The Eagles’ Super Bowl victory over the Patriots put the exclamation mark, more like three, on what was another great NFL season.
But even though it’s been just three days since the 2017 season ended, every single team (maybe not the Eagles at this very moment) are hard at work preparing for 2018.
For the Bears, that preparation began right after their season finale loss to the Vikings on Dec. 31 and intensified Jan. 8th when Matt Nagy became head coach. Nagy has since then hired his coaching staff and is already breaking down old game tape of the Bears’ abysmal offense.
Sitting on bird next to Bears GM Ryan Pace and Coach Nagy, he does look happy watching Bear film. We know the feeling,told them we need that #3 from Bama! Seniorbowlbound @CalvinRidley1 @wscr @seccountryBama@ClayTravis @Marq_Burnett crimsontideFam pic.twitter.com/PTS3f6lxDc
— JD #63 (@Darny99) January 22, 2018
Nagy’s look says it all.
In order for this coaching staff to prevent similar looks from occuring next season they must answer the multiple questions that are currently surrounding this Bears’ offense.
- How the current players will adapt to Nagy’s system?
- Who will be brought in to play receiver?
- Or what needs to be done to help Mitch Trubisky make a significant jump in Year 2?
All these questions need to be addressed, but how the Bears will utilize wide receiver Cameron Meredith is an interesting one.
Meredith finished the 2016 season as the Bears leading receiver, catching 66 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns, and was set to be a pivotal part of the offense in 2017.
That still holds true two years later despite Meredith missing the entire 2017 regular season due to a torn ACL he suffered in the second preseason game against the Titans. The injury may have set him back, but he did receive good news that there wasn’t any other significant damage, which should allow him to be ready in the spring.
And even though Meredith is set to be a restricted free agent in 2018, the Bears would be smart to bring him back. This means Nagy will have to find ways to capitalize on what Meredith does best.
In 2016, Meredith was most effective when he lined up off the line of scrimmage. There he caught 52 of his 66 receptions for 669 yards and two touchdowns and quarterbacks finished with a 67 percent completion percentage.
(I looked at the 97 times he was targeted, not every single offensive snap in 2016)
When Meredith lined up in the slot he caught 34 passes, 17 each on the left and right side for a total of 426 yards and one touchdown. Quarterbacks had a 70 percent completion percentage when targeting Meredith in the slot to the right side of the formation and 56 percent on the left.
On the outside, Meredith caught 32 passes for 462 yards and two touchdowns, 13 to the left side of the formation, 19 on the right. When Meredith lined up on the outside to the right quarterbacks completed 76 percent of their passes and 72 percent to the left.
During the course of the season Meredith ran a variety of different routes, but he accumulated the most yards on the out, double move and post.
Meredith was targeted 16 times while running the out, at a variety of lengths, and caught 12 passes for 166 yards. When Meredith was targeted and ran a double move, Bears’ quarterbacks completed all five passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. And on the post, Meredith caught five of eight passes for 94 yards.
Check out this double move.
Each of these routes require the receiver to make sharp cuts and to get out of his break effectively and he proved capable of that.
General manager Ryan Pace spoke highly of Meredith this past training camp in regards to his strengths.
What’s intriguing about him is with his size and stature, (he still has) the ability to get in and out of breaks (quickly),” Pace said to Daily Herald reporter Bob LeGere. “He’s a very good route runner for his size – and then (there’s) his catching radius. He’s got really good body control to make adjustments on balls thrown behind him and outside his frame.
Meredith also showed his versatility, lining up all over the field, in what was a simplistic offense run by former offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. And now with Nagy calling the plays, the options are endless for the former Illinois State Redbird.
But at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds Meredith doesn’t resemble any of the receivers that Nagy had while he called the plays for the last five regular season games with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The closest in terms of height and weight to Meredith is Chiefs’ receiver Chris Conley who is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, but he only played in the first five games in 2017 due to a ruptured Achilles he suffered against the Texans.
In 2016 though, Conley caught 44 passes for 530 yards and was most productive off the line of scrimmage, where he had 24 receptions for 279 yards. Once Conley went down, Albert Wilson filled his spot and continued to be productive when he lined up off the line of scrimmage, which could be an indication to where Meredith will fit in this offense.
Over the last five games, when Wilson was off the line of scrimmage he caught 15 passes for 195 yards. Before Nagy took over the play calling duties, Wilson had 17 receptions for 225 yards in eight games.
Nagy put Wilson in the best position to succeed and that’s exactly what needs to happen with Meredith in 2018.
With the current lack of playmakers at receiver it is imperative Nagy plays to Meredith’s strengths, which will only increase the likelihood of the offense making strides in a positive direction.
With the right game planning and preparation, Meredith can be a key contributor and hopefully provide an exclamation mark (hopefully three) for the Bears next season.
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