While maddening in 2018, Matt Nagy’s insistence on using Taquan Mizzell was a sign of what he envisions the Bears offense becoming.
Mizzell wasn’t used as often as it seemed in 2018. He played just 70 snaps, with nine rushes and ten targets in the passing game. That’s attempting to get him the ball every 3.7 snaps. That rate isn’t as high as Tarik Cohen’s (once every 2.6 snaps), but not all of Cohen’s touches were plays drawn up for him. The Bears seemed to see Mizzell as a weapon.
This is something Nagy should’ve known since he was comfortable cutting “Smoke” out of training camp last year before putting him on the practice squad and later back on the active roster. But just because Mizzell couldn’t do it, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a job out there for the right player. That job could prove to be vital to the offense.
On a basic level, Mizzell had value as a backup to Cohen. He’s quick and can do some good things in the receiving game. He just isn’t anywhere near as good at those things as Cohen. But, what if, in theory, the Bears were able to add a player who could do some of the same things at a very high level? There are quite a few options in this draft.
It seems highly unlikely that the Bears will be able to get their version of Kareem Hunt. Yes, running backs drop in the draft, but the success rate of running backs taken later still isn’t as great as fans tend to think. In this specific draft, there just aren’t that many dual-threat backs. Typically, at least five running backs are drafted before the 87th pick in the draft. This year that list likely includes Josh Jones, Damien Harris, David Montgomery, Darrell Henderson and Miles Sanders. Outside of those five, there aren’t very many who seem capable of filling the kind of every down role Hunt filled for the Chiefs.
While it’s difficult to find every down backs in this draft, there are a handful of players who could fill and expand Mizzell’s role. Players like Justice Hill, Tony Pollard and James Williams. Then there is the option of players like Trayveon Williams, Travis Homer, Karan Higdon and Mike Weber, who might not be big enough to handle an every down load, but could bring more explosiveness to the offense.
And that’s good news because the Bears may not need to fill the every down role. As soon as the Bears traded Jordan Howard, there were numerous reports about how much they liked Mike Davis. If that’s true, they could be comfortable with Davis taking over Howard’s short-yardage and red zone carries.
But Nagy just seems to have a vision. Plays like the screen below would be perfect for an explosive player who could make defenders miss in the open field.
Nagy continuously talks about a vision of having a running back by committee and that isn’t something he’s gotten from Andy Reid. His mentor almost always had a bell cow. Nagy is trying to accomplish something different with the position. The Bears could very well draft multiple backs — just a year ago they drafted two inside linebackers and two receivers — to fill multiple roles. But it seems that Nagy has a vision of wanting essentially two Tarik Cohens. Mizzell isn’t close to being able to fill that role, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.