While the League Zigs, the Bears Will Zag in 2020

| April 28th, 2020

“When They Zig, You Zag”

-Siimon Reynolds

The Zag.

As the rest of the National Football League tries to get faster, the Chicago Bears added a 260-pound tight end with their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Then they raved about his potential as a blocker.

The Bears are doing something very different in 2020.

According to Sharp Football, the Bears ran ’12’ personnel – one RB, two TEs and WRs – on just 13 percent of their snaps in 2019 and 17 percent in 2018. The drafting of Cole Kmet with the 43rd pick was a clear indication that the Bears are going to use the second tight end more. Way more.

After making the pick, GM Ryan Pace raved about Kmet’s all-around ability. He spoke about his size, hands and ability to “post up” and get position. But where Pace really got excited was talking about run blocking. “He’s got the frame and the size, the temperament and the demeanor where we think he’s going to get a lot better as a blocker,” Pace said.

In many ways, the drafting of Kmet was a commitment to a different style of offense, one that will surely feature running back David Montgomery more.

Playing Big.

The Bears didn’t play big in 2019 because they couldn’t succeed that way.

They didn’t have a single, good tight end.

The team passer rating in ’12’ personnel was below 70 and they averaged fewer than four yards per carry. The hope is that Kmet’s ability as a blocker and a receiver makes ’12’ personnel package dangerous.

We have seen this work in the same scheme. Doug Pederson’s Philadelphia Eagles used ’12’ on 54 percent of their snaps in 2019. Carson Wentz had a passer rating of 99.2 and they averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Zach Ertz. Dallas Goedert.

Attack the Weakness.

NFL defenses are adjusting to the speed of the Kansas City Chiefs and the continuously more spread offenses by getting smaller and quicker. The Bears appear to be shifting their scheme in order to attack this new weaknesses.

Specifically, if you look in the NFC North, the Packers allowed a passer rating of 114.3 and 4.5 yards per carry against ’12’ according to Sharp Football. The Vikings allowed a passer rating of 102.8 and the Lions 101.9. In three wide, one tight end sets, the Packers allowed a passer rating of 77.9, the Vikings, 89.7 and the Lions 96.5.

Throughout the league, 20 teams allowed a higher passer rating against ’12’ than they did against ’11’. League wide, teams had a passer rating of 97.4 playing in ’12’, compared to 89.3 in ’11’.

In addition to Kmet and Graham, the Bears have Demetrius Harris as another option. Harris has a rare combination of size (6’7”) and speed (4.53 40), but his best trait is actually his blocking. It isn’t hard to see scenarios in which the Bears use Kmet and Harris (or all three) in short-yardage situations. “We think (Kmet) pairs really well with Jimmy and pairs really well with Demetrius. They all do different things,” Pace said.

Kmet just turned 21 last month and is only scratching the surface of what he can become. The expectations shouldn’t be too high because rookie tight ends usually struggle. But the Bears didn’t draft him to sit on the bench.

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