The Chicago Bears offense under new head coach John Fox and coordinator Adam Gase will very likely be a run-heavy system.
Since his arrival in 2009, the Bears have consistently put the onus of the offense on quarterback Jay Cutler, resulting in one playoff appearance the past six seasons.
Fox and Gase, as well as the rest of the NFL, are aware of Cutler’s limitations and propensity for turnovers. Forcing him to throw 35-40 times a game is a recipe for disaster.
Yet in an offense that relies on the run the game and consistent use of play action, Cutler can have success.
Let’s break down five touchdowns by Rodgers over the past two seasons to see what he brings to the table when he’s at his best.
This is a counter left play with Rodgers running behind two pulling linemen.
With good blocking up front, Rodgers hits the hole hard and makes a quick cut outside.
He lines up the safety, uses a quick spin move and leaves the defender in the dirt.
With two players cutting him off in pursuit, Rodgers immediately cuts back inside, leaving two more defenders in his wake.
To finish the scoring run, Rodgers carries the other safety across the goal line.
Analysis: This play has it all. Rodgers shows good burst into the hole, a great spin move at the second level, solid vision and change-of-direction ability on the cutback, and speed and power to finish the play. In terms of what Rodgers brings to the table, this is as good as it gets.
This will be a sneaky screen pass off tackle right.
As soon as he clears the offensive line, Rodgers turns for the quick pass. He has two blockers out in front.
He cuts behind his blockers and makes contact with the linebacker at the three-yard line before dragging him into the end zone.
Analysis: Rodgers shows good vision and decisiveness after the catch, as well as burst and power to finish the play in the end zone.
This is a B gap right run.
The hole is clogged at the point of attack. Rodgers sees it and immediately jump cuts outside.
He bursts through the hole, rips through an arm tackle and leaves four defenders behind him en route to the end zone.
Analysis: This is a simple gut run that gets stuffed up front. That wasn’t a problem for Rodgers, who quickly found the open space to the right side. He sprints through the hole, bursts through a tackle attempt and finds pay dirt. Rodgers makes a tough play look very easy.
Rodgers will take the hand off across the face of the quarterback on a trap left.
As you can see the blocking is phenomenal and Rodgers has three lanes from which to choose. He’ll soon cut outside.
He hits the burners and is able to split three defenders at the second level.
He’s able to slip through the grasp of three would-be tacklers and takes off for the front pylon.
Rodgers outraces the cornerback for the touchdown.
Analysis: In open space, Rodgers’ vision is an asset, as is his ability to hit fourth gear in a split second. He’s not a burner in the classic sense but Rodgers has the downshift ability that allows him to fit through tight spaces.
Rodgers is lined up in the left slot and will run a quick out against the linebacker in man coverage.
The linebacker tries to knock him off his route but Rodgers discards the hand chuck and creates immediate separation out of his break.
He catches the pass and turns up the field. He’s caught at the 4 yard line but he’s able to drag the defender across the goal line.
Analysis: In the extensive film work I’ve done, Rodgers has consistently showed solid hands. He’s a reliable pass catcher who uses his running back skill set after the catch. He can be a weapon on passing downs, particularly in man sets against slower linebackers.
As we outlined in Part I of our All-22 breakdown, Rodgers is very good in pass protection. When you combine that with his power, burst and vision, as well as solid hands out of the backfield, you get a three-down running back.
In short yardage the Bears can take advantage of Rodgers’ squat frame and thick, powerful legs. He won’t need to come off the field on passing downs and can carry the load if called upon.
Rodgers isn't an elite back and has his limitations, both in quickness and straight-line speed, but he doesn’t have any major holes in his game. If the Bears give him equal share in a three-headed backfield, Rodgers will be well worth the investment.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fifth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.