Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte made headlines on Monday when he told the Chicago Tribune that the Bears could have the best offense in the league in 2014, but he isn’t wrong.
Many raised their eyebrows at the thought, but it isn’t as far from crazy as they may think. The Bears finished the 2013 season tied for second in the league with 27.8 points per game and they were eighth in total yardage.
The Bears already had a very good offense in 2013, so to think they could improve in the second year of an offensive system isn’t crazy at all. Becoming the best offense in the league might be a drastic jump, but it’s certainly doable.
Like the Bears were last year, the top offense in 2013, Denver, was second in points per game in 2012. They improved by over a touchdown per game in 2013. Also like the Bears, the Broncos were in their first year of an offensive system in 2012.
Denver was better in 2012 than the Bears were in 2013, but it wasn’t by much. The Bears scored 2.23 points and averaged 34.73 yards per drive in 2013, numbers similar to the 2012 Broncos who averaged 2.38 points and 36.59 yards. The Bears did this despite missing their starting quarterback for a good chunk of the season.
If the Bears improve as much as the Broncos did, they won’t match Denver’s 2013 production, but they’d still likely lead the league, assuming the Broncos tail off a little bit.
There are plenty of reasons to think they can do that. Reasons that go beyond quarterback Jay Cutler playing all 16 games and natural improvement in the second year of an offense.
Player development is often a tricky thing to project, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone who isn’t raving about second-year receiver Marquess Wilson. At 6-foot-3, Wilson would give the Bears four receiving targets that height or taller, all of whom also possess good speed for their positions.
It also seems logical to expect a sizeable leap from 2012 first-round pick Kyle Long. Long struggled early in his rookie season, but finished strong. Long has both the physical characteristics and mental makeup to think he’ll be among the best players in the league at his position soon enough.
Right next to Long last season was another rookie, Jordan Mills. Mills struggled significantly as a rookie, but a full year in the Bears system should lead to a lot of improvement with offensive line guru Aaron Kromer around.
Perhaps the biggest wild card in the Bears plans is veteran tight end Fendi Onobun. Nearly every Bears fan knows about the freak athlete and former basketball player. He tore up camp last season, but couldn’t hold onto the ball in preseason. He didn’t make the Bears final roster, but they kept him on the practice squad.
It’s clear they like much of what they saw, if he can finish his development, it’s not out of the question that he’ll play a big role for the team in 2014.
The Broncos had such a prospect pay off for them just this past season. Like Onobun, Thomas entered the year as a raw, super-athletic tight end. Onobun actually has more career catches (2) than Thomas had entering 2013 (1). Thomas went on to catch 65 passes and 12 touchdowns for the Broncos.
The Bears can’t bank on Onobun, he’s bounced around the league for a reason, but they won’t have to.
If the Bears merely stay healthy offensively and have a defense that can get a stop at least once in a while, they’ll improve significantly on offense. If players like Wilson, Long and Mills come into their own, there’s no reason to think they won’t top 30 points per game and likely lead the league in scoring. If Onobun adds to their cast of playmakers, they could be flat out scary.
Maybe that is a lot of “ifs”, but — unlike past offseasons — the Bears have reasons to think things will go right with their offense. Optimism reigns supreme this time of the year, but Forte isn’t being unrealistic.