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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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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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Data Returns: Statistically Profiling the Ideal Quarterback

| February 12th, 2017

This is the 2nd 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. 


By all accounts, it seems the Bears will be acquiring the man they hope will be their quarterback of the future this offseason. Ryan Pace was spotted scouting pretty much all of the top quarterbacks in person throughout last fall, and his end of the season press conference was centered around a discussion of what he’ll be looking for in a franchise quarterback.

With that in mind, it would be wise for any Bears fan to pay close attention to the quarterbacks at the top of the draft this year. I started doing just that back in November, when I looked at quarterbacks drafted between 2011 and 2015 and found teams looking for a starter should focus on the top of round 1 or round 2 (http://bit.ly/2lhS3t0). Luckily for the Bears that fits either of their first two picks.

Building an Ideal QB Profile

Now I want to focus on what they should be looking for with one of those picks (thanks to DBB’s Andrew Dannehy for giving me this idea). Here’s how I went about doing that:

  • I looked at all 1st and 2nd round QBs drafted between 2011 and 2015 and compiled a bunch of data about their physical measurements, passing stats from their last year in college, and team success in college. The full list can be seen here: http://bit.ly/2kQ8v2L.
  • I split the QBs into guys who are established starters (Newton, Luck, Mariota, Winston, Tannehill, Bridgewater, Dalton, Carr), guys who might be starters going forward (Kaepernick, Garoppolo, Bortles), and everybody else.
  • I averaged the data together for each group and especially compared starters vs. everybody else (non-starters). 6 traits were identified that were significantly different.
  • For each trait, I sorted the quarterbacks from best to worst and looked for a “benchmark” value, which most of the starters hit and most of the non-starters missed. This always fell such that 5 or 6 of the 8 starters were above the benchmark; there was typically a significant dropoff after this point such that this was a logical cutoff.

Based on this, here’s the ideal profile I found to look for in a highly drafted QB coming out of college:

  • He should win at least 77% of his college starts (6/8 starters hit, 3/9 nonstarters)
  • He should win a conference title (6/8 starters hit, 4/9 nonstarters)
  • His final college season should feature at least 8.7 yards per passing attempt (5/8 starters hit, 3/9 nonstarters)
  • His final college season should feature a touchdown on at least 7.3% of his throws (6/8 starters hit, 3/9 nonstarters)
  • His final college season should feature a TD/INT ratio of at least 3.7:1 (6/8 starters hit, 2/9 nonstarters)
  • His final college season should feature a college passer rating of at least 166 (5/8 starters hit, 2/9 nonstarters)

There didn’t seem to be any difference in the physical profiles of the QBs based on their height, weight, or hand size at the Combine. The important part of the Combine for QBs is their interviews, but we don’t get that data. Ignore the measurables; they are basically irrelevant for QBs.

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Data: Numbers Prove Pairing Cutler with Top Defense Will Yield Winning Team

| July 11th, 2016

Another guest column from the artist known as Data.

Every offseason (and throughout most seasons) there’s a lot of talk amongst Bears fans about whether or not the Bears can win with Jay Cutler as their quarterback. Today I’m going to attempt to answer that question by looking at Cutler’s peers around the league.

I identified five players who are, statistically speaking, Cutler’s peers: Carson Palmer, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, and Alex Smith. Including Cutler, these six quarterbacks all have started at least 90 games, thrown at least 3500 passes, and posted passer ratings between 83.5 and 88.1.

Basically, they’ve all been around for a while performing, as a whole, at an average to above average level.

Cutler is smack dab in the middle of the group with 134 starts (3rd), 4354 passes (3rd), and an 86.0 passer rating (2nd).

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Trench Warfare: Pace’s Roster Building Strategy Comes Into Focus

| June 6th, 2016

The following is a guest column by the artist known as Data, also going by the name Johnathan Wood. If you’d like to write a guest column for DBB, email jeff@dabearsblog.com.

General manager Ryan Pace has had 2 offseasons to shape the Bears roster the way he sees fit. There are a number of different ways you can look at his moves and draw conclusions about his priorities, many of which have been discussed in detail. Pace himself has talked repeatedly about wanting size, speed, length, and football junkies. He has shipped out locker room problems and replaced them with high character football players (Ray McDonald aside).

But when I’m looking at what a GM prioritizes, I look at how he allocates his resources. Who does he invest his high draft picks and big free agent contracts in? Looking at Chicago’s recent moves through this lens gives a clear answer: Ryan Pace wants to build a team that wins in the trenches.

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