Bears coach Matt Nagy was explaining ‘‘adjusters’’ — his name for the players on his team who move around the field — when he mentioned something he wished he had adjusted to himself.
The Bears used Tarik Cohen at running back, outside receiver and in the slot last season and weren’t shy about adding new formations and personnel groupings to his game-week workload. He was a quick study, they said, and he became perhaps their most dangerous offensive weapon.
In retrospect, however, Nagy said the Bears might have taxed Cohen’s preparation too much down the stretch.
‘‘We moved [Cohen] around a lot last year, and I do feel like there was a time — probably later in the season — where we probably gave him a little bit too much,’’ Nagy said before practice Tuesday. ‘‘And when you mentally drain them, it pulls them back physically.’’
It was a good reminder as the Bears prepare for their regular-season opener Sept. 5: Nagy can have all the gadgets he wants in his offense, but there’s an art to finding the proper balance in deploying them.
Nagy, of course, gave Cohen only four offensive touches — one run and three catches — in the Bears’ playoff loss to the Eagles, saying afterward that every team they played last season came in with a game plan to stop him. He admitted, however, that ‘‘four touches is not enough.’’
Because he’s not playing most of his starters in preseason games, Nagy’s tinkering has been limited to the practice fields at Halas Hall. He won’t reveal his tricks until the opener against the Packers. While Cohen knows what to expect, Nagy’s newest toys won’t get their first taste of substantial live action until then.
Rookie running back David Montgomery figures to lead the Bears in carries and rushing yards while providing a pass-catching threat that Jordan Howard never could.
In the preseason opener, Montgomery was on the field for 13 plays and touched the ball on six of them. He had three rushes for 13 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 30 yards. The Bears believe in Montgomery so much that they sat him out of their second preseason game Friday. It was in the name of safety, but it also was presumably to save surprises for the Packers.
Free-agent signee Cordarrelle Patterson will return kicks and play receiver and even might line up at running back, a position he played in a pinch for the Patriots last season.
‘‘He came in as strictly a wide receiver and obviously was a little bit smaller at the time, but he found his own niche,’’ Nagy said of Patterson. ‘‘He did some things at the running back position, even when he was at Minnesota, so over time teams have seen that and used him in that way. He’s become comfortable with that. We have some plans for him with what we want to do.’’
Nagy called Patterson an ‘‘adjuster,’’ like Cohen. The same applies to the Bears’ pass-catching tight end spot, the ‘‘U’’: Trey Burton moves all over the field. Mastering those spots is tricky, Nagy said.
‘‘There’s some learning volume to it,’’ he said. ‘‘But I think every player is a little different.’’
Those ‘‘adjusters’’ can make Nagy look smart.
‘‘When you have good adjusters — guys that can move around and are good football players — then I become a better coach because then you have good plays,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘But it’s a credit to those guys of being able to move around.
‘‘That’s a part of this offense. That’s not anything new that we do; it’s just how much we do it. But you have to have some guys who know what they’re doing at the position.’’