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Data Entry: Self-Scouting the 2016 Playcalling Tendencies of Dowell Loggains

| September 5th, 2017

To the dismay of many fans, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is back calling plays for the Bears in 2017. Some coaches have play calling tendencies in different down and distance situations, and opposing NFL teams scout those to help their play calling in response. With that in mind, I looked at down and distance trends for Loggains’ offense in 2016. Let’s take a look and see what we can learn.

First Down

The Bears generally were fairly balanced on 1st down, with 219 runs and 239 passes for a 48/52 split. They were also fairly effective with both, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 8.1 yards per pass.

Those are quality numbers, and indicate Loggains did a pretty good job calling plays that kept the defense off guard on 1st downs. Let’s see if he kept that up later on.

Second Down

Overall, things were not nearly as good on 2nd down. The Bears were not nearly as balanced, increasing from 52% passing to 60% passing, and their efficiency for both runs and passes dropped significantly (3.8 yards per carry and 6.2 yards per pass).

Of course, some context is needed here. A 3 yard carry on 2nd and 2 is great, but a 3 yard carry on 2nd and 10 still leaves 3rd and long. With that in mind, I split the data into 4 groups based on the distance required to get a 1st down. The table below shows the data.

In terms of yards per play, the numbers on 2nd and short were awful, but they still did pick up the 1st down fairly regularly. It’s also worth noting how consistently predictable they were there; they ran the ball 26 out of 29 times on 2nd and 1 or 2nd and 2. Despite the success picking up a 1st down, I would like to see a few more deep shots scattered in. With a bruising back like Jordan Howard, you have to think the odds of picking up a 1st down on 3rd and short are pretty good (more on that in a minute), so try to get a big play on 2nd down.

They were a little more effective, yardage wise, on 2nd and medium and long, but still not nearly as good as 1st down. It seems defenses knew what to expect a little more here. Especially on 2nd and long (7+ yards), they rarely ran the ball, which I think is less than ideal. An incompletion leaves you there in 3rd and long, while a run is more likely to pick up at least some yardage and make 3rd down more manageable.

3rd and 4th down

I grouped 3rd and 4th down together because the 4th down sample size was so small, and on both downs the objective is the same: pick up a 1st down. Because of that, I ignored yards per play, and just focused on how often they met that objective and moved the chains.

Overall, the Bears were middle of the road in that regard in 2016. They picked up a 1st down on about 37% of 3rd down plays, good for 19th in the NFL. But again the distance to a first down makes a big difference, so I split the results into the same four yardage groupings. Data is in the table below.

Not really running the ball on 3rd and long (7+ yards) makes sense, as that’s usually just a “don’t turn the ball over and punt” move. But wow were the Bears predictable on 3rd and medium. In 58 plays needing between 3-6 yards for the first down, they only ran it once. 23 of those came on 3rd and 3 or 4, and all 23 plays were passes. Considering much of the year saw Matt Barkley throwing to guys like Josh Bellamy, I think I’d rather take my chances with Jordan Howard picking up 3-4 yards. That level of predictability simply cannot continue.

On 3rd and short, I was surprised they didn’t run it more. The odds of Jordan Howard picking up 1-2 yards seem pretty good to me, and they were certainly much more effective at getting the 1st when they ran vs. passing.

Picking up a 1st down on 34% of your 3rd and 7-10 passing plays actually seems pretty good to me. That’s a situation where you need plays that can reliably pick up chunks of yardage, and it appears Loggains did a pretty solid job of dialing the right buttons there, especially considering the personnel limitations in the passing game last year.

Overall

So it seems like Chicago’s offense overall did very well on 1st down last year but got too predictable on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th downs, which limited its effectiveness. They especially got too pass happy on 3rd down, and maybe need to get a little more aggressive on 2nd and short.

Hopefully Loggains has self-scouted these tendencies this offseason and will make a point of changing up his patterns a bit so opposing defensive coordinators can’t catch on. I’ll re-visit this at the bye to see what things look like then.

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  • leftcoastdave

    Yup.

    What did they add this year which stands out relative to those numbers?

    Better high percentage targets.

    TEs, slot and backs who can catch.

    Not to mention a F.

    All make sense relative to the above stats.

    • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

      don’t forget Glennon. I think I would rather roll with Barkley.

      • leftcoastdave

        Clearly planning for higher percentage, lower risk targets after the era of the gunslinger.

        What about that does not make sense?

        Conservative, heavy package offense with great backs and safer targets. Sad we don’t still have Cam with his stop and go release over the top. Which is not to say it will not be tried with other receivers.

        • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

          The QB does not make sense!

        • Irish Sweetness

          Damn, Kendall, Markus and Deonte are all faster than Cam. We have no height though.

      • He’s no Hoyer, that’s for sure.

      • CanadaBear

        I agreed with ya until Barkley threw about 20 INT’s in back to back games.

  • willbest

    Great breakdown on 3rd and 4th down. Exposes a massive weakness. I wondered why they always seemed to pass on 3rd and 3. Even if you want to do it most of the time it seemed like at least 1 in 4 should be runs just to keep people honest. And this is a quality that predates Birdcage. Trestman was guilty of it too, and I don’t think Gase was all that good at avoiding the pass trap either.

    I am curious about the run attempt whether it was actually called or if it was a QB scramble after the designed pass play broke down. I recall Cutler pulling a few of those out of his butt the last couple years.

    • That’s a great thought. Scrambles were pulled out separately from other runs and included in pass play data, since it was a called pass play. I should have mentioned that in the article.

  • King of DBB
    • CanadaBear

      Sounds like a lot of 2-TE sets. Makes sense since the TE’s are way better than the WR’s. Bigger, closer targets are probably a good thing for Glennon.

    • Didn’t know he was the emergency QB

      #PlayZachNow

  • huh. Did this get snuck in an alternate reality?

    • CanadaBear

      Nah. Jeff pinned his article to the top because this one isn’t about MT. What was JW thinking?

  • I think a big part of not taking shots downfield.

    1. Birdcage did NOT trust Cutler. Can anyone blame him? Even Gase castrated Cutler into Alex Smith.

    2. Birdcage did NOT trust Meredith and Co. Do we really want Thompson or Bellamy on Go-routes? I think not. Alshon was suspended for a few games.

    3. Hoyer doesn’t have an arm.

    4. Birdcage did not trust Barkley at first. Birdcage let him loose a bit after a couple games, but we all saw the results of that

    So while other teams can perhaps afford to take shots, esp on 2nd and short, given what Birdcage had to work with, he went for the sure thing.

    Also gotta remember that the D was inj riddled, so keeping TOP was paramount to keeping opposing Os on the bench.

    It’ll be interesting to see if Birdcage is more aggressive with Glennon and Trub.

    One thing Birdcage excelled at was playing to the strength of 3 diff QBs.

    So I’m rather confident he’ll tailor the O for both.

    Aggression and execution is another matter.

    I sorta expect our run game to start off slow, then gain steam by week 3 or so, which should open up everything else.

    • Irish Sweetness

      We never had anyone that could throw the downfield bomb. Nobody could hit it. Not Barkley/Hoyer/ Cutler.

  • I don’t know which thread is latest, so I’m posting this in both .Click. Trust me. It’s worth it.

    https://twitter.com/SkinnyMcGhee/status/905048942068604930

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