Michael Schofield has a good idea of how long it might be before the Bears’ running game kicks off behind their new wide-zone blocking scheme.
He has a ring that provides pretty good evidence. It is not finite and requires the offensive line to solidify into a unit first
“Hard to say,” said Schofield, the Orland Park warden who registered in Chicago when camp began. “You never want to say that something is fixed. You don’t know what might happen and when it might happen, but I definitely have a feeling we’re just starting to gel really well.
“I think that’s a big thing with wide zone offense, and the offense that we have right now is every practice where we have to get more and more comfortable with how the running backs are looking at it, how we’re looking at it see and everyone starts to gel together.”
So how long?
Schofield has been part of a wide zone attack in the past and can use that as a benchmark.
“One thing I can address is that when I played for Denver, we played that very offense,” Schofield said. “It doesn’t click right away. You see in the camp, the defense usually comes away a little faster and it happens a little easier for them.
“When I was in Denver I will never forget, even if we were probably in week 2 or week 3, we didn’t run the ball that well. It was our first time running the wide zone offense and then it came through week 4. 5 or 6 it just clicked.”
In fact, it took a little longer. The 2015 Broncos team with Schofield as the rookie starter had rushed for an average of 59.7 yards per game for six games. Then, after a week seven bye, the Broncos tore up the league on the floor at 115.7 yards per game over the next 13 weeks, including the playoffs and Super Bowl win.
“There was about an eight-week period where we were the No. 1 rushing offensive,” Schofield said. “I think that’s a big thing on this offense. It will take time. Defenders need to see it, the O-Line needs to see it. But once we see it, things get special.”
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They finished 17th after the slow start, but there was no doubt the opening of the ground game came from a better understanding of the wide zone under coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison with Peyton Manning as quarterback. They went for 150 yards and rushed that distance five times.
“I think it just became a consolation thing,” Schofield said. “It’s different when we can get into games and start cutting on the O-line and start doing this stuff and holes start to open up a little bit more.
“I think it took a while for the backs to see. When they started seeing us cutting and cutting the O-line, they saw the holes open up and said, ‘OK, here it is it’s going to strike now,’ and they have more comfort with that.”
If the Bears get the running game going then the passing game can thrive in this play-action based attack.
Unfortunately for the bears, it’s not a process they can speed up much
“That’s what camp is for, right?” said Schofield. “We have to treat every replay 100 percent. We have to go 100 percent. Make it as game-like as possible so we’ll be ready when the game comes.”
It can’t help the process if the Bears are still sorting through different versions of their offensive line to ensure they have the best combination of five blockers.
Linemen often stand next to another player at camp from day to day. If they start side by side with the same players on consecutive days, they can start building the cohesive unit to work the wide zone.
“Obviously, it’s not a flash in the pan,” Schofield said. “You want to be able – it’s hard to put an exact number on it, but it’s definitely multiple exercises, isn’t it? No matter who you’re playing alongside, especially in a game, you’ll want to get as many of those replays – giving games away as pass protection, working doubles teams and barrel bans.
“You just gotta have those fits with the guy you’re going to play with.”
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