Will the Bears Running Game Be Better in 2018? Reasons Why It Could Go Either Way.

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune on what the Bears running game will look like:

“Power blocking. Pulling guards. This isn’t the sideline-to-sideline outside zone blocking scheme the Bears ran the last three seasons. Yes, the Chiefs incorporated that into their repertoire with Andy Reid as coach and [new Bears head coach Matt] Nagy as coordinator, but they ran more inside zone and more power than the Bears have.”

“’Schematically, it’s great,’ Bears center Cody Whitehair said. ’The thing you’re going to see a lot more of is physicality up front. More downhill blocks. And just guys that are not going to beat themselves. We’re going to come off the ball and really maul guys.”’

This all sounds great, especially to old school guys like me. But the Bears have been drafting linemen to run outside zone plays and power football is a different game. How this adjustment goes as the new season progresses is going to be an issue.

Another significant issue is running back Jordan Howard, who thrived in the Dowell Loggains/John Fox offense his first two years with good patience and excellent vision. How he adjusts to the new scheme is going to be critically important. Things are going to look different and the rhythm of the play once he has the ball in his hands is going to vary depending on what the offense is doing and how they are blocking the play.

One good thing for Howard and the other Bears personnel – he’s excellent running out of the shot gun and indications are, as Campbell points out, that they’re going to be running out of it a lot. The Kansas City offense ran out of the formation 72% of the time.

Trubisky also was obviously more comfortable in the shot gun of his college days last year even as Fox tried to force him to throw more and more from the pocket in the typical drop back manner. I would look for both Trubisky and Howard to be far more comfortable this year as their strengths in this area seems to fit Nagy’s philosophy.

All in all the adjustments this year are going to be interesting all over the offensive side of the ball. Fans will add the ones here to their list of things to watch.

Double Digit Interception Goal for Amukamara Is Admirable, Probably Not Realistic

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune reviews the Bears situation at cornerback:

“Projected on final roster: 6-7.

“Roster locks: Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara.

“Good bet: Bryce Callahan.

“On the bubble: Sherrick McManis, Marcus Cooper, Cre’Von LeBlanc, John Franklin.

“Practice squad candidates: Kevin Toliver, Doran Grant, Michael Joseph, Rashard Fant.

“Camp depth: Jonathon Mincy, Nick Orr.”

“Fuller, whose roster spot seemed to be in jeopardy at this time a year ago, turned in an encouraging performance in his contract season. He had 22 passes defensed, second most in the league, and had interceptions off Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13 and DeShone Kizer three weeks later.

“Fuller’s reward? That hefty four-year contract and the full confidence of his teammates and coaching staff.”

Biggest question: Is Amukamara serious?

“Heading into his eighth NFL season, the 29-year-old veteran has set a lofty individual goal for 2018. Ready for it? “I’m really looking for a 10-pick season,” Amukamara said last month.

“This from a corner who has seven career picks and none since intercepting Kirk Cousins in September 2015. For Amukamara, that was 37 games and two teams ago.”

A couple thoughts here:

  1. If the Bears are keeping 6-7 that means that all of those players who are “on the bubble” could make the squad. Not much in the way of competition at this position, which looks like its going to be the least interesting in training camp when it starts next week.
  2. Amukamara’s goal of getting 10 picks is admirable but not realistic for two reasons.
    1. The Bears play a lot of man coverage. That means Amukamara is playing with his back to the quarterback a lot. Unless the Bears are planning on changing their philosophy, which they almost certainly aren’t, this is going to work against all of the cornerbacks statistically in this area.
    2. Though Dan Durkin at The Athletic calls Fuller the Bears’ “top cover corner”, I’m going to mildly disagree.  Despite the fact that Fuller had what almost everyone thought was an excellent season last year, teams continued to throw at him instead of Amukamara for most of 2017.  Fuller’s 22 passes defensed actually tied for third in the league, not second.  Amukamara’s seven passes defensed wasn’t even in the top 95.

      One of the more interesting things to look for this year is to see if that changes. Most teams find success by rapidly adapting as the season rolls on but I sometimes wonder if ideas about certain players die hard. After 2018 opponents review the 2017 tape in the offseason, Amukamara may see more action on his side of the field this year.

      Having said that, I’m not holding my breath.For most of the year last year

      Amukamara still looked like the better cover corner and one that seems to be vastly under rated by the general public outside of Chicago. If opponents still agree with that, he still isn’t going to get as many balls thrown his way. That respect is well-deserved but it’s going to hurt him statistically.