By Chris Emma

By Chris Emma–

(CBS) Dowell Loggains’ first year as the Bears’ offensive coordinator saw his best-laid plans swept away.

The offense — which was to be led by Jay Cutler, Jeremy Langford, Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White — quickly was short-handed. Each of those key players missed time, with the Bears finishing the season on their fourth-string quarterback, Matt Barkley.

While the Bears saw rookie running back Jordan Howard turn into a Pro Bowl player — breaking the franchise’s rookie rushing record in just 13 starts — and receiver Cam Meredith become a nice surprise, there was little continuity for the unit.

Loggains pinpoints the lack of stability as the Achilles heel of the offense in 2016.

“The thing that hurt us, just not being able to sustain things,” Loggains said last week at the Senior Bowl.

“There was a lack of continuity with all the injuries. I think there were turnovers. So getting those guys, being able to play together and staying healthy, I think that will add up to more points as well.”

The Bears finished 2016 ranking 15th in yardage with 356.5 yards per game but were tied for 28th in scoring with just 17.4 points per game.

Cutler would start just five games, backup Brian Hoyer also started five and Barkley was the starter for six contests. The silver lining of a difficult season was Howard, who rushed for 1,313 yards and added six rushing touchdowns. Howard brought a semblance of stability to the offense.

“He’s a hard-working kid,” Loggains said. “He’s quiet. He’s a humble kid. You want success for guys like that. He’s earned everything he got.

“He hasn’t scratched the surface of what he can be.”

Moving into 2017, Howard will be the centerpiece of the Bears’ plans on offense. Questions loom for the unit, none bigger than deciding the future of Cutler and potentially choosing a new quarterback.

The Bears must also make a decision on Jeffery, whose 2016 season was marred by a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. His contract is again up after playing the season on the franchise tag, which has risen in price to what’s expected to be around $17 million.

For Loggains, the first step of this busy offseason was evaluating the 2016 season.

“There were definitely areas that we were happy with, that I was happy with with myself,” Loggains said. “And there’s also a lot of room to get better. I’m excited about the process of getting started with that.”

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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