By Bryan Dietzler
The Chicago Bears came into this season with different expectations for their offense. They had just hired a new head coach in John Fox and he had brought in a new offensive coordinator in Adam Gase. It was thought by many that it was going to be a rebuilding year for the Bears on each side of the ball and it was thought that they would have to wait another season to be a contender and play well in the offense. It was a bit of a rough start to the season for the offense but the Bears offense started to do well and was helping them win games.
While Chicago’s offense is good, it’s really not “that good”. They still have a lot of work to do and it’s going to take a little more time for them to get going and get things put together. There are a still a few games left for the Bears to play and their offense can still get on track but there are a lot of things that they need to do in order to play well and help this team win games.
The following is a look at some of the things that the Bears offense can do better in the last four games of the season and win out. There is a look at how some individuals should perform as well as a look at how the offense can overcome some of their issues as a whole. Finally, there will be a look at where the Bears might be on offense next season.
Offense starts with the quarterback and for the first time in a long time, perhaps since he was in Denver, quarterback Jay Cutler has been consistent on offense for the Bears. He has limited many of the mistakes that he made in the past and he is playing pretty well. You can give a lot of credit to the offensive coordinator for the way that Cutler has played as he has installed an offense that has really let Cutler shine. Still, as we saw in their last game against the 49ers, Cutler does still have some problems with consistency and getting the ball out to his receivers. He has struggled with accuracy at times and his mechanics are still a little bit off.
Cutler has also been handicapped by the lack of talent that he has had at the wide receiver position this year. Kevin White has missed the entire season, Alshon Jeffery has missed some time and both Marques Wilson and Eddie Royal have been out of the lineup. Martellus Bennett has also been out giving Cutler fewer options to throw the ball to. He has been working with second, third and fourth wide receivers for a better part of the season and while he had success with them it’s just not the same as throwing to number one wide receivers. Without his top receivers in the lineup, Cutler has been less apt to get big plays going down the field and the offense has had some problem scoring.
The passing game seems to still be in a state of development this season as there are times when it has been on the spot and other times it has been out of sync. With these problems in the passing game, the Bears have struggled to score points especially in the red zone this year. They have no problems getting into the red zone so far this season but when they get there, they tend to walk away with a field goal or no points. The Bears need to find a way to score while they are in the red zone using the passing game. It seems, as the field gets shorter they struggle to get the ball out in the passing game. This has to be corrected.
So the passing game needs to improve and one way to do that is call better plays at any point the offense is on the field. When the offense is in the red zone, they have struggled to call the right plays for the situation and that has cost them. Gase is a master of offense but his play calling leaves a little something to be desired from time to time, so he will either need to get better at calling plays or the offense is going to have to be more creative to try to come up with different play at the line to make things work better. Something has to work for this offense.
The passing game will take a slight step back now that Bennett is going to be out of the lineup after having been placed on injured reserve for the rest of the season. This means that the other receivers in the group are going to have to step up and play better and pick up for some of the slack that will be lost without Bennett there. Once again, and for the rest of the season, Cutler will be without his full complement of receivers. He will have to make do with what he has and while he has done well at times with those third and fourth receivers, he could be doing better.
The running game has been hot and cold this season. There have been games where they have been spot on and have done very well running the football but there have been other games where they have been stopped and haven’t been able to run effectively. Some of that has to do with some of the issues that have had with injury and less than stellar play on the offensive line as well as some injuries to the running back position as starter Matt Forte was out for a period time. There have been times when the running game has failed to produce much needed yards or scores (a good example of this is in the Broncos game where the Bears failed to get a two-point conversion on the ground). They have solid running backs in Forte and Jeremy Langford but just haven’t been able to come up with the big plays at times when they need them most.
The key to making the running game work is to run the ball more. Last year, if the running game wouldn’t work, the Bears would immediately shut down the run and go to the passing game. This year, if the running game isn’t working right away the Bears are sticking with it and keeping it going until it does work or until they have to move to the passing attack in the final minutes of the game. Compared to the last two years this year’s rushing attack has been decent and should continue to carry them through the remainder of the season.
It can easily be said that the defense of the Bears may be ahead of the offense this season. Despite the fact that the defense had to switch from a different scheme all together and is still looking for players to fit that scheme they have been playing better than the offense has this season. There are many reasons for the fact that the offense isn’t playing better. They are still learning a new system, not all of their playmakers have been present for every game this year and they have played some tough defenses. All this has stunted the growth of the offense.
So will it be a better year next year for the offense? That depends on several things. First off is the fact that Gase may or may not be back next year. He was a head coaching candidate last offseason and there could be interest in him again with all the current positions open and any other positions that might come open at the close of the season. If he does indeed get a head coaching job the Bears are going to have to look for another offensive coordinator for their offense and that would mean that quarterback Jay Cutler will be going through yet another offensive coordinator and another offense. This might set the Bears back yet again for another season.
If the Bears do manage to keep Gase then they need to have all their playmakers healthy and ready to go for next season. There are some contracts that are up at the end of the year (Forte and Jeffery) so we will see if these players are around next season. Chicago may also decide to let Bennett go so there may be some new pieces to the offense that have to come in and learn the scheme. This might set them back a little bit. In addition, will the Bears spend on offense in free agency or use the money to upgrade their defense? It will be interesting to see what the Bears do in free agency this coming offseason.
It’s too difficult to tell just how well the offense is going to do next season with all of the afore mentioned factors in place. Could it be another rebuilding year for the offense or will they come out of the gates on fire and put together enough to start winning games for this team. It will be an interesting offseason in seeing what the Bears do to build or rebuild their offense. Will they need new playmakers? Will they need a new offensive coordinator? Time will tell.