The Chicago Bears offense has struggled to find consistency through the passing game this season. The team currently has just eight passing touchdowns through the first half of the season with two of the eight passing touchdowns coming from non-quarterbacks.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains has struggled with a subpar talent level of wide receivers which has affected the rest of the passing game. Passing plays for tight ends and running backs have not been successful, but Loggains hasn’t called specific plays this year that provided the offense success last year.
In 2016, Loggains called several screen passes, both to wide receivers and running backs, that worked well throughout the season. In the beginning of the year, the Bears had a wide receiver screen pass net 20 yards or more in four of their first six games.
The long screen plays went to different wide receivers over that time as Eddie Royal, Alshon Jeffery, and Cameron Meredith all recorded a long reception off a screen design play. Although none of the screen passes were scoring plays, the plays did help set up for a score later in those drives.
There were several traditional screen passes called for the running backs throughout the season and were reliable plays as well. When Jordan Howard became the starter in week four last season, Loggains dialed up tradition running back screen passes for Howard in six of his 12 starts. In those six games with screen passes to Howard, he gained 10+ yards on those receptions picking up first downs on all those plays.
What made these screens work was Howard’s discipline and vision to allow and take advantage of the blocks in front of him.
During this season, the amount of screen passes to wide receivers and running backs has significantly decreased from last year. The one player on the offense who has been involved the most on screen passes has been rookie running back Tarik Cohen.
Cohen has caught or been involved in a screen pass in half of the games this season. The plays have not been traditional screen passes thrown to running backs as Cohen has caught passes either over the middle or been lined up at the wide receiver position. Cohen has been involved in just one tradition screen pass as a running back coming out of the backfield and that was an incomplete pass in the game against the New Orleans Saints.
Jordan Howard has struggled so far this season with dropped passes as he has dropped two possible touchdown passes against the Falcons and against the Saints with both passes hitting him in the hands. Very rarely this season has Loggains used Howard in a screen pass as the only time came against the Saints where the Bears gained 12 yards on third and 11.
With a rookie quarterback struggling with accuracy and wide receivers failing to gain separation, one has to wonder as to why Loggains has not utilized screen passes more this season.
When Mitchell Trubisky was at North Carolina last season, one of the more frequent pass calls for him was either a slot screen pass or a tradition wide receiver screen pass. It would make sense have Trubisky make throws that he has made before, but that has been rarely seen through his first four starts at quarterback.
The team has two wide receivers who have been used in screen passes during their careers and have had success as well. Both Kendall Wright and newcomer Dontrelle Inman have been apart of successful screen passes with their former teams. Wright’s best season came back in 2013 where he caught 94 catches for 1079 yards with having Loggains as his offensive coordinator.
Inman had success in Mike McCoy’s offense last season which relies on screen passes to open up passes downfield, Inman caught 58 passes for 810 yards.
It will be interesting to see what the Bears offensive game plan will be when they take the field this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers following their bye week. The team will feature two more veteran wide receivers and Dowell Loggains will carry the responsibility for getting the passing game going.
Using more screens could create big plays if the blocking is precise and it should help build Trubisky’s confidence going forward. For a set of plays that worked for the Bears last season with so many different players, it is interesting to see if Loggains wants to employ more screen passes as a way to jumpstart an offense lacking consistency.