For all of the frustration we've heard and felt regarding the lack of David Montgomery in Matt Nagy's unconscionable game plan vs. the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night, the reigning Coach of the Year is probably getting too big of a pass on the near-invisible cloak he put on WR Anthony Miller.
You know, the Bears' receiving TD leader last season as a second-round rookie, who earned only 16 snaps in the offense's first game failing to find the end zone of Nagy's tenure. The second-year breakout candidate who avoided the Week 1 injury report after missing the offseason following shoulder surgery and being sidelined for a chunk of camp with an ankle sprain. Their second-best weapon at receiver, whose size and strength at the catch point might not match Allen Robinson's but certainly is better than that of Tayor Gabriel, who was only able to secure two of his five targets for 24 yards, in addition to a back-breaking offensive pass interference penalty yet played 92 percent of the total snaps on offense.
If Miller wasn't ready to play, he likely wouldn't have been active, plain and simple. He hasn't built the cache of an Eddie Jackson, who dressed in January's playoff loss despite his own ankle injury relegating him to a sideline observer. The only logical explanation we have, then, for him commanding only one target on those 16 snaps on an evening when Mitch Trubisky dropped back a career-high 52 times is that he's not up to speed in the offense.
But doesn't that aptly describe everyone on the Bears offense last night with the exception of Allen Robinson? And what changed between now and Monday, when Nagy indicated he liked Miller's current trajectory?
"I like what I’m seeing right now from him," he said. "It’s just a matter of how he tells us he feels, what [Head trainer] Andre [Tucker] says from the safety standpoint of where he’s at. You all know I’m on the cautious side of people. So I’ll always tend to go that route. But I feel pretty good about where he’s at."
Suffice to say, no one feels good Friday about where the Bears offense is at, and we're left wondering how much Miller's lack of a role in the game plan might be contributing to that fact.
Here are a couple other snap count observations from Thursday's 10-3 season-opening defeat:
* Montgomery played 28 snaps, a 38 percent offensive timeshare, compared to 56 percent for Mike Davis and 70 percent for Tarik Cohen. Yet the rookie tallied 19.7 percent of the Bears' total yards from scrimmage, compared to 21.5 percent for Cohen and 15.8 percent for Davis — despite the two veterans commanding one and four more touches, respectively.
"When you hand the ball off 15 times in 65 plays, that's not enough balance," Nagy admitted Monday. "It's one-dimensional. Even with it being, it was a 7-3 game, and I knew that. I was aware of that. But we'll figure this thing out. We'll get it right."
Pressed further on Montgomery's surprisingly small role, Nagy continued, "The hard part is that, you know, again, a rookie guy coming in and learning -- there’s a lot of intricacies to our offense, with rules and assignments. Not just with running the ball, but in pass protection and running routes. Different things. So, we’re kind of easing him into it. I know everyone wants instant gratification and wants the great fantasy stats right away in Week 1. We want production. I love the kid. I think the kid’s going to have a very great future, but there’s going to be a little bit of a weight here: a balance as we figure out what’s best and how to use him, along with Mike and Tarik."
* New S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played 60-of-64 total snaps in his debut, in which he perhaps made his biggest impression on the sideline. Make no mistake, the ex-Packer was solid in his first reunion, forcing a fumble (albeit nullified by penalty elsewhere) and contributing five tackles. But in those four missed snaps, all on the Packers' lone touchdown drive, Aaron Rodgers found replacement Deon Bush on the longest play of the game and again on the 50-50 jump ball TD to Jimmy Graham.
We'll never know whether Clinton-Dix wouldn't have vacated the deep middle where Aaron Rodgers found Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 47 yards or broken up the pass in the end zone three plays later. But it's fair to point out that he has nearly a two-inch advantage in arm length and slightly more speed and agility to potentially cover the ground Bush couldn't.
“No. I didn’t get into the why part," Nagy said Friday when asked about that singular substitution on that series. "But in that situation, we had a position there to be able to try to make a play with the coverage that was called and it didn’t happen.”