Alshon Jeffery didn’t put up the kind of numbers generally associated with a No. 1 wide receiver last season – he didn’t reach 1,000 yards, caught less than 47.5% of the passes thrown his way, and his 13.8 yards per reception was his lowest output since 2014 – but he still would’ve been the Bears’ best receiver … by a mile.
But when the Eagles signed Jeffery as a free agent, they brought him into the fold and didn’t need him to be The Man. Rather than force a square peg into a round hole, Philadelphia’s diverse offense allowed Jeffery to fit nicely into a complementary role.
But instead of bemoaning Jeffery’s departure until we’re blue-and-orange in the face, let’s look at the Eagles as a blueprint of how to quickly overhaul an offense.
Before the 2017 season, Philadelphia signed Jeffery and wide receiver Torrey Smith, adding two proven starters to their receivers room, which also moved Nelson Agholor (a first-round pick in 2015) into the slot. In May, the Eagles added LeGarrette Blount to their stable of running backs. And because the team didn’t want to see its top reserve tight end and a main special teams contributor wouldn’t walk away as a restricted free agent, Trey Burton was given a second-round tender. Burton went on to catch five touchdown passes despite playing on just 26.5% of the team’s offensive snaps.
The team fortified its offensive line by signing guard Stefen Wisniewski to a three-year deal and added guard Chance Warmack (the No. 10 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Titans) on a one-year deal.
With Carson Wentz in the fold, Philadelphia didn’t need to tear-down and rebuild the quarterbacks room like the Bears did last spring. Instead, the team strengthened the team by signing Nick Foles to a two-year contract. That stealth signing has paid off since Wentz’s unfortunate season-ending ACL injury.
What makes the Eagles’ offense so dangerous is that it doesn’t have one player who dictates the entire offense. That makes them a tougher team to prepare for in the days leading up to a game and defend against on game day.
Double-team Jeffery, and Ertz can attack the middle of the field as a tight end while Agholor works underneath as a slot receiver. Get the defense to focus on taking away the middle of the field, and Smith has shown he still has the ability stretch a defense vertically and beat defensive backs. Blount is a bulldozer who was built for postseason football and Jay Ajayi (acquired at the trade deadline) averaged 5.8 yards per carry in seven games with the Eagles and is only a year removed from a 1,272-yard Pro Bowl season.
Chicago already has its quarterback (Mitch Trubisky), 1,000-yard back (Jordan Howard), gadget running back (Tarik Cohen), and developing tight end (Adam Shaheen) on the roster. But where the Bears go from here will ultimately decide what the team will look like in 2018 (and if they can follow in the Eagles footsteps).
As of now, they don’t have viable options at slot receiver, or middle-of-the-field stretching pass-catching tight end threat, and their top two outside receivers ended 2017 on injured reserve. And we can’t overlook the process of figuring out the offensive line, which is already a point of emphasis. GM Ryan Pace has a lot of work ahead of him, but turning around the offense isn’t impossible.
The Bears’ defense ranked in the top 10 in points and yards allowed, which makes improving the talent around Mitch Trubisky the front office’s top offseason priority. The Eagles are the standard, and if the Bears want to reach those heights, following Philadelphia’s plan and execution is a great place to start.