Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy have tried to build the 2018 Chicago Bears offense to be like those Nagy’s mentor Andy Reid had success with in the past. But they may have stumbled into something very different and entirely more fascinating. If Kevin White and Anthony Miller are both able to continue to play at the level they have in the early days of training camp, the Bears won’t have a choice but to put both on the field. That could change the entire offense.
While generally thought of as an offense that spreads the ball around, that hasn’t really been the case. In five years, Reid’s Chiefs have averaged:
- 19.6% of their targets to the top receiver
- 18% to the pass-catching tight end
- 16.9% to running backs
Those numbers mostly held up with Doug Pederson in Philadelphia. His Eagles averaged:
- 20.5% of their targets to the top receiver
- 18.6% to the pass-catching tight end
- 15% to running backs
Where it gets interesting, however, is when you look at the other positions. There you will find very little consistency.
The fourth receiver in the offense typically gets 25 or fewer targets, with the one exception being KC’s 2016 in which Albert Wilson finished with 51. A few things went into that, most notably that the top receiver Tyreek Hill only had 83 targets that year. (There’s always going to be give and take in the game of targets.) That KC team didn’t have a true No. 1 receiver and the Bears do, but targets could come from somewhere else.
The Bears are obviously confident Trey Burton can be a good starter, but that doesn’t mean he will — or should — get the same number of target shares as players like Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz got in Kansas City and Philadelphia. The Bears could take some targets from Burton and maybe some from Taylor Gabriel and spread more to the third and fourth receivers.
There’s a chance that Nagy will just stick with what he knows, but Pederson changed it up just enough that there’s reason to think Nagy will too. The influence of Mark Helfrich is also interesting and could be a sign that the Bears are going to spread their offense out even more than the Chiefs did.
Based on what I saw today @ChicagoBears camp, @MemphisFB WR @AnthonyMiller_3 is going to be an immediate contributor as a rookie! Arguably, the best player on the field this morning. Super quick, sticky hands and production usually adds up to #NFL success.
— Phil Savage (@PhilSavage) July 26, 2018
It’s been impossible to ignore the constant buzz around Miller and no player has played more snaps in camp so far than White. It’s clear the Bears want the latter on the field and becoming clear they might not be able to keep the former off of it.
The most important thing for Nagy to do is get the best eleven players on the field. There’s a chance — and maybe even a good one — that we’re just seeing the standard training camp mirages with White and Miller. But unlike past camp stars (read: 2014 DBB classic, The Joe Anderson Boner) both White and Miller are physical freaks who were drafted high for a reason. After the draft, Nagy simply said “you can never have enough receivers” and this Bears team may put that to a test.
If White and Miller are who they have appeared to be, this Bears offense could just be different enough to make defenses sweat every week.