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Data Responds: Bears at Bucs

| September 17th, 2017

Well that was ugly. The Bears turned the ball over 4 times in the first half, trailed 10-0 after one quarter, and 26-0 at halftime en route to a 29-7 final score. I’m going to focus most of my comments on the first half, because that’s all that mattered. The 2nd half was just playing out the string.

  • First, let me just start in general with the coaching. All three phases made huge mistakes in the first half as the entire team looked unprepared, and that is 100% on the coaches. They had key blown assignments, early wasted time outs, too many dumb penalties, and lots of sloppy turnovers. Somehow, Chicago’s coaches need to figure out how to get their team ready to play.
  • Can whoever has a voodoo doll for the entire Bears team stop already? Nick Kwiatkoski, Kendall Wright, and Tom Compton all left in the first half, though at least Wright returned. In the 2nd half, Josh Sitton and Akiem Hicks added to the walking wounded, though Hicks also came back into the game. For those scoring at home, that means the Bears left week 2 without their top 4 WRs, 3 of their top 5 interior OL, and 2 of their top 3 ILBs, plus their top CB has yet to see the field this year. Mark this as the 3rd year in a row where injuries are a defining story of the season, meaning the Bears need to figure something out with their conditioning and training staffs.
  • The coaches also continue to show zero feel for how to manage playing time in a blowout. You think they’d be better at it with all the practice they’ve gotten in the last few years. Somehow Akiem hicks and Josh Sitton were both playing so that they could get hurt in the 4th quarter down 4 scores, and the already overworked Tarik Cohen still saw touches in the 4th quarter as well.  Zach Miller, who might be Chicago’s best healthy pass catcher and is made of glass, made multiple catches on the final drive despite having a rookie drafted in the 2nd round sitting behind him. Why?

Offense

  • I’m starting at quarterback this week, because there’s nowhere else to start. Mike Glennon turned the ball over 3 times in Chicago’s first 3 possessions. He threw two terrible interceptions and showed zero pocket awareness on a fumble. By that point, the game was over at 23-0, and it was yet another terrible day for the former Buc. Glennon was far from the only bad Bear in this game, but he was the worst. His time as Chicago’s starting QB has already gone 2 games longer than it should have, and now it officially needs to be over. Yet with this pathetic coaching staff, I don’t doubt that Glennon will be starting next week, especially after showing “promise” in a meaningless 4th quarter (where he missed several throws and had another INT dropped by not one but two defenders).
  • Glennon was inexplicably not benched at any point during this game, and finished the day 31/45 for 301 yards, for a poor 6.7 yards per attempt. But that doesn’t accurately reflect just how bad he was, even on the non-turnover plays. He hit a bunch of throws underneath that any NFL QB should be able to make, and also forced several incompletions on short passes that went to his targets’ feet and/or behind them. We know what Glennon is, and it’s not good. There’s absolutely nothing he does at an above average level, but many things he’s quite bad at.
  • Tampa Bay came into the game focusing on stopping the run and keying in on Tarik Cohen in the passing game. This should have been predictable to Chicago in their game preparation, as those were basically the only things that worked last week, but they couldn’t come up with anything else effective. The 1st half yielded 16 rushing yards (on 14 attempts), 3 offensive turnovers, and 0 points. The passing game actually got some work going underneath in the passing game, but that approach requires long sustained drives without a mistake, which they are not capable of doing.
  • Speaking of Cohen, he came back down to Earth a good bit in week 2. Tampa Bay unsurprisingly focused on him after his big debut last week, and successfully shut him down. He also had an incredibly stupid punt return where he picked up a ball off the bounce when surrounded by Bucs, was immediately hit, and unsurprisingly fumbled.
  • The coaches needed to anticipate Tampa Bay’s defense would key on Cohen and use him as a decoy in this game. They failed to do that, which led to the offense being too predictable. Those edge runs that Cohen was able to turn into gains in week one were all snuffed out and contained this week. Their touches for Cohen became too predictable, and he continued to get too many (17, when the goal should be 10-12 for a player of his size, like Darren Sproles consistently gets).
  • Kendall Wright was featured more today after being completely ignored until the 4th quarter last week. I’m surprised it took that long for Chicago to realize they should try involving their best WR in the game.
  • In all the OL shuffling as Compton and then Sitton got hurt, 2nd year man Cody Whitehair moved from C to LG to RG. Continually moving one of your best players around seems like a poor strategy to me. Let him get comfortable and dominate at one spot.

Defense

  • Another week, another opening scoring drive by Chicago’s opponent. As Andrew Dannehy has been all over, this is a worrying trend for the defense, and one that leads to them losing games. Somehow, the Bears need to figure out how to stop putting themselves in a hole at the start of nearly every game.
  • Two other bad trends for the Bears showed up repeatedly in this game as well: the inability to force turnovers and the inability to get off the field on 3rd down. In the 1st half, Tampa Bay was 4/7 on 3rd down, including 3 3rd down stops negated by penalties.
  • Perhaps more worrying, the Bears failed to force a turnover until after the game was out of reach. They even had a great chance on the 2nd play from scrimmage, when Danny Trevathan tipped a ball up in the air that hung forever. Somebody needs to come up with an interception there, but no defender got even close. Pernell McPhee (it was good to see him for more than 4 snaps this week) finally forced a fumble in the 3rd quarter, which Leonard Floyd picked up.
  • Speaking of Leonard Floyd, the Bears need much more from him. Chicago’s supposed budding superstar has been mostly invisible through the 1st two games, though he finally showed up with a few plays in the 2nd half (after the game was over). They need him to be a difference maker. When that didn’t happen in the first half, the defense got zero pass rush and looked pretty mediocre.
  • Pretty much the only positive from the first half in my book was Kyle Fuller. Tampa Bay’s passing game moved the ball well, but everything went towards Marcus Cooper. By my count, Winston was 0/4 targeting Fuller in the 1st half. Of course, Fuller did drop an easy INT in the end zone in the 4th quarter, so it wasn’t all good.
  • Rookie safety Eddie Jackson had a solid game too. He put in good work in coverage (largely on Fuller’s side, where Winston had much less success) and plenty of sure tackling, including a nice tackle for loss in the run game.

Overall

  • That’s all I have from this nightmare. I feel like I put in more effort than the Bears today.
  • Seriously, we’re two weeks into the season and this team already looks lifeless. They didn’t even get excited after finally forcing a turnover in the 3rd quarter. It feels like the players have prepared themselves for another long, losing season.  Can you blame them?

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256 Comments

Data Responds: Falcons at Bears

| September 10th, 2017

  • Yea Chicago’s defense had a solid day overall. They held a team that averaged 34 points per game last year to only 23, and kept them in check for most o the game.
  • That’s going to be their recipe for success this year, and it’s the reason they were in this game.
  • With that said, the defense still showed issues on 3rd down. It was especially bad in one 4th quarter sequence, when 3 straight 3rd downs ended with an 88 yard TD, a 40 yard completion, and a penalty for a 1st down. Good defenses have to be able to get off the field on 3rd down. To their credit, they did have a few big 3rd down plays earlier in the game, including a run stuff on 3rd and 1 to hold Atlanta to a field goal and a batted pass on 3rd and medium to force a punt.
  • That 88 yard touchdown on 3rd down was particularly brutal. It looked like Matt Ryan was about to be sacked, then he had somebody uncovered down the field. The defense looked confused pre-snap, and somebody should have called a time out.
  • Quintin Demps missed a tackle on that 88 yard touchdown, and also missed a tackle for loss on 3rd down in the first half that would have forced a punt and instead turned into a 1st down conversion. He also may have blown the coverage on the long touchdown. To put it mildly, it was not a good debut for the veteran free agent who was supposed to stabilize the back of the defense.
    Another area where the defense needs to improve is forcing turnovers. They came close on a few passes today, but weren’t able to finish the play. Forcing turnovers is the difference between a good defense and a great one.
  • One area where the Bears’ defense excelled was in run defense. Atlanta ran it 22 times for 65 yards, only 3.0 yards per carry. That would have been the worst mark in the NFL last year, when the Falcons averaged 4.6 yards per carry, good for 5th in the NFL.

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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.

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162 Comments

Data Entry: #PlayTheKid

| August 29th, 2017

The Bears should be preparing Mitch Trubisky to start against Atlanta in two weeks. Anything else is a foolish waste of time. I will admit that I was well behind Jeff in coming to this conclusion, but I have reached it all the same. Allow me to break down my reasoning.

Best QB on the Roster

For those arguing Glennon should play now, I have one simple question: what has Glennon done better than Trubisky this preseason? The only positive answer I can come up with is getting the team lined up properly and in time.

What has Trubisky done better than Glennon? Get through progressions quickly, make accurate throws from the pocket, escape pressure, make accurate throws on the run, throw past the chains on 3rd down, avoid turnovers. Basically, Trubisky has been better at everything you want a quarterback to do after the snap.

At worst, you could say the two QBs are even right now. That could be a somewhat reasonable argument to make based on Glennon playing against better defenses and looking progressively less bad every week. But here’s the thing: if it is anywhere close to even right now, you play the uber-talented rookie with superstar potential over the mediocre veteran with serious physical limitations. That should go without saying.

I’ll happily take the 2-3 delay of game penalties a game (that will be gone in a month) in exchange for the 5-6 big plays Trubisky makes a game that Mike Glennon could only dream of.

Ideal Situation for a Young QB

The blueprint for working a quarterback into an offense from an early stage is clearly established. Surround him with a solid offensive line to protect him, a strong run game, and a stout defense. That way he won’t be leaned on to put up 30 points and win a shootout every week, but instead can manage games at first as you slowly increase his responsibilities. That was the formula that worked for Tom Brady in New England, Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, and Russell Wilson in Seattle. All of those guys started as complementary pieces and eventually emerged after several years as centerpieces who were expected to make the guys around them better.

Now look at the Bears’ roster in 2017 and notice they check every single one of those boxes.

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153 Comments

Data Entry: Scouting Chicago’s 2016 Rush Offense & Defense

| August 15th, 2017

The Bears generally had a good rushing attack and bad rushing defense last year. Their offense was only 17th in rushing yards, but 6th in yards per attempt. On defense, they were 27th in rushing yards allowed and 21st in yards per carry allowed.

These basic stats are easy to look up, and I think most fans generally know Chicago’s run game was good (thank you Jordan Howard) while the run defense was bad. What’s more interesting to me is to look at why that happened for both. That is, what areas of the field did they do well running to/stopping the run in, and where did they struggle running/stopping the run?

Thankfully, that information is all available through the NFL Game Statistics & Information System (username and password are both “media” if you want to poke around), so I’ve compiled it into a few handy images that we can look at. This should be helpful heading into 2017, as much of the personnel in the run game (OL/RB) and run defense (front 7) is similar. I’ll re-visit this at the bye week to see how things have changed halfway through the season. At that time, I’ll also add in passing offense and defense, I didn’t bother with those now because the personnel for both has changed so drastically.

Rush Offense

Here’s the data for Chicago’s rushing attack in 2016. The line at the bottom is the line of scrimmage, runs are split into 7 zones, and attempts and yards per carry are listed for each zone, with ranks relative to the rest of the NFL in parentheses. The height of the bar is proportional to yards per carry, and bars are colored green for top 10, red for bottom 10, and yellow for middle 12. Note expected yards per carry varies by region, so the colors are relative to their peers in that region.

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200 Comments

Data Entry: How the Bears Should Handle Mitch Trubisky

| July 28th, 2017

Ryan Pace and John Fox have quite literally gambled their careers on Mitchell Trubisky, so now the question becomes how they should handle his rookie season to give him the best chance of success going forward.

With that in mind, I looked at how teams handled the rookie seasons of the quarterbacks drafted in round 1 in the last 20 years. There were 55 QBs in the sample, but I removed the 6 drafted in 2016 and 2017 because it is too early to draw any conclusions about their career outcomes. This left me with 49 round 1 QBs between 1998 and 2015.

I loosely grouped each quarterback into either a hit (developed into at least a solid starter for several years) or a miss (failed to establish themselves as a solid starter) and then looked at two different factors: how much they played in their rookie year and how well they played relative to their peers around the NFL as a rookie (full data can be seen here). Let’s look at each factor and see if any trends can be observed.

Rookie playing time

The amount of playing time 1st round QBs saw as a rookie varied wildly. Some players didn’t see a single snap their rookie seasons, while others took every snap, with many players scattered at various points in between. Overall, I couldn’t determine much of a trend to indicate players who played more would turn out differently than players who sat and learned.

  • 8 of the 9 players who started every game their rookie season turned into solid starters – with poor David Carr being the lone exception.
  • But 8 of the 9 who started 13-15 games did not. I don’t think those extra few games make that much of a difference, and trends are scattered below that, with too much noise to make any conclusions.

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Data Entry: Playoffs or Bust for John Fox in 2017?

| June 7th, 2017

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

I’ve seen a lot of speculation this offseason that John Fox is on the hot seat with the Bears in 2017. There were even some rumors that he might be fired following a disastrous 2016. But now his job is widely believed to be on the line should 2017 not show significant improvement.

With that in mind, I wanted to look at what history says about Fox keeping his job beyond 2017 based on similar situations around the NFL. Since this will be Fox’s 3rd year on the job, I looked at coach success in the first three years.

New Coach

Coaching turnover happens fast in the NFL. From 2000 to 2016, there were 142 coaching hires, an average of just over 4.4 per team. Thus in the last 17 years, the average head coach has lasted just under 4 years on the job.

Looking at the current list of 32 NFL head coaches, that 4 year marker also proves to be significant. Exactly half of the coaches are entering at least their 4th season, with the other half all entering their 3rd season or less (full data here). What do those 16 head coaches who have been around for 4 or more years have in common? All but one of them made the playoffs sometime in their first three seasons, with the lone exception (Jason Garrett) achieving that feat in year 4 after 3 straight 8-8 seasons that indicated the Cowboys were close.

It appears the achievement needed for John Fox to keep his job past 2017 is clear: guide the Bears to the playoffs.

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Data Entry: Trubisky Will Determine Next Five Years for Bears

| May 5th, 2017

Photo: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears secured the man they believe is their quarterback of the future when they grabbed Mitch Trubisky with the 2nd overall pick in the draft. There has been plenty of discussion about the wisdom of that move, so I am not here to add to that.

Here is what I am curious about: as a Bears fan, what can I look forward to in the next few years if Trubisky does or does not pan out?

Quarterback is the most important position in football, so it makes sense that hitting or missing on one will have a significant impact on the immediate future of the franchise. This is especially true when you have committed such a high pick – a premium resource -to a quarterback and thus are determined to give him a few years to succeed.

General Setup

Thus I went back and looked at all of the quarterbacks drafted in the top 5 of the draft over the last 20 years to see how the franchise drafting them fared for the 5 years after the draft. Since I’m looking at 5 years, the most recent draft I could use was 2012, so the sample here looked at all 26 quarterbacks drafted in the top 5 between 1993 and 2012.

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215 Comments

Data Entry: Turning Over the Turnover Problem

| March 13th, 2017

This is the 3rd installment of a monthly offseason piece I’ll be doing here at DaBearsBlog, helping fill the content void of the long offseason. Each one will be a numbers-crunching look at something Bears related in which I attempt to earn the “Data” moniker so kindly bestowed on me by the comments section regulars and, more importantly, answer a Bears question that I’ve been wondering about. If you have anything you’d like me to look into, let me know in the comments or email me at woodjohnathan1@gmail.com and I’ll see what I can do.


Chicago’s defense has significantly improved in the last two years from the disaster that was the Mel Tucker era, but there is one area where they have actually regressed: forcing turnovers.

Tucker’s defenses in 2013 and 2014 actually forced turnovers at a slightly-above average rate (Tucker can probably thank the leftover Lovie Smith-trained players for that), while Vic Fangio’s defenses have forced fewer turnovers in the last 2 years than any other NFL defense. In fact, 13 defenses have forced as many turnovers in one season (28) as the Bears’ defense has the last two seasons combined.

The problem was particularly pronounced last year, when the Bears forced a measly 11 turnovers, tied for the fewest by any defense in the NFL in the last 10 years.

Given the strong and well-established relationship between winning the turnover battle and winning football games, this is a real problem for Chicago. All of this research looks at turnover differential, not just turnovers forced. But forcing turnovers is half of turnover differential and it’s the part I want to focus on today. Avoiding turnovers is largely a product of your quarterback (and luck for fumbles/fumble recoveries). That’s a separate issue that has already been discussed on here at length.

Setting it up

Here’s my question: What is the history for teams the year after they have forced as few turnovers as the Bears have recently? Does the defense continue to struggle generating turnovers, or does it improve quickly?

Here’s how I approached the study:

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