Adam Gase did a fantastic job coordinating the Chicago Bears’ offense last year and playing to the strengths and weaknesses of the group overall, but more specifically, to his quarterback, Jay Cutler. Gase has shown a great ability to do this throughout his career with a wide variety of styles of quarterbacks.
But Gase is now coaching the Dolphins and Dowell Loggains, last year’s quarterback coach, is taking his place. The common way of thinking is that Loggains will keep many of the same principles from a year ago, which would be wise.
Gase constructed an offense that got the ball out of Cutler’s hands quick and as a result, Chicago’s historically risk-taking quarterback cut down dramatically on the number of bad decisions he made.
Cutler has an outstanding arm and also trusts his top receivers. He has had no problem putting the ball up for someone like Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall to go up and come down with the football. But there also have been far too many times throughout his career when Cutler uncorked a pass that he simply should not have let go. Cutler also demonstrated probably the best overall accuracy of his career in 2015. This is also a quarterback that is rarely given the credit he deserves from a mental standpoint. Gase had Cutler doing a lot pre-snap at the line of scrimmage as well. This should certainly keep up and Loggains would be wise to really make this Cutler’s offense overall, as he is highly capable.
This strategy that Gase employed also made the offensive line’s job easier in not asking them to hold their blocks quite as long, which was especially important considering that Chicago’s front line was not a particularly strong unit. Judging through much of the preseason, it looked like the Bears’ offensive line would be a huge liability and even so much of a deficiency that it could derail this offense.
Just one addition probably isn’t enough to totally change the outlook of an entire offensive line, but there is no way around it: Chicago got a gift with the Packers release of Josh Sitton. This one just fell into the Bears’ laps and they locked up one of the league’s best guards.
Sitton certainly looks like a prototypical mauling guard who mashes everything in his path in the run game. And he can do that without question. But where Sitton is at his best is in protection. He is very light on his feet for his build. Overall, this is a top five guard in the NFL and possibly the best in protection.
Sitton will team with Kyle Long to make up, without question, one of the best guard tandems in football. This then allows second round pick, Cody Whitehair, to bump inside to center where he is going to compete with Ted Larson. Whitehair was a tackle in college who projected very well to guard, but is very new to center this preseason. It might take time, but the trio of Sitton, Whitehair and Long should be a great strength of this offense.
At tackle, the Bears upgraded from a year ago by signing Bobbie Massie to start on the right side.
Massie is an average starting right tackle, but that is a lot better than what this team was playing with in 2015 at that spot. And on the left side, Charles Leno is rarely talked about in a positive light, but clearly this is a player on the rise. Don’t be surprised if he’s contending for being in the league’s top dozen or so left tackles this year.
Overall, Chicago’s offensive line looks to be vastly improved and that not only should help the running game, but it could allow for Loggains to dial-up more downfield passing from Cutler as well. Don’t forget that since 2010, Cutler has been sacked 199 times — the fourth most in the league. Still, Cutler probably wouldn’t mind letting a few more deep balls fly this upcoming year if his protection is truly up for the challenge. Loggains certainly will have to maintain a balance, though.
When healthy last year, Jeffery was a truly dominant player. His presence should allow for Kevin White — who might actually be Jeffery’s equal or superior in terms of natural gifts for the wide receiver position — to come along a little more patiently in his second season after missing his entire rookie year.
Judging from the preseason, White will need time.
To say that he is a work in progress might be kind at this point. However, because of his gifts, he should immediately be helpful as a field stretcher and after-the-catch option on shorter routes while Jeffery does the heavy lifting while playing for a contract. He’s currently on the franchise tag.
The rest of Cutler’s receiving options are mediocre and the Bears certainly could use another guy, with all due respect to Eddie Royal and Zach Miller. Expect to see more three wide receiver sets and fewer double tight ends than from a year ago with Martellus Bennett now in New England.
Jeremy Langford wasn’t super impressive as a rookie, but has shined in the preseason. We shall see if that keeps up, but he provides help in the passing game as well as entering the season as Chicago’s lead runner. Ka’Deem Carey is second on the running back depth chart. He too is a decent receiver and he runs extremely hard for his size. But Carey’s ceiling isn’t especially high and he isn’t all that explosive or shifty.
Explosive and shifty are not adjectives to describe Jordan Howard either and for now, he will have to bide his time in the pecking order. But wow, does Howard look like a John Fox type of no-nonsense straight ahead downhill runner, very much in the Stephen Davis mold. Howard showed up big in Chicago’s final preseason contest and his time very well could come at some point this season.
Overall, Chicago’s offense is probably middle-of-the-road compared to the rest of the NFL.
But assuming Loggains keeps many of the same principles from Gase, the new additions to this unit could pay off in a big way. Contrary to popular belief, Cutler is a good starting NFL quarterback. All that being said, the Bears opening day matchup in Houston is a brutal one, as the Texans very well could have the NFL’s best defense in 2016.
But there is progress here.