Bears Apparently Looking to Use a Blocking Scheme Which Is Primarily Zone

Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times runs us through speculates about some changes in the 2016 Bears offense.

Some of them are obvious. For example, with a healthy Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White, you can figure you’ll be seeing quarterback Jay Cutler stretch the field and throw the ball up for grabs deep a lot more this season. And with the addition of running back Jordan Howard, the power running game may be more prevalent.

But there was one potential change that I didn’t think was as obvious, though we have gotten a hint.

“[D]on’t be surprised to see the Bears running more zone blocking schemes, an approach [new offensive coordinator DowellLoggains embraced as the Titans’ coordinator.

“One reason the Bears cut Matt Slauson and drafted his presumptive replacement, left guard Cody Whitehair, was to increase the line’s athleticism — and its ability to block linebackers. [Kyle] Long’s return to right guard will help, too.

“‘It’s, get to the second level and produce at the second level,’ [offensive line coach Dave] Magazu said. ‘We can beat guys up, up front. But it doesn’t matter if you beat the hell out of the four down guys and the backer’s standing there and nobody can get to him.'”

Last year with the new coaching staff, the question of what the blocking scheme would be was raised frequently. The answer at that time was that it would be a mix of a little bit of everything. Now, in the staff’s second year and with more personnel of their choosing, we may be seeing what they really prefer.

I heard some speculation when Slauson was released that the Bears might be looking to move to more of a zone blocking scheme. This would seem to confirm it. Slauson was a wonderful power blocker. But the kind of athleticism that will be called for in what may be a primarily zone blocking scheme wasn’t his strength.

Many Points of Interest When Considering the Bears Running Back Situation

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune writes a very interesting article on the running back situation, focusing largely upon the hope that Jeremy Langford will emerge. There are a few things to note.

There’s a slight dichotomy when head coach John Fox and running backs coach Stan Drayton talks about using a backfield by committee approach. Drayton says, “[T]hey all bring a strength that can probably add up to what [Matt Forte] brought. Fox says something similar but slightly different, “Who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are. Then situationally, it can be…whoever has a hot hand.”

Both men imply that the running backs will be used situationally but Fox emphasizes an approach that the Bears have used before, “going with the hot hand”. In previous years that’s what they’ve done, given one series to one back, then resting him by giving one or two to another. But with both men also emphasizing strengths and weaknesses and, particularly with the addition of power back Jordan Howard, they may alter that, for instance, by putting in Howard in short yardage situations and using Langford and Carey mostly in other situations that fit their skill sets.

How the Bears use their running backs will be interesting to watch this year.

Second, Campbell also addresses Langford’s relatively low 3.6 yards per carry. In the process, Drayton gives us his assessment and one more thing to look for in the coming season.

“He has a tendency to want to run narrow,” Drayton said. “His feet are too close together going through the line of scrimmage. So we’re working on just widening his base on contact, putting himself in a more powerful position to be able to attack through contact.”

Drayton wants Langford to gain 3 yards after contact on every run. We will see if he improves in this area.

Lastly, like many people, my assumption was that Ka’Deem Carey is in deep trouble. And he is. But I said that last year and he survived anyway. Carey runs about as hard as any running back you’ll find and Drayton certainly seems to still have interest in him. From Campbell:

“Drayton is pushing Carey to become more versatile, which means playing better on third down. That’s part of the Bears’ greater effort to replace Forte’s contributions in that make-or-break down.

“‘To me, he’s the wild card,’ Drayton said of Carey. ‘He could challenge everybody in that room at any given time.'”

Keep an eye on Carey on third down and, of course, for his continued development on special teams. Right now Carey is up against Jacquizz Rogers for the third running back spot and Rogers’ strength, besides bringing a veteran presence, is that he excels in both of these areas. Carey needs to show that he can replace what Rogers gives in order to beat the odds again and make the team.