Influx In Running Backs=3 Back Sets In Chicago
Matt Nagy paid respect to the Chicago Bears history when he started the 2018 season lined up in the iconic T-Formation. Nagy has done many things to install a new culture in Chicago, but this was my favorite. After a winning season, there is a different vibe in Halas Hall, and the 2019 offseason has also brought some new faces. Tarik Cohen will be the only running back from 2018 that will remain on the team. Mike Davis, David Montgomery, and Kerrith Whyte are all additions to the running back room. Wide receiver Coardarelle Patterson is another addition that will be apart of the running game. Last year Matt Nagy coveted a running back that was a natural receiver out of the backfield, and now he has 4.
It's looking like David Montgomery will start and do most of the heavy lifting. I'm sure Cohen will be slotted in as a change of pace back, in dual back sets, or as a slot receiver. Unfortunately for Mike Davis, it looks like he might be battling for carries again, but he may take some of the workload off of Montgomery if the Bears have a run-heavy game plan. Whyte is a bit of a wild card but most of the Bears media reports that Whyte will make the team and earn some playing time on offense and special teams. Having all these hybrid backs leads me to believe there is no reason the Bears won't use three running back sets. The T-Formation might be a little far-fetched, but Matt Nagy has proven to be extremely creative. It's possible Nagy can evolve old, run-heavy formations, and utilize them in today's NFL. This article will explore 3 running back sets that Matt Nagy can potentially use in 2019.
Let's start with the most traditional formation, the Power I. It's a heavy-set with two full backs adjacent to one another. One fullback lines up behind the quarterback and the other on the strong-side, providing two lead blockers for the halfback. If you plug David Montgomery and Mike Davis in at the fullback spots, and Cohen in at halfback it could cause chaos. Montgomery's skill set allows him to avoid defenders in tight spaces. A fullback counter or trap to Montgomery will be potent in short yardage situations. If the Bears need it to become a heavy-set, they can use Whyte as the halfback. The play-action pass game the Bears can build off the power I can be devastating. Picture this, its week three, the Bears offense has a second and 2 on the opposing 32-yard line. Nagy has called a counter in weeks one and two in a similar situation. They line up in the Power I, fake it to Montgomery, and all three running backs break for a route. The play flows right, Montgomery and Davis run crossing routes, clearing the middle of the field. Cohen squeaks up the seam after helping with a chip block, and Trubisky puts it on the money, touchdown Bears. It seems old school, but I wouldn't put it past Nagy.
Like Nagy, I too will be paying tribute to a form of the T Formation. The Wing T is most common in youth and high school football, so this is a reach. The wing-back is lined up behind the tight end and motions toward the ball, in most cases. Tarik Cohen is the best fit for the Wing position. Its possible Gabriel could play wing back, or Patterson if they decide to go heavy. Mike Davis would line up at full back and Montgomery at tailback. Like the Power I, if they could effectively run the ball out of this set, it would create an opportunity to use the backs to create mismatches or blown coverages. I'll admit it would be much easier to run the ball out of Power I than Wing T in the NFL. Who knows, it does give some opportunities for different types of jet sweeps.
The last formation I'm bringing to your attention is the Wildcat. The Wildcat formation is still utilized in the NFL and can be successful. I would never want to see more than a few plays out of the Wildcat, but I honestly believe the Bears can use it effectively. Chicago already knows Tarik can sling it, but David Montgomery played quarterback in high school. Montgomery would be taking the snaps at running back, Whyte playing fullback, and Cohen playing the wildcat position. The major downfall of the Wildcat offense is that it's one dimensional, making it easier to defend. With two running backs that can legitimately throw the ball, it can then become two dimensional, and problematic for defenses. The differences in skill sets and speed on the field would allow the Nagy to call effective runs out of the Wildcat formation. After setting up the running game, Nagy can develop a legitimate passing game. I reiterate the Wildcat should only be used supplementary and built throughout the season, leading to one of Nagy's famous trick play's. I can see it now, Tru lined up in the slot, running motion, and getting a jet sweep that doubles as an RPO. It sounds like it is a far out idea, but Nagy was willing to run play action passes with zero skill players on the field. It would be more shocking to see Nagy call a classic pro style game than run the wildcat. I believe we will see some wildcat from the Chicago Bears in 2019.
Nagy's creativity is undeniable, and having versatile running backs took his offense in Kansas City to another level. Ryan Pace listened to his Head Coach and revamped the running back room with players that fit Nagy's offense. It's up to coach Nagy to figure out how he will use all of his running backs. Some of the formations explained in this article may be outdated, but Nagy will utilize 3 back sets in 2019.