were fed a narrative from the organization. That Mitchell Trubisky was ready to take the next step in year three and how there was a different air about him and he was moving into the 202-level of the offense. What we have seen so far (save for against Washington) has been 100-level and below.
Trubisky is 34th in attempts and completions per game and is 36th in passing yards per game. He is 18th in completion percentage but his 5.5 yards per attempt are 34th. Trubisky is 26th in DYAR and DVOA and is 31st in Total QBR. He is eighth in receiver error percentage but is also 10th in interceptable pass percentage and 29th in depth adjusted accuracy.
What’s worse is his backup Chase Daniel came in and (mostly) operated the offense at a high level. Against the Minnesota Vikings, Daniel came off the bench to complete over 73 percent of his passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. But in his ensuing start against the Oakland Raiders, Daniel essentially began and ended the game with horrible interceptions.
The jury is still out on Trubisky, though it feels they are close to a very unkind verdict. He was inconsistent last year but has looked lost this year. Daniel is clearly not the answer either. That leaves general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy between a rock and a hard place of their own creation. Can Trubisky be the quarterback on a Super Bowl winner?
Nagy is taking his lumps this year. It is easy to lament his creative play calling when they don’t work. Especially if the offense is struggling to do the most basic of things, like create running lanes. He has also taken heat from his coaching brethren: Jon Gruden was shown mocking the Bears coach’s exuberance he shows after wins.
The honeymoon is clearly over for 2018 Coach of the Year. There have even been pieces written recently asking whether or not his job security is in question. The sentiment is understandable, his offense has looked like defenses have it figured out. They have been sitting on the shorter routes and daring the Bears to go over the top.
Chicago is currently passing at a 58 percent clip; up from 52 percent last season. That number needs to come up; the Bears are 20th in rushing attempts heading into the break. Eight of the top-10 teams in rushing attempts made the postseason and that includes the Bears. It could also help the offensive line to go forward more consistently.
Nagy is a big proponent of self-scouting. Well, Week 7 will be as good of a time as any to show how well versed he is at it. The players will still have to execute, no doubt they have to be better. But Nagy can do them and himself plenty of good by just getting back to the diverse style of play calling he displayed last season.
In spite of the poor showing to begin the 2019 campaign, the team has the same record they had through five games in 2018. It still feels like the ceiling has been lowered after coming into the year with Super Bowl aspirations because of an expected 2018 Los Angeles Rams-like leap. They have more closely resembled the 2017 Chicago Bears offensively.
Still, no one should be hopping off the bandwagon just yet. The expectation is that Trubisky returns for the game against the New Orleans Saints. The hope is that they figure out who they want to be on offense and that it somehow involves being more balanced and less predictable. Defenses like theirs don’t grow on trees. It’d be a shame to waste another one.
Salary and Contract information by Overthecap.com.
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