Joniak: Bears' Nagy Wants Better First-Down Results


(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The latest observations from Chicago Bears play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak at Halas Hall: 

--Matt Nagy is transparent, but with boundaries. He is not, nor should he be, willing to explain exactly what adjustments he is making to recharge the offense. However, nearly every week he brings up first-down efficiency. 

--Baltimore leads the league in first downs, with 158 or 26.3/game. The league average is 117 first downs or 20.4/game. The Bears are 30th, with only 87 or 17.4, playing only five games, while some teams have played six.

--Low first-down totals impact everything from time of possession to field position to scoring average to the anemic rushing attack to three-and-outs to third-down efficiency. On first down, the Bears are earning only 4.95 yards, which is 28th in the league.

--Per Nagy: “First down needs to be a better play for us, run or pass. It needs to be completed and it needs to be another first down. If I call a run, and it’s not second-and-ten, it’s a run and it’s second and seven or six. That’s what we need to do.”

--Those difficulties permeate every statistic you want to use to define the anemic start offensively. “That’s the simple facts,” said Nagy. “Any number that you look at it within our offense, we recognize that and that’s what we need to get better at.”

--Quarterback Mitch Trubisky made it through a second full practice Thursday, so he continues to track towards the start against the Saints.

--It was a second day of detailed questions about how much freedom Trubisky has to run to pick up yardage. Designed through a run-pass option or he could take advantage of open lanes to avoid the rush. Either way, if he plays, he will take the hits that come with trying to make a big play. 

--Trubisky is not going to play in bubble wrap.  “I just don’t think you can operate that way,” said offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. Quarterbacks make off-schedule, un-designed plays. Defenders make quarterbacks move. “That has to be a part of it, that’s him, that’s Mitch.”

--It will be interesting to see Khalil Mack’s approach to the Saints Sunday. Frustrated by the significant attention paid to him by the Raiders, it is easy to conclude the Saints could try the same approach Sunday. Mack is ready for it, per defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. “You guys will see,” Pagano said. “Sunday, 3:25 I think, central, is kickoff. You’ll see. You’ll see.”

--Special teams play becomes more explosive and more impactful as the calendar flips. Everything becomes a little more challenging with the weather, temperatures, and personnel. 

--Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor gushed about Saints punter Thomas Morstead. He called him one of the best in the game. “He paints the sideline and he doesn’t give you returns and he’s able to eliminate returners. He’s able to get the ball of as quick as I’ve ever seen and he’s just so efficient."

--Morstead is second among NFL punters in causing fair catches with 13. By comparison, Patrick O’Donnell has 7 and they both have 26 punts this season. 

--Both teams are bracing for outstanding punt-return talents. Tarik Cohen of the Bears is getting close to breaking one after his 71-yard gallop against the Raiders in London. Rookie Deonte Harris, out of Assumption College, is averaging 10.0 yards on his returns, including a 53-yard touchdown at Seattle in week three. Harris has one of only two punt return touchdowns this season in the NFL.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.