First off, this will have elements of overreaction- but if Matt Nagy doesn’t learn from this game, aside from Allen Robinson, this could become a brutal fantasy season for the Chicago skill-position players.
Yes, we love coaches who are proclaimed to be ‘geniuses’ at their craft, but far too often, some of these so-called geniuses get caught up in the trap of what I call ‘out-geniusing’ themselves (I know it’s not a word, but just humor me, here!).
In this modern era of football, we’ve learned that schemes can unlock an offense and make a unit greater than the sum of their parts. We’ve also seen fantasy gold appear because of the success of these schemes. So, I was really excited to see Matt Nagy coach the Bears in ‘Year Two’, starting with the season opener against the Packers. In 2018, Nagy was working with a ‘green’ QB and a number of weapons who were brought together for the first time, so nobody expected everyone to jell while Nagy would be the maestro to an elite symphony. While that ended up being true, Nagy did a masterful job of slowly integrating his scheme while allowing players to develop and grow.
Flash forward to this preseason, and with a full offseason together after a year of experience as a unit, along with healthy RBs and a fully-healthy Allen Robinson, there were reasons to expect great things to happen as Nagy would be able to expand his playbook and maximize his talent. And then came the opener against the Packers, and in the famous word of Homer Simpson, we got a ‘D’oh’ moment. So, what happened?
Nagy made the mistake of thinking that his great system that tends to easily scheme players open, can work with any level of player on the field. His biggest mistake was completely ignoring some of his most talented players, while giving impactful work to players who are fringe NFL talent.
• Mike Davis is a really nice player. However, in his first-four years in the league, he’s been a career backup. He’s quite solid in small doses. But think back to his days with the 49ers- he didn’t have much competition- if he was talented enough to lay claim to a starting role, he certainly had every opportunity to seize it. Aside from last year, he’s been unable to leapfrog any solid players on the depth chart, and there’s clearly a reason for that. So, what does Nagy do? He features Davis while pushing the master of forced-missed tackles, David Montgomery, to the sidelines. Davis went down on first contact just about every time he touched the ball while Montgomery may not have gotten much yardage, but he consistently made someone miss just about each time he touched the ball.
• Just a side note- this Davis ‘experiment’ isn’t a new thing. In the playoff loss to the Eagles last year, he gave carries to both Taquan Mizzell and Bennie Cunningham. Those were wasted plays that could have cost them the game. Sure, if these players were used in a blowout (win or loss) that’s fine, but they had no business touching the ball in that game.
• Cordarrelle Patterson may be one of the best decoys/gadget players in the league because of his blazing speed, but we’ve all learned that he’s not a player who can be consistently counted upon to play a significant role in an NFL offense. Again, if he was able to do that, don’t you think Bill Belichick would have used him that way, other than the time their entire RB corps was injured? Not only does Nagy, run Patterson up the middle on third-and-short on a power run play (shocking that he lost two yards, isn’t it?), but he also ran him on traditional WR routes. Sure, if those were deep routes, that’s one thing, but these were intermediate routes that neither show of his deep speed nor run after the catch ability. Meanwhile, Anthony Miller gets just a single target. Maybe he was hurt, but he was active and on the field, so he must have been well enough to play.
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• Mitch Trubisky may be a very limited QB, but he was at least decent most of the times he targeted Allen Robinson. But when a limited QB is throwing to sub-optimal targets, and he’s also at the mercy of second- and third- and long plays because Mike Davis is putting them in a hole, we are definitely going to see Trubisky at his worst.
If Nagy keeps trotting out career backups for regular snaps, the entire offense will be bogged down, they’ll struggle to move the chains, which will lead to disappointing fantasy seasons for most of their players. However, with what amounts to a mini-bye week, hopefully, Nagy sees how poor personnel was a vital part of them not scoring a TD in the opener, he gets his best players on the field. What a concept- let the best players play!