The Chicago Bears have just completed their first week of training camp at Bourbonnais and already we are seeing the impact of head coach Matt Nagy. His main objective is to lead the team to the Super Bowl by developing second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Although everything this year will be geared towards the success of Trubisky, Nagy could build a base for offensive success beginning with the rushing offense.
Nagy is very fortunate as many new head coaches rarely inherit a Pro-Bowl running back from the previous coaching regime. Running back Jordan Howard has recorded consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons in his first two years in the league. He provides a between the tackles, north-south running back who fights for every yard.
Last year, running back Tarik Cohen was drafted to as Howard’s back up and provide a nice change of pace in the backfield. Howard and Cohen combined for over 1,492 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017. These numbers came with opposing defenses usually playing eight in the box to stop the run as the Bears started a rookie quarterback.
This season the team has added multiple quality offensive coaches, more players at the pass-catching positions, and should have a healthier offensive line to improve on their rushing numbers. The mix of Howard and Cohen is great for an incoming coaching staff as they have a year’s worth of game film to build on. New blocking schemes, play formations, and backfield personnel will make running plays less predictable to diagnose.
Nagy believes strongly in Howard’s ability to be a impact back and his importance to the offense.
“For us, it’s important for Jordan to know and for everybody on our offense to know that he’s a big part of this,” Nagy said via Chicago Tribune reporter Rich Campbell. “This kid’s had a very successful career so far. We’re crazy as coaches if we don’t understand it and if we don’t use that to our advantage.”
Nagy and the offensive coaching staff do not need to rush Trubisky to be fully ready in the passing game when the season starts. Providing both Howard and Cohen with many attempts early in the season can take tremendous pressure off their young quarterback from having to make all the plays. Nagy can rely on his running backs and even get creative with some of their speedier wide receivers.
The addition of free agent receiver Taylor Gabriel and the drafting of receiver Anthony Miller can create surprise rushing plays. Gabriel has recorded 16 career rushing attempts with the majority of them coming on jet sweeps. Nagy’s offense in Kansas City did feature jet sweeps and end arounds involving wide receivers.
He touched on the fact that the running game involve more than just Howard alone.
“There’s this notion that he is just a first-and second-down back, and I don’t believe that. Jordan can play all three downs,” stated Nagy via Campbell. “We’re going to do that. We’re going to use him, and we’re going to use other guys on first and second down when we need to. ”
Utilizing Cohen, Gabriel, and Miller speed on non-traditional running plays not only could create confusion for opponents in stopping the run, but could also open up the passing game for Trubisky. The Bears will run a lot of run-pass options in which a lot of big passing windows are opened because of a dominant running game.
It takes time for any NFL offense to adjust to a new playbook, but it is easier when not everything has to implemented and learned all at once. Nagy has that opportunity with the Bears to where the offense can obtain success while still learning, which is extremely important for a young quarterback and a team as a whole.