LAKE FOREST – The Bears offense is already under a microscope. It has been only one week, but head coach Matt Eberflus’ offense has a lot of things it can clean up. Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy have work ahead of them.
The Bears will return to action Sunday with a matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This will be yet another test against a blitz-happy Bucs defense.
If the Bears are going to turn this thing around on offense, here are three things that need to improve.
1. Offensive line communication
Nothing is going to work if the offensive line isn’t working together. When one guy on the offensive line screws up, it can affect an entire play.
In Week 1, the most notable mistakes on the offensive line came from veteran right guard Nate Davis and left tackle Braxton Jones. Davis had a couple of bad beats where his opponent simply bested him in a one-on-one situation. Those are going to happen (although ideally not to your prized free agent addition).
You can live with getting beat. But it’s the plays where guys don’t know who they should be blocking that are killer. Take, for example, this Justin Fields roll out where a defensive tackle goes untouched into the backfield. Jones, the left tackle, doesn’t touch anybody on the play.
Davis was guilty of this elsewhere on the film. The fact that the Bears had numerous miscues like this, where somebody doesn’t know who to block, tells you that these are fixable mistakes.
Davis, remember, hardly practiced in training camp. Center Lucas Patrick didn’t practice with the starters until just before the opener. Knowing the assignments is half the battle sometimes. Any good coaching staff will clean this up.
2. Perimeter blocking
As Getsy said earlier this week, some of the lateral passes could have resulted in big plays if the receivers executed as perimeter blockers. While that may have simply been the plan of attack specifically designed for the Packers, the perimeter game is not something that’s just going to disappear from the Bears’ playbook. This offense might continue to look like this for the time being.
If Getsy was happy with the plays but not the execution, the easiest thing to clean up would be the execution. The Bears aren’t all the sudden going to change the whole playbook in one week.
With receiver Chase Claypool specifically, the perimeter blocking has to improve if he’s going to be out there. He has too big of a body and he’s too athletic to whiff on blocks.
“We tell guys to go where he’s going to be, not where he is,” Bears receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said this week. “I think [on the missed] blocks, he kind of went to where they were. And they get paid, too. They’re athletes. They’re going to move. So we anticipate them being a little lower. So go lower where they’re going to be, and not where they are. I think we need to do a better job of that fore sure.”
3. Pull the trigger
Looking deeper at the film, part of the reason why the offense threw short so much last week was on the QB. In Fields’ own words, he played too conservatively. There were throws out there he could have made, but he elected to with a safer option.
That’s fine. But if Fields is going to take a step forward as a passer, he has to start making the type of throws that the elite NFL quarterbacks make. Sometimes, that means throwing the ball before a target is open, in anticipation of where he will be.
On this play below, receiver DJ Moore is open when he cuts inside near the 20-yard line. It’s not wide open, but it’s “NFL open.” Those are the type of throws that elite NFL QBs make. When Fields said he played too conservative, this is probably the type of play he was referring to.
“Definitely with guys like DJ and Chase on the outside, if we do have one-on-one on the outside, potentially throwing it up and seeing what happens,” Fields said. “With them, they’re great playmakers and they can most likely come up with a 50-50 ball.”
Fields has to give his receivers chances to make plays. There’s a fine line, of course, between being aggressive and being overly aggressive. I asked Bears QB coach Andrew Janocko how Fields can toe that line. For Janocko, it all comes down to knowing the purpose behind each and every play.
“I think we just jump in and look at the intent of the plays and make sure we create the complete understanding of what is the intent of this play,” Janocko said. “Are we looking to take a shot or are we looking for a completion. Then understanding where we’re calling it on the field. It’s overall educating him with the plan.”