During training camp, Bears head coach Matt Nagy committed to getting Cordarelle Patterson more involved in the offense by having him train as a running back, with the idea of using him as the New England Patriots had in 2018. Though still listed as a wide receiver on the Bears’ depth chart, Nagy followed through on that promise.

Through three weeks of the 2020 NFL season, Patterson has almost as many rushes this season (15) as he did all of last season (17) and could see more, alongside David Montgomery, with Tarik Cohen out for the season.

However, Patterson has still been an afterthought in the passing game. The explosive return specialist has only seen three targets through the air this season, and the question begs to be asked – why aren’t the Bears taking advantage of Patterson in their passing game?

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Quarterback Comparison – Offensive Value Metric (OVM)

When I started writing this article, I intended to review the value Nick Foles brings to the Bears offense after the decision was made to replace Mitch Trubisky this past weekend. Value is often subjective, but by using PFN’s Offensive Value Metric (formerly, Offensive Share Metric) we can look at value in a much more objective manner.

In general, it’s difficult to compare, even objectively, the value of individuals. It’s even more difficult when Foles has only qualified for an overall OVM once since 2016 (in 2018, with the Philadelphia Eagles). However, repetitive behaviors in any given week can gives us some insight into a player’s decision-making and tendencies – and, therefore, his value. That’s exactly what OVM does for us.

I admit I was expecting to see that Foles brought much more value to an offense than Trubisky. Foles has been a journeyman but has lived up to his potential by bringing the Lombardi trophy to the City of Brotherly Love. Trubisky, on the other hand, has not met many of our expectations as the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

To my surprise, however, their average weekly OVM scores over the past four seasons (2017-2020) have been nearly identical – 24.0 for Foles vs. 23.3 for Trubisky.

If Foles’ value isn’t that much more than Trubisky’s, why make the change, and who would benefit from that change?

Quarterback Comparison – NFL Next Gen Stats (NGS)

The OVM scores take into account many of the NFL Next Gen Stats, so referencing them will help to understand why Foles and Trubisky are so close in their offensive value, as well as what Foles may be bringing to the table that Trubisky was not.

In some ways, they are very much alike – their time to throw (how quickly they release the ball) and aggression rate are identical, while Foles narrowly has a higher expected completion percentage.

Weekly Avg
(2017-2019)
Time to Throw
(seconds)
Aggression
%
Expected
Completion %
Nick Foles
2.7
17.4
65.6
Mitch Trubisky
2.7
17.4
65.0

But we can also see that Foles has a tendency to throw slightly shorter passes. His intended air yards, completed air yards, and air yards to sticks (average air yards shy of the first down) are all less than Trubisky’s.

Weekly Avg
(2017-2019)
Intended
Air Yards
Completed
Air Yards
Air Yards
to Sticks
Nick Foles
7.5
4.9
-1.4
Mitch Trubisky
8.2
5.7
-1.1

For Foles, all of those tendencies, or behaviors, indicate he’s actually relying more on his receivers than Trubisky to obtain yards after the catch and first downs. So, wouldn’t that also indicate Trubisky is more valuable to an offense than Foles? After all, he’s contributing more to the offense’s ability to move down the field, right?

Wrong. While both Foles and Trubisky have similar expected completion %’s, Foles is completing more than the expected number of passes while Trubisky is completing less. He is adding value by doing so, whether that’s throwing to a more sure-handed receiver or placing the ball more accurately in a spot only his receiver can catch.

Weekly Avg
(2017-2019)
Expected
Completion %
Actual
Completion %
Variance
Nick Foles
65.6
68.1
2.5
Mitch Trubisky
65.0
63.6
-1.4

Is it fair to compare?

Many would argue that it’s not fair to compare the two.  They’ve been in different offenses with different schemes and different personnel. While that’s a legitimate argument, the point here is not to say that Foles is a better quarterback than Trubisky. It’s not to say that he’ll be a more valuable option for the Bears either.

What is to be said is there is potential value that Foles will bring to the offense that Trubisky did not – but ONLY if the Bears take advantage of it. As noted above, Foles tends to throw shorter, more catchable, passes to sure-handed receivers. And, which receiver on the Chicago Bears would benefit from that?

Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Javon Wims, Ted Ginn – all of these Bears receivers have been targeted more than 10 yards downfield on average in games where they have qualified for NGS. Cordarelle Patterson, on the other hand, has been targeted just 4 yards downfield on average.

Robinson, Miller, Wims, Ginn – all have had a catch % of less than 62% in games where they have qualified for NGS. Patterson, on the other hand, has caught more than 73% of passes thrown his way (where NGS has been tracked).

Robinson, Miller, Wims, Ginn – all have had less than five yards after catch on average in games where they have qualified for NGS. Patterson, on the other hand, has had over seven yards after catch.

Robinson, Miller, Wims, Ginn – all have a negative variance to expected yards after catch in games where they have qualified for NGS. Patterson, on the other hand, has a positive variance, meaning he’s gained more yards than expected.

Get Cordarelle Patterson involved in the passing game

The Bears shouldn’t just try to get Patterson involved in the passing game but need to. Nick Foles’ tendency is to throw shorter passes. Cordarelle Patterson’s tendency is to run shorter routes.

Foles’ tendency is to throw more catchable passes to sure-handed receivers. Patterson has the best catch rate on the team. Foles relies on pass catchers to obtain first downs. Patterson has the highest yards after catch on the team.

Somebody, anybody, please tell coach Nagy. After all, behavior drives value.