Many things go into why an NFL offense struggles. It is so easy to just blame the quarterback. Is Justin Fields playing great football? No. He’s made his share of mistakes. As a rookie, that was always going to be the case for the Chicago Bears. Context is always key in these situations. A couple of questions should be asked. Has his protection been good enough? No. Have his receivers been consistently open? Also no.
That second part is perhaps the most alarming in all of this. The Bears were convinced they’d “upgraded” at wide receiver this offseason. After all, they certainly did their best to find more speed. Guys like Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd were prime targets. Along with Allen Robinson and an ascending Darnell Mooney? This had the makings of a strong group. Or so everybody thought.
The numbers illustrate players who’ve had a difficult time getting open consistently.
I did some research and found an interesting stat. Something called “contested targets.” In other words, these were passes where a defender was right on top of a receiver. After compiling the numbers so far this season, I came away with this data.
- 91 targets were to Bears WRs
- 25 were contested (27.47%)
- 10 were caught
Now 27% doesn’t sound too bad right? Well, let’s compare. Here are the numbers for the Arizona Cardinals. The last undefeated team in the NFL and boasting one of the hottest passing offenses in the league.
- 105 targets to WRs
- 20 were contested (19.04%)
- 12 were caught
Or what about the Baltimore Ravens? A team that everybody accused of having no credible receivers when the season began.
- 106 targets to WRs
- 14 were contested (13.20%)
- 8 were caught
Or hell, what about the New England Patriots? They have a rookie QB too and on paper, their receivers shouldn’t be anywhere close to the same level as Chicago’s.
- 94 targets to WRs
- 24 were contested (25.53%)
- 18 were caught
So not only are Bears receivers struggling to get open. They aren’t making the tough catches when they’re covered too. It’s little wonder the team can’t consistently put drives together.
Chicago Bears need to find answers to this
The big question that needs asking is this. How much of the issue is talent and how much of it is coaching? Perhaps the most telling part of this is Byrd. He had over 600 yards last season for the New England Patriots. A decent year despite average QB play. A big part of why was the solid job Josh McDaniels did getting him open for Cam Newton. So far this year? He has three catches for 19 yards.
He has completely fallen off the face of the earth. Did he suddenly stop being a good athlete and decent receiver? That is hard to fathom. Instead, it feels like he landed in a situation where the coaches just aren’t capable of getting the most out of him. Matt Nagy likes to talk a big game about having all these plans for the offense. In reality, his system isn’t built around specific players. It’s built around pure Xs and Os.
He isn’t capable of actually making guys better.
This has been proven over the course of 3+ years. Name one offensive player the Chicago Bears have drafted that has genuinely flourished under Nagy. There is an argument to be made that Chicago just isn’t talented enough at wide receiver. Still, it’s impossible to say for sure knowing the offensive system isn’t built to make things easier for them. That is why every pass play looks so laborious.