Chicago Bears: How the Offense Has Evolved Under Marc Trestman, by the Numbers

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Chicago Bears: How the Offense Has Evolved Under Marc Trestman, by the Numbers
Associated Press
Alshon Jeffery was a major reason why the Bears offense made the leap it did in 2013. Is there room for him to take another step forward?

A flip was switched in the offseason leading up to the 2013 season, and it was Marc Trestman who flipped it. The Chicago Bears finally had an offense to talk about, and a head coach who actually knows a thing or two about offensive innovation.

No offense to Lovie.

Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett: In 2013 the Bears had firepower at every position for the first time in team history. The most dynamic offense Bears fans had ever seen was about to take the field.

In 2012, the final season of the Lovie Smith era, the Bears ranked 28th in total offense, 10th in rushing and 29th in passing. But that was then.

In 2013, the first of the Trestman era, the Bears ranked eighth in total offense, fifth in passing and 16th in rushing.

Both facets of the offense actually contributed, for the first time in what probably seems like forever to Bears fans. There was a relative balance. It was so refreshing.


Here’s what the offensive numbers looked like in 2012 vs. 2013:

2012 485 attempts 2,999 yards = 187.4 per game
2013 579 attempts 4,281 yards = 267.6 per game
Difference +94 attempts +1,282 yards = +13.6 yard average

Pro Football Focus

2012 470 attempts 1,970 yards = 123.1 yards
2013 404 attempts 1,828 yards = 114.3 yards
Difference -66 atempts -142 yards = -2.15 yard average

Pro Football Focus

Overall percentage of offense
2012 50.7 percent pass vs. 49.3 percent rush
2013 58.9 percent pass vs. 41.1 percent rush

Pro Football Focus

So with Trestman calling the plays, the Bears passing offense produced 1,282 yards than in 2012 on 94 more attempts. The running game featured 66 fewer attempts and dropped 142 yards from its 2012 total. All of this came on an 8.2 percent increase in the number of passing plays in 2013.

Look at the per-attempt averages: the Bears gained a net increase of 11.45 yards. While we all know by using the eye test that the modern NFL is now dominated by the passing attack, here is some additional proof as to how an offense can evolve overnight. Trestman demanded more from his players, and more is exactly what he got.

The switch had been flipped.


Let’s look at who did what, broken down by targets

Here's 2012, under Lovie
Targets Player Result
181 Brandon Marshall 118 catches for 1,508 yards and 11 TDs
59 Matt Forte 44 catches for 340 yards and 1 TD
48 Alshon Jeffery 24 catches for 367 yards and 3 TDs
47 Earl Bennett 29 catches for 375 yards and 2 TDs
44 Kellen Davis 19 catches for 229 yards and 2 TDs
40 Devin Hester 23 catches for 242 yards and 1 TD
11 Michael Bush 9 catches for 83 yards
9 Matt Spaeth 6 catches for 28 yards and 1 TD
7 Kyle Adams 7 catches for 40 yards
3 Eric Weems 2 catches for 27 yards
2 Dane Sanzenbacher 1 catch for 7 yards
2 Armando Allen 2 catches for 16 yards
1 Khalil Bell 1 catch for 11 yards

Pro Football Focus

Here's 2013, under Trestman
Targets Players Result
158 Brandon Marshall 100 catches for 1,295 yards and 12 TDs
140 Alshon Jeffery 89 catches for 1,421 yards and 7 TDs
89 Martellus Bennett 65 catches for 759 yards and 5 TDs
86 Matt Forte 74 catches for 594 yards and 3 TDs
42 Earl Bennett 32 catches for 243 yards and 4 TDs
7 Michael Bush 4 catches for 48 yards and 1 TD
4 Dante Rosario 1 catch for 13 yards
2 Steve Maneri 0 catches
2 Eric Weems 1 catch for 8 yards
2 Marquess Wilson 2 catches for 13 yards

Pro Football Focus

Aside from the addition of Martellus Bennett, the 2013 group looks pretty similar to the previous year’s.

As Grantland’s Robert Mays brilliantly wrote, all Trestman did was turn old parts into something new. He gave the old parts an opportunity to flourish in a dynamic system. He instilled confidence in his quarterback; he found new ways to get his receivers in space; he saw areas of which Forte could expand his role in the passing game.

What Trestman was able to do in one offseason was nothing short of miraculous.

Now the question is whether or not the offense will evolve again in year two of the Trestman era.

Last season, the Denver Broncos led the league with 7,317 total yards, 1,203 yards more than the Bears. The Green Bay Packers led the NFC North with 6,404 total yards, 295 more than the Bears. Let’s remember that Aaron Rodgers missed seven games, so the Packers’ total likely would have increased had he played a full slate of games.

Our threshold for improvement is somewhere in the range of 295 and 1,200 yards. While that certainly is a wide range, there is reason to believe the Bears will be more efficient on offense now that this unit has a year of experience upon which to build.

David Richard/Associated Press
Holmes is the Bears' X-factor

The same can be said of the offensive line. There’s another reason to think the offense still can grow.

There’s also the addition of Santonio Holmes, who likely will start the season as the slot receiver, taking the place of Marquess Wilson, who broke his collarbone during training camp and is expected to miss from six to eight games. Wilson was thought to be a breakout star in this offense, and that still is possible if he can make a healthy return.

Holmes essentially is taking Earl Bennett’s place. Bennett had 42 and 47 targets in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Obviously, Holmes was brought in to play a role, but if he is anywhere near the player he once was, you had better believe that Trestman is going to find ways to get veteran wideout in space to exploit mismatches. Last season, Holmes was targeted 59 times in only 11 games, all while playing with the worst possible grade for a Lisfranc injury. With a much-improved everything around him in Chicago, the possibilities could be plentiful for Holmes. 

If Holmes pans out and Wilson comes back healthy, that would give Cutler and Trestman six very viable options in the passing game. There only are a few teams in the league that could handle that kind of firepower.

Trestman has shown the ability to build from within. What he did with very little time to prepare heading into the 2013 season was pretty incredible. Now that he’s had a season to learn how to be an NFL head coach, expect this offense to take another huge leap forward.


All statistical research gathered from

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