Bears Weekly Progress Report: Offensive Adjustments Heading into Week 11
We spoke earlier this week about Jason Campbell stepping into Jay Cutler's role as he deals with the aftermath of his concussion, but there is more fallout to consider than just a change under center.
Offensive Line Needs to Continue to Improve
It's not perfect, but I have to say the offensive line has been much better than expected, especially after the rough start to the season.
J'Marcus Webb is right in the middle of the pack (subscriber content) in Pro Football Focus' ranking of all the tackles in the league. I wasn't particularly surprised, as his name had been mentioned less and less frequently in broadcasts, which made me look closer at the film. He's doing a lot right.
It was the perfect example of what this line is capable of and what it needs to do more of going forward as it won't get any easier the last stretch of the season.
Commit to the Run
On the surface, Matt Forte's 16 carries might look a little low, but it's not completely unreasonable given that the Bears trailed most of the game.
In truth, while the Bears offense did run, it did so sporadically and with no apparent plan. They didn't dedicate themselves to running the ball, despite horrible weather and sloppy field conditions.
While not in the same category of guys like Adrian Peterson and the other back on the field that night, Arian Foster, Forte is a tremendous running back. He can run hard between the tackles, get outside or get into space and make defenders miss.
If you don't like how he runs inside, you can turn to a big road hog like Michael Bush to hammer at the defense.
The Bears did neither of those things. They were intent on throwing the ball even when Cutler left the game and Jason Campbell had to come in cold off the bench.
The run was really used only in very specific "running situations." If you don't want to believe my eyeball, you can read similar words from Forte himself (via Chicago Sun-Times)
Now some of the poor performance falls on Forte, who has to make some yards on his own at times. That's just what happens when you're a highly paid running back in the NFL.
However, the coaching staff—and Mike Tice specifically—has to help him out with some more creative play-calling.
Which leads me to my next point—
Think Outside the (Tackle) Box
Now, I say if it's working, stick with it.
However, they might want to tweak the formula just a little.
Marshall has been targeted 103 times, while the next guy up is Earl Bennett at 34. That's a pretty severe discrepancy. You don't have to go away from Marshall entirely, but you do have to shift some of the focus away from him.
That's not just on the quarterback, by the way. There is a certain amount of responsibility on Tice for the types of plays being called. The game plans and play-calling are very similar each week—to the point that I'm surprised the offense hasn't had more problems.
We're not talking about bringing in the "WildBear" or some other gimmicky formation. Just change things up and try to take advantage of the attention Marshall gets. He's killing teams. Are you telling me nobody is paying more attention to him? That Bennett or Hester or even rookie Alshon Jeffery (when he comes back) aren't finding more open space thanks to Marshall's presence?
And, if that's the case, why are you not adjusting for it? Either Marshall is drawing more coverage and leaving good matchups for the other receivers, or he's not and you need to change things up to free up his teammates.
Tice has to change things up a little bit and either design some new plays or diversify the playbook.
Catch the Ball
I'm looking at you, Kellen Davis. Maybe not for much longer, though, if you keep dropping balls.
This note is for everyone, though, including Brandon Marshall, who has dropped a few big passes this year. His overall performance is better than the hot potato act he put on in Miami last year, but his drops in a Bears uniform have been at bigger moments.
Marshall isn't the biggest problem and, overall, dropped passes aren't killing the team. However, you have to hang onto the ball, especially with a backup quarterback coming in.
Which brings us back to Kellen Davis, who dropped a pair this week. The talented fifth-year TE has struggled all year long and has yet to deliver on the promise we all expected to be fulfilled this season.
He's close to getting benched and, really, all it will take for rookie Evan Rodriguez to steal the job full time is to show he can hold onto the ball.
The Bears cannot afford to drop passes, not one.
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