Bears Receiving Corps the new Prototype NFL Offense

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by BSBEARS, May 31, 2014.

  1. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    Is the Bears' Receiving Corps the New Prototype for NFL Offenses?

    By Zach Kruse, Featured Columnist
    May 31, 2014
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    The NFL's copycat tendencies might be on the verge of its newest chapter, with some teams now chasing an offensive trend recently originated by the Chicago Bears.
    But like most pursuits of the league's ever-changing fads, the Bears' new prototype—a receiving core jam-packed with tall, talented and physical pass-catchers—will be a difficult one to match.
    Unleashed in full last season, the Bears became the second-highest scoring team in football (27.8 points per game) using Brandon Marshall (6'4"), Alshon Jeffery (6'3") and Martellus Bennett (6'6") to dominate the skies. The trio combined to catch 254 passes for 3,475 yards and 24 touchdowns.
    For context, consider that the Bears passed for 4,450 yards and 32 touchdowns total in 2013.

    Chicago Bears
     RECYRDTD
    B. Marshall1001,29512
    A. Jeffery891,4217
    M. Bennett657595
    TOTAL2543,47524
    Accounted for 68 percent of receptions

    Defenses simply couldn't find an answer to Chicago's three receiving behemoths. And there's early evidence to suggest that some teams are attempting to replicate the Bears' aerial dominance.
    "It definitely looks that way, even if only on a small scale to startout," said Matt Miller, Bleacher Report's lead NFL draft writer. "As more super-sized wide receivers come available, it's a trend we'll see grow."
    It wouldn't be the first time—nor will it be the last time—an NFL team attempts to play copycat.
    Seemingly every season, we see one of the 32 NFL teams try something new and succeed, meaning the other 31 teams will try to either copy the idea or find a way to prevent it from catching on. Naturally, team builders take bits and pieces from the league's most successful teams and attempt to integrate those ideas into future personnel moves. It's how the game evolves over time.
    For instance, the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII in convincing fashion by using an unusually tall and physical secondary to smother one of the most productive passing offenses in recent NFL history. Predictably, a handful of teams have approached this offseason looking to get bigger and tougher in the back end.
    Interestingly enough, the Seahawks also adopted a successful trait of the New York Giants. Like the Giants, Seattle stockpiled talent along the defensive line and made it a priority to harass opposing quarterbacks.
    It's the way of the world in the NFL: Do something overly successful, and a team or two is bound to try and make it their own.
    But copying trends is a difficult enterprise.
    Players like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor—the heart and soul of Seattle's secondary—don't grow on trees. Sherman is tall, lanky and the best cover corner in football, Thomas might be the best safety in the game and Chancellor brings intimidating size and hitting ability. Overall, it will be a very hard model to replicate. Most attempting to do so will fail.

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The same can be said for the Bears' high-flying receiving corps.
    Marshall is on pace to be one of the most statistically dominant receivers in NFL history, Jeffery might be the most physically talented No. 2 receiver in the NFL and Bennett runs a sub 4.7-second 40-yard dash at almost 6'7" and 265 pounds.
    Good luck copying that trio. Still, some teams are trying.
    The Arizona Cardinals have Larry Fitzgerald (6'3") and Michael Floyd (6'2"), plus 2014 second-round pick Troy Niklas (6'6") and Rob Housler (6'5"). It's not a perfect comparison, but the pieces now appear in place for the Cardinals to attempt a Bears-like assault through the air.
    The Indianapolis Colts now feature Reggie Wayne (6'0") and Hakeem Nicks (6'1") at receiver, and Coby Fleener (6'6") and Dwayne Allen (6'3") at tight end. Andrew Luck should be able to push the football down the field to a bigger group of pass-catchers.
    The Detroit Lions drafted Eric Ebron (6'4") at No. 10 overall to complement Calvin Johnson (6'5") and Joseph Fauria (6'7").
    Even the Carolina Panthers appear ready to start chasing the trend, given 6'5", 240-pound Kelvin Benjamin was the team's choice to lead a new-look receiving core. He'll join 6'5" tight end Greg Olsen.
    The closest example is likely the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who added first-round pick Mike Evans (6'5") and second-rounder Austin Seferian-Jenkins (6'5") to a receiving group that already featured Vincent Jackson (6'5"). It's probably no coincidence that former Bears quarterback Josh McCown is now in Tampa Bay and likely to be the Bucs' starter.
    “It's very similar [to what I had in Chicago], at least on paper,"McCown told Roy Commings of the Tampa Tribune. "There's still a lot of work to do. We have to get out there and [Evans] has to learn the offense and we have to start building together, but it was good.''


    If any team has a chance to match Chicago's ability to physically dominate through the air, it's the Bucs.
    Jackson is already a bona fide star. Only once in the last six seasons has he not cracked 1,000 receiving yards—his injury-plagued 2010 campaign, when he played in just five games. Since 2008, Jackson is ninth in both receiving yards (6,227) and touchdown catches (43). His 17.7 yards per catch over that span trails only Josh Gordon among qualifying receivers.
    Let's call Jackson a potential Brandon Marshall for Tampa Bay.
    That makes Evans the new Alshon Jeffery.
    There are comparisons: Both were decorated receivers from the SEC, both win with wingspan and jumping abilities over pure speed and both need only an inch of separation to turn in a highlight play.
    Jeffery required a year to acclimate to the pro game, but once Marc Trestman came on board, he almost instantly developed into a top-10 receiver, catching 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven scoresduring his sophomore season. It's certainly possible Evans will have a similar growth timeline.
    The tight end position could be another match. Seferian-Jenkins runs well and displays above-average athleticism at an almost identical size as Martellus Bennett.
    But why would teams want to copy Chicago's trend?
    Probably for plays like these:

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    NFL Game Rewind

    This was one of the best catches of 2013. Somehow, Jeffery elevated and caught this football despite Vikings cornerback Chris Cook being in perfect position and the play's proximity to the sideline. However, Jeffery's size dominates Cook, and he's able to latch and hold on to the third-down heave. He also gets two feet inbounds. It's very unlikely that a shorter receiver makes this play or even comes close.

    [​IMG]
    NFL Game Rewind

    How many quarterbacks could have complete trust in a throw like this? McCown should have been sacked, but instead he escaped and chucked up a jump ball to the end zone for Marshall. And, as expected, Marshall won over the smaller cornerback, this time Green Bay's Tramon Williams. He's able to use his size to contort his frame and reach the football with relative ease. In the process, a minus play turns into six points.

    [​IMG]
    NFL Game Rewind

    Big in size and big in the clutch. In Week 2, the Bears needed a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Having this many large targets becomes such an asset in these situations, when a field goal just won't cut it down in the red zone.
    On this play, Bennett runs a quick wheel route in behind the clear-out receiver, and Jay Cutler is able to give him a catchable ball—what throw isn't catchable for this trio?—at the pylon. Watch as Bennett's huge frame allows him to reach the pass and keep the defender out of the play. Quarterbacks must love having receivers with the this kind of catching radius.
    With targets like Jeffery, Marshall and Bennett, it's probably no surprise that Chicago finished 2013 ranked in the top 10 of both yards per attempt and red-zone scoring percentage.
    It's possible the Bears will be even better in 2014.
    The offense's new No. 3 receiver is expected to be Marquess Wilson, who, at 6'3", has 4.5 speed and a 34.5" vertical jump. He could add a fourth target over 6'3" to the Bears' already towering group of pass-catchers.
    Receivers coach Mike Groh can see the progress in Wilson.
    "He's had a tremendous offseason," Groh said, via Brad Biggs of theChicago Tribune. "He's shown up in great shape. He's gained weight. I think from a strength standpoint and a bulk standpoint, he has a lot more confidence. Hopefully that will show when we get to go against the defense and can see if he can hold up at the point."
    Few secondaries have the man power to consistently handle four receivers as large as the quartet in Chicago, save for maybe the Seahawks.
    But considering secondaries are starting to lean the way of Seattle's—getting longer in the process—the one obvious retort on offense is to match length with length, and the Bears currently have the optimal model.
    In a copycat league, Chicago's receivers are the envy of the NFL. And when that happens, imitation is typically close behind. The new prototype has been established.

    Zach Kruse covers the NFC North for Bleacher Report.
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  2. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    "In a copycat league, Chicago's receivers are the envy of the NFL."

    I'm really glad I haven't been off the planet for a couple of years because if I had and came back to read this I'd have thought it was either a sarcastic joke or a misprint. :bah:


    Earlier this evening I was reading an article about how much more the NFL has become a passing league over the past ten years and I would have posted it but the metrics used in the analysis got way more complex than they needed to be. But the gist of it was to show not only how many more pass plays are run now than were run 10 years ago (about 6%) but the increase in yardage gained by passing vs running is astounding. It's about a third more.

    I guess that explains why so many more WRs, TEs, and QBs are being drafted in the first three or four rounds and far fewer RBs and unless you can catch out of the backfield and pass block a RB may not be drafted at all. TE used to be one of the lowest paid positions on the team. Not anymore. It's RBs paychecks that are declining.

    Phil Emery has done a superb job of adding one tall athletic pass catcher per year since he arrived and although he may have missed on a couple of defensive players he didn't misjudge any of these guys and each one of them, Marshall, Jeffery, and Bennett, represented some degree of risk at the time he went after them. Three shots and three bulls-eyes and if Wilson has progressed between his rookie year and his second year as well as Jeffery did that'll be bulls-eye number four.

    I don't care how good your defensive backs are if that line can provide the protection needed Cutler is gonna have shot at setting some passing records with that bunch and he still has an excellent receiving back in Forte whose more dangerous on pass routes than he is as a runner. If Onobun finally steps up and fulfills his potential that's an incredible batter of pass catchers we can put out there along with a QB who can fit a ball through a keyhole.

    Imagine that. The 2014 Chicago Bears setting passing and receiving records. LOL Never thought I'd see that in my lifetime.
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  3. jbunch14

    jbunch14 Veteran

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    Agreed Soul. It is so refreshing to see the front office of the Bears be so progressive, while at the same time focus on what makes us love the team so much. The defensive overhaul this offseason will undoubtedly yield results this year, although I doubt we see the kind of success that the O has had. I am more excited right now than I was even during the playoffs in 2006. Can't wait for camp to start!
  4. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    Don't think this is the "new" prototype, I think it's been there for awhile, the Bears were just slow to get on board w/the program. JA/Lovie and their OC's seemed to think tall WR's were 6'1".
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  5. Chicago_66

    Chicago_66 Veteran

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    Yeah I think big bodied WR's who play like Marshall have always been sought after, they're just not easy to find and we happen to have two with the good fortune of Jeffery's stock dropping.

    It's like Andrew Luck, everyone would love to "copy-cat" the Colts and go from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck but it just doesn't work like that.

    I think big bodied WR's with skills like these two aren't suddenly appealing, we just had the good luck to be able to get two of them.
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  6. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    man I really wish the Bears would have followed the colts prototypical QB system; just get the a top pick at the right time and get the once in a generational qb, that is a HELL of a system.

    Ya I don't think any team, other then Chicago, said give me nothing but short fast wr's we don't need to throw short and our QB is so good he'll hit those lil guys in the hands no matter who's draped over them.

    Big/athletically talented is always going to work in the NFL at any position, the Pats did it w/2 TE's, the Bears did it w/2 WR's and a TE, NO's did it w/Colston and Graham, and the Bronco's have it w/D and J Thomas.
  7. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    If I remember correctly a few years back Cutler was lobbying for big WR's, JA tried but none of them ever worked out. Martz had short speedy guys in St. Louis and seemed to be his preference. Miami back in the day had short speedy receivers. I think this is just another trend but for once we did it the best. As teams get tall physical DB's teams will look for the super fast guys to run past them, as teams get the faster DB's back teams will go big and tall. Just part of the game.
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  8. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Marshall has always been a superb WR and with him acting as a tutor for the younger guys I expect them to become better than they would have ever become this quickly without that. Marshall is also a tremendous blocker for a WR and he's also helping the others to appreciate the need to that as well. Getting him for two 3rd round picks with that non-guaranteed deal of his in place through 2014 was the deal of the century for us.

    Contrast that to the trade for Cutler and JA's inability to supply him with a decent line, taller receivers, and an OC who not only couldn't coax the best from him but also encouraged JA to trade away the only tall receiver we had in Greg Olsen and that alone becomes a microcosm of the differences between two GMs as far as developing the Bears offense. How much sense did it make to trade Olsen before knowing whether of not Martz was more than a short timer as OC?

    In the long run we've come out far better with Bennett and he didn't even cost us a pick but the contrast between Emery's light speed upgrades on both sides of the ball and JA's glacier like approach are something to be happy about. We've never seen the Bears move like this as far as fixing glaring problems with better talent. JA seemed to think it was up to the coaching staff to make his picks better and yet the offensive coaches sucked too.

    I was listening to an interview with Matt Forte and he was talking about how WR Coach Daryl Drake would nod off during film studies in the receivers meetings and then afterward ask stupid questions about assignments that even Drake didn't have correct. No wonder the guy never developed a decent #1 WR and yet he was a part of Lovie's Texas Mafia so no matter how bad he was he kept his job. I think we all sensed a lot of this but it still pisses me off no end that it was let go for as long as it was when the solutions were as easy as they've become.

    Now instead of a whole bunch of people working at cross purposes and feathering their own nests we have player talent, good coaching, a dynamic front office, and most of all personal accountability for results. It's finally getting easier to be a Bears fan.
  9. Chicago_66

    Chicago_66 Veteran

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    That pisses me off something fierce. Lovie completely screwed us so many times, such a waste of defenses the past decade. I wish Lach and the crew could have gotten a ring. How you can keep a coach like that is beyond me, this isn't about being buddy buddy this is about winning Super Bowls.
  10. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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  11. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Well it's a different day now and there's no more "good old boy" system around there. Trestman didn't have any trouble replacing Tibesar as his LB coach after the debacle last year and Tibesar was one of the guys he brought in with him from the CFL.

    Like I was saying there's a personal accountability system in place now so everyone has to their jobs to their fullest extent. Even Emery has subjected himself to that by admitting he was part of the defensive problem last year because he didn't provide enough talent or depth. When did anyone ever hear JA do a mea culpa as far as his personnel moves went?

    I think Lovie's problem will always be that he's so much of a "players coach" that he's overly loyal to certain players and styles of play and too stubborn to adjust when he needs to. Maybe it'll be different for him at TB but I can easily see a lot of good team but few great ones that will come from his coaching. He lacks that "killer instinct" that all truly great coaches have.

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