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

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?
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?Associated Press
Bear HeiserFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2014

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:

Pass
2012485 attempts2,999 yards= 187.4 per game
2013579 attempts4,281 yards= 267.6 per game
Difference+94 attempts+1,282 yards= +13.6 yard average
Pro Football Focus
Rush
2012470 attempts1,970 yards= 123.1 yards
2013404 attempts1,828 yards= 114.3 yards
Difference-66 atempts-142 yards= -2.15 yard average
Pro Football Focus
Overall percentage of offense
201250.7 percent pass vs. 49.3 percent rush
201358.9 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
2012
TargetsPlayerResult
181Brandon Marshall118 catches for 1,508 yards and 11 TDs
59Matt Forte44 catches for 340 yards and 1 TD
48Alshon Jeffery24 catches for 367 yards and 3 TDs
47Earl Bennett29 catches for 375 yards and 2 TDs
44Kellen Davis19 catches for 229 yards and 2 TDs
40Devin Hester23 catches for 242 yards and 1 TD
11Michael Bush9 catches for 83 yards
9Matt Spaeth6 catches for 28 yards and 1 TD
7Kyle Adams7 catches for 40 yards
3Eric Weems2 catches for 27 yards
2Dane Sanzenbacher1 catch for 7 yards
2Armando Allen2 catches for 16 yards
1Khalil Bell1 catch for 11 yards
Pro Football Focus
Here's 2013, under Trestman
TargetsPlayersResult
158Brandon Marshall100 catches for 1,295 yards and 12 TDs
140Alshon Jeffery89 catches for 1,421 yards and 7 TDs
89Martellus Bennett65 catches for 759 yards and 5 TDs
86Matt Forte74 catches for 594 yards and 3 TDs
42Earl Bennett32 catches for 243 yards and 4 TDs
7Michael Bush4 catches for 48 yards and 1 TD
4Dante Rosario1 catch for 13 yards
2Steve Maneri0 catches
2Eric Weems1 catch for 8 yards
2Marquess Wilson2 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.

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

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 ProFootballFocus.com

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