Michael Scofield has a good idea of how long it could take before the Bears’ running game starts to develop behind their new wide zone blocking scheme.
It has a ring that provides pretty good proof. This is not limited and requires the offensive line to solidify into a unit first
“It’s hard to say,” said Scofield, the Orland Park guard who committed to Chicago when camp began. “You never want to say something is set in stone. You don’t know what can happen and when it can happen, but I definitely feel like we’re starting to gel really well right now.
“I feel like that’s a big thing with the wide zone offense and the offense that we have right now is every practice we have to get more and more comfortable with how the running backs see it, how we see it and they all start to gel together.”
So how long?
Scofield has been part of a wide-area offense in the past and can use that as a benchmark.
“One thing I can mention is that when I played for Denver, we played that exact offense,” Scofield said. “It didn’t click right away. You see in camp, usually the defense comes out a little quicker and it happens a little easier for them.
“When I was in Denver, I’ll never forget, even going into probably Week 2 or Week 3, we didn’t run the ball well. It was our first time running a wide zone offense and then around Week 4, 5 or 6 it just clicked.”
It actually took a little longer. The 2015 Broncos team with Schofield as the rookie starter averaged 59.7 yards per game rushing over six games. Then, after a Week 7 bye, the Broncos tore up the league on the ground with 115.7 yards per game over the next 13 weeks, including the playoffs and the Super Bowl victory.
“There was like an eight-week stretch where we were No. 1 in rushing,” Scofield said. “I feel like that’s a big thing with this offense. It will take time. The running backs have to see it, the O-line has to see it. But once we see it, that’s when things start to get special.”
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They finished 17th after the slow start, but no doubt the starting game on the ground is the result of a better understanding of the wide area under coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison with Peyton Manning at quarterback. They passed for over 150 yards rushing five times in that stretch.
“I think it just became a comfort thing,” Scofield said. “It’s different when we can get into games and we can start cutting the O-line and start doing those things and the holes start opening up a little bit more.
“So I think that took a little while for the backs to be able to see. Once they started seeing us cutting and making cuts on the O-line, then they saw the holes open up and they were like, ‘Okay, this is where he’s going to hit now,’ and they got more comfortable with that.”
If the Bears drive the running game, then the passing game in this play-action-based offense can flourish.
Unfortunately for the Bears, it’s not a process they can speed up much
“That’s what camp is for, right?” Scofield said. “We have to treat every rep 100 percent. We have to work 100 percent. Make it as game-like as possible, so when the game comes, we’re ready.”
That 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 in camp from day to day. When they start with the same players back-to-back on back-to-back days, they can begin to build the cohesive unit to work in the wide area.
“Obviously it’s not like an overnight thing,” Schofield said. “You want to be able to — it’s hard to put an exact number, but it’s definitely repetitive training, right? Whoever you’re playing with, especially in a given game, you want to get as many of those reps as you can — handoff plays in pass protection, running double teams and run blocking.
“You just have to get those fits with the person you’re going to play with.”
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