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Dannehy: Scheme Changes Can Help Bears Narrow Off-Season Focus

| February 24th, 2022

When mapping out the 2022 Chicago Bears off-season, nobody should forget about where the Bears’ top coaches are coming from.

Luke Getsy comes from Green Bay, where they have succeeded offensively without an elite collection of receiving talent. Matt Eberflus and Alan Williams come from Indianapolis, where they consistently fielded top defenses without top players in the secondary. Since those are the two position groups where the Bears are currently most deficient, one would they’d be the areas of focus for Ryan Poles’ personnel department. But the schemes of the new coaches can help the Bears focus their attention on getting better in the trenches. (Poles has made it clear that he was not happy with what he saw on tape from the team’s offensive line. It wasn’t just talent, but attitude that he noted — a sign that the entire group just may be overhauled or, at the very least, no jobs are safe.)

Offense

The Bears don’t have Davante Adams or Aaron Rodgers like Getsy had with the Packers, but they do have three players who caught more passes than Green Bay’s second-leading wide receiver, Allen Lazard. Green Bay’s passing offense ran through Adams, who caught 123 passes. Their next leading receivers were Lazard (40), Randall Cobb (28) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (26). Their backup running back caught more passes than their third receiver or top tight end.

That’s a recipe the Bears can follow.

Mooney isn’t close to being as good as Adams, but he’s considerably better than the rest of Green Bay’s wide receivers. The simple numbers game tells us the Bears will have to add to the position and whoever they add will likely be better than Lazard.

The Bears also have an ascending Cole Kmet, who caught 60 passes in his second year at 22 years old, and you can bet the team will use David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert more in the passing game.

If Getsy is able to implement a similar system, the Bears will have a run-based offense. In two years with Getsy as the passing game coordinator, the Packers were 24th and 15th in pass attempts. Adams is the only wide receiver who caught more than 40 passes in either season.

The other part, of course, is not having Rodgers. Nobody should expect Fields to play at that level in 2022, but if he isn’t at least a competent passer, the scheme and players around him won’t matter all that much.

The Bears might not have an Adams-like receiver, but they shouldn’t need one. If they can run the ball as efficiently as Green Bay did, they’ll move the ball. And if Fields is what many think he can be, he’ll get them buckets in the passing game with a diverse group of pass catchers.

Defense

The biggest sign of incompetence from the Chicago Bears coaching staff last year wasn’t on offense, but it was defensive coordinator Sean Desai playing an odd amount of man coverage despite every single person in the world knowing they didn’t have the cornerbacks to pull it off.

According to Matt Bowen — who got his data from NFL Next Gen Stats — the Bears played Cover 1 (man-to-man coverage for all DBs, except for one, usually a safety) on 39.2 percent of their defensive snaps in 2021 — the fifth-highest rate in the league.  When you emphasize a weakness that much, the opponent scouts it and uses it to kick your ass. That’s how a team with a terrific pass rush ends up having the league’s worst passer rating allowed.

In 2022, though, the Bears are going to make sure Kindle Vildor, Artie Burns or whoever ends up starting opposite Jaylon Johnson isn’t left on an island.

While Eberflus’ Colts mixed coverages up pretty well, their most popular was Cover 2, which they played 28.3 percent of the time. Playing zone helps hide coverage deficiencies and having two deep safeties helps limit the number of big plays surrendered. Despite not having elite defensive backs or pass rushers, the Colts defense regularly ranked near the middle of the pack in both passing DVOA and passer rating allowed. Eberflus should have a better pass rush in Chicago than he ever did in Indianapolis.

The Bears will need to add competition to the secondary, but even if they went into 2022 with the same cornerbacks, they’d be much more likely to succeed simply because they wouldn’t be asking Xavier Crawford to cover Davante Adams.

The interior of the defensive line was going to need a talent infusion regardless of what scheme the team picked. The last time the team switched to the Tampa 2 scheme, the first draft pick made was Tommie Harris, a classic three-technique. (Finding a three technique is going to be difficult and will likely take a significant asset — don’t be surprised if it’s the 39th overall pick.) The team also figures to need another off-ball linebacker – a Lance Briggs to Roquan Smith’s Brian Urlacher.

Some Overall Thoughts

  • Finding offensive tackles and interior defensive linemen is difficult and expensive. The Bears need to solidify both positions this offseason and both will likely take up significant assets.
  • Teams are almost never able to fill every need in a single off-season, with the new coaches aboard, the team can focus on making the line of scrimmage a strength before attacking the perimeter.
  • The Bears could, in theory, invest a considerable amount of cash space in the offensive line and get wide receivers from the bargain bin — DJ Chark, JuJu Smith-Schuster?
  • Free agency won’t offer many promising options to fill the defensive tackle void, but the team could target that, along with linebacker in the draft. They could look at potential bargains like Chandon Sullivan, Bryce Callahan or Kevin King in free agency.

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