From the Chicago Tribune, former NFL player Matt Bowen was out at Bears mini-camp and took notes of the Bears' new-look offense under Mike Tice. One of the key features of the offense, Bowen noted, was the Bears' using more two tight end sets.
The Bears did not utilize the TE position much under Mike Martz. You could argue they didn't the position at all.
Now, under Tice, the Bears are starting to go in the direction of the New England Patriots' offense by using the versatility of ace personnel.
Kellen Davis tweeted out recently that he expects to catch 40 to 60 passes this season, and Jeremy Stoltz of BearReport.com mentioned to me during our weekly podcast that Matt Spaeth had made some plays in Davis' absence during OTA workouts. These are the first two weapons the Bears will likely use out of this offensive set.
Additionally, second-year TE/H-back Kyle Adams has been making noise and showing progress from year one to year two and seems like he'll be a lock on the 53-man roster. Toss in fourth-round pick Evan Rodriguez as the backup H-back option to Adams, and the Bears are starting to grow in a different direction offensively.
Ace Personnel (two TEs, two WRs) is a lot of what Bowen was talking about in his article, and the benefits of this personnel grouping cannot be understated. The key aspect of this is not just protection, but strength in the running game and added weapons to the passing game. Two big TEs like Davis and Spaeth, who both go 6'7", can cause a lot of matchup problems.
The simple, most immediate question a defense has to ask is, "are the TEs staying in to block or are they BOTH going out for a pass?"
The answer already causes a lot of headaches, as Tice can work over a defense without having to change the players on the field. The first option is strength in the running game with two blocking TEs. This gives Tice options in the outside and inside zone rushing attack.
This personnel grouping is also ideal for attacking a 3-4 defense because it allows for immediate double teams on the nose tackle by the guard and the center. Once a blocker is set, a guard can then slide up to the second level and cut off the back side defender, allowing for huge cut-back lanes for the backs.
In pass protection, the scheme was originally developed to slow down hall of fame rush linebacker Lawrence Taylor. The relevancy in today's game is even more evident, with the Bears facing the Packers, Texans, Cowboys and Cardinals—all 3-4 defenses—this season. Being able to slow down outside rush linebackers like Clay Matthews, DeMarcus Ware and Brooks Reed will give Cutler the necessary time to get the ball down the field.
Now, with the Bears developing this offense, they will be able to utilize their best weapons at all times. Tight ends can pull safety help off of Brandon Marshall, leaving him room to work the field in one-on -one coverage.
The new-look Bears offense will be extremely versatile in the ways it can attack a defense, and this change is just the first step in helping the Bears put points up on the board at an unprecedented rate.
Brett Solesky is editor and publisher of MidwayIllustrated.com a Chicago Bears blog. For more articles about the Bears, including a weekly podcast featuring weekly player interviews and other in-depth information visit my blog.