One doesn’t necessarily need Pro Football Focus’ unique analytical perspective to come to the conclusion that the Chicago Bears’ passing game needs some work. However, it does give us an idea of how much work needs to be done for it to get up to par.
PFF’s Cam Mellor recently ranked each of the NFL’s 32 teams based on their passing games, and to no one’s surprise, the Bears rank in the bottom third. Frankly, I’m pleasantly surprised they don’t rank dead last – that honor went to the New York Jets, who added one former Bear (Josh McCown) but lost a much more valuable ex-Bear (Brandon Marshall) to the Giants in free agency. The Jets are one of eight teams whose passing grade rates worse than the Bears, who sit at 24th on Mellor’s list.
Here is what he had to say about the situation:
“Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky? Gone is Alshon Jeffery. Back are the oft-injured Kevin White and Cameron Meredith who dropped a pass every 10.81 targets, 25th highest rate among 96 receivers. Jordan Howard was sensational with the ball in his hands as a rookie running back last season, but he dropped eight passes from just 46 targets. Their ranking at No. 24 factors in that all, but really doesn’t it come down to who is throwing the ball in Chicago?”
Mellor doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the Bears’ passing attack, and understandably so. The team goes into 2017 having lost its most reliable target (Jeffery), hoping that its top pick from 2015 is healthy and finds a cure for the drops that plagued him when he played, its leader in catches and receiving yards from 2016 – an undrafted free agent who is in his third year with the team – takes another step forward in development and proves himself to be a top target, and needing one of its collection of free agent additions to recapture the magic that once made them big play targets for their respective former clubs. All while playing for a quarterback who hasn’t started a game since 2014, or a rookie who has made just 13 starts since graduating high school.
Uninspiring options at receiver are just the start of the Bears’ passing game problems. We were spoiled with Matt Forte as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, so as well as Jordan Howard ran as a rookie, he’ll need to continue to round out his game as a receiver to provide a much-needed boost to the offense. As it stands, tight end Zach Miller might be the passing game’s most reliable target. He ranked eighth among PFF’s tight ends, and earned the site’s 14th best receiving grade. However, the Bears reportedly made it known that he was available in the offseason and could be moved out of a crowded tight ends room at some point this summer. That would leave Chicago with free agent Dion Sims, who could develop into a dual threat but needs work as a pass catcher, and second-round draft pick Adam Shaheen, who is a wild card because of his skill set and athleticism but is also unproven against top competition.
All things considered, it would have been asking a lot to put the Bears higher on this list than 24th.