Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy cracked wise about using safety Eddie Jackson as a receiver earlier this week.
Regardless of how much fibbing you believe Nagy was doing discussing using Jackson as "the Zebra (Z) receiver," the larger point is that the Bears want to get more creative in the coach's third season.
To underscore the theme, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Friday on Inside Training Camp Live that the Bears are planning for Cordarrelle Patterson to be used more as a running back.
"I'm starting to hear things that make me think Matt Nagy is going to be really creative this year. And go deep into that bag of tricks," Garafolo said. "How about Cordarrelle Patterson, who we've seen in the past has been a running back? In fact, Josh McDaniels with the Patriots really provided the blueprint that Matt Nagy and the Bears are going to follow here this year.
"Patterson has been in meetings with the running backs -- not with the wide receivers. When they signed him to a two-year, $10 million deal before last season, they really had visions of using him creatively. In fact, when he went to actually sign the contract he walked in and actually saw on the board, Nagy had written up on the board plays and creative ways to use Patterson. They didn't get around to it last year, expect them to get around to it this year. Again, he is in with the running backs to learn everything about the position, the protections and everything. So, when he's lined up back there you don't necessarily know if he's going to get the football. ... Could be an interesting year for him and an interesting year for this Bears offense in general."
While never working out as a full-time WR, Patterson has proven he can be productive as a gadget player teams have to plan for when he's on the field -- as well as a Pro Bowl returner. In a year where positive COVID-19 tests could wipe out positions, having a player with versatility like Patterson could prove huge for teams.
The 29-year-old toted the rock 42 times in New England two years ago for 228 yards and a TD, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Playing running back at times when the Pats were injured at the position, Patterson showed he could run the ball effectively in spurts.
Signing a two-year, $10 million deal to take those diverse skills to Chicago, Nagy had designs on using Patterson creatively last year, but those plans got scuttled when the offense couldn't get off the ground behind Mitchell Trubisky and Chase Daniel. Patterson carried the ball just 17 times last season for 103 yards.
Nagy noted at several points last season that he wanted to get more diverse and creative with his offense, but a multitude of three-and-outs and long down-and-distances and ineffective play hindered that ability. While Nagy would never explicitly say it, the truth is that inept quarterback play for much of the season led to a vanilla offense. If a QB can't make vanilla work, would you really trust him with added chocolate chips, caramel swirls or almond chunks? No, no, you wouldn't.
If the Bears get better QB play from Nick Foles or Trubisky, then Nagy's bag of tricks will open wider. Presumably that will include seeing more Patterson as an RB complement to David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen.