Michael Schofield has a good idea of how long it will be before the Bears’ running game takes off behind their new wide area blocking system.
He has a ring that provides pretty good evidence. It’s not over and it requires the offensive line to solidify into a unit, first
“It’s hard to say,” said Schofield, the Orland Park guard who signed up for Chicago at the start of camp. “You never want to say something is solidified. You don’t know what might happen and when it might happen, but I really feel like we’re starting to freeze really well right now.
“I feel like that’s a big thing with the wide zone attack and the attack we have at the moment is every practice we have to get more and more comfortable with. the way the running backs see it, how we see it and everyone is starting to gel.”
So how long?
Schofield was part of a wide area offense in the past and can use that as a gauge.
“One thing I can mention is when I played for Denver, we played in that exact offense,” Schofield said. “It doesn’t click right away. You see in camp, usually the defense gets away with it a little quicker and it goes a little easier for them.
“When I was in Denver, I’ll never forget, even going into probably Week 2 or Week 3, we weren’t running the ball too. It was the first time we ran the zone offense wide, then week 4, 5 or 6, it just clicked.”
In fact, it took a little longer. The 2015 Broncos team with Schofield as a starting rookie averaged 59.7 yards per game rushing through six games. Then, after a bye in Week 7, the Broncos tore through the league rushing at 115.7 yards per game over the next 13 weeks, including the playoffs and Super Bowl victory.
“There was an eight-week stretch where we were the No. 1 offense for the run,” Schofield said. “I feel like that’s a big problem with this attack. It’s going to take time. The backs have to see it, the O line has to see it. But once we see it, that’s where things are starting to get special.”
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They finished 17th in a rush after the slow start, but there was no doubt that the opening ground game resulted from a better understanding of the wide area under coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison with Peyton Manning at quarterback. They’ve rushed for over 150 yards five times during that streak.
“I think it just became a comfort thing,” Schofield said. “It’s different when we can get into matches and we can start cutting on the O line and start doing that kind of stuff and the holes start to open up a bit more.
“So I think it took a bit of time for the backs to see. Once they started seeing us cut and make the cuts on the O line, they saw the holes open up and got said ‘OK, this is where it’s going to hit now’, and they were more comfortable with it.”
If the Bears start the run game, the passing game in this play-action-based offense can thrive.
Unfortunately for the Bears, it’s not a process they can speed up much.
“That’s what camp is for, isn’t it?” Schofield said. “We have to treat every rep at 100%. We have to go for it at 100%. Make the game as much as possible so that when the game comes we’re ready.”
It can’t help the process when the Bears are still sorting through different versions of their offensive line to make sure they have the best combination of five blockers.
Linemen often line up next to a different player at camp from day to day. When they start with the same players side by side on successive days, they can begin to build the cohesive unit to work in the extended area.
“Obviously it’s not like a one-day thing,” Schofield said. “You want to be able – it’s hard to put an exact number, but it’s definitely multiple workouts, right? Whoever you’re playing with, especially in a game, you want to get as many of those reps – pass matches in pass protection, double shift work and run blocking.
“You just have to have these tantrums with the guy you’re going to play with.”
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