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Data Responds: Bears vs. Steelers

| September 24th, 2017

 

  • Bears win! It’s been so long I’ve forgotten what that looked like. Hell, I had forgotten what it looked like for them to have a lead, as this was the first game that happened at any point since the first half of week 15 last year.
  • Good teams find ways to win close games, and bad teams find ways to lose them. Despite trying their best to throw this one away with a litany of stupid plays, the Bears still found a way to win. Hopefully they can build off of this going forward.

Offense

  • We’ll start with the good and focus on all three running backs, starting with a monster day by sophomore Jordan Howard, who looked like his rookie self for the first time this year. He ran hard, was decisive, and finished runs with power. Holes were there better than they’ve been so far this year, but credit Howard for playing better as well to take advantage of it. Howard did have a 3rd quarter fumble (though on replay it looked like he was down) that let the Steelers back in the game, and he had to leave the game twice with his injured shoulder in the 2nd half. Still, he came back and finished the game in OT, and finished with 138 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. Just for good measure, Howard also led the Bears with 26 receiving yards.
  • Tarik Cohen rebounded from a poor week 2 effort as well. He made a big play in the first half and a huge play in OT that jump-started the Bears’ offense and should have won the game (he was incorrectly ruled out of bounds, costing him a tochdown). His electricity showed up in limited touches (though 16 is still too many). Perhaps equally important, the Bears finally started using him properly. His small size means that he can’t sustain as many touches as he’s been getting, so this week they started using fakes to him to open things up for others. They ran him around on a fake reverse several times, and this helped open up the running game for Howard.
  • While we’re talking about running backs, Benny Cunningham was back from an ankle sprain today and made a few nice plays on 3rd down. Twice he caught checkdown passes way short of the sticks and turned them into a new set of downs for the Bears.
  • Now for the quarterback, which is a lot less fun to talk about: it’s been 3 weeks and 3 bad games for Mike Glennon, who completed 5 passes (none of them to wide receivers) on 8 pass attempts for 31 yards in the first half. Despite this incompetence, the Bears still held a ten point halftime lead; just imagine how good this team could be if their quarterback wasn’t completely terrible. It stunts their entire offense, from the play calling to the run game.

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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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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Camp Thoughts, Telander/CTE & More!

| July 31st, 2017

Five Camp Thoughts Through A Few Days

  • Tanner Gentry may be benefiting more than any other player on this roster by being low on the pecking order. While he’s situated with the 3s, he’s developing a relationship with the soon-to-be starting quarterback and face of the franchise. This isn’t Joe Anderson Boner or Daniel Braverman. This is a talented kid who may leave Bourbonnais with the faith of the most important player on the roster.
  • Bears won’t wait long to elevate Trubisky from that position, however. Right now he’s in “earn it, rook” mode. Give it a week.
  • Yes, the leap in competition level will be extraordinary. But I’m told by people on the ground that Adam Shaheen looks like he’s going to be something special. And for a team that struggled mightily in the red zone to get touchdowns a year ago, Shaheen’s productivity may begin on day one because it’ll be hard for any defense to match-up with his size and speed.
  • I’m a Kyle Fuller skeptic. I don’t doubt his ability. I don’t doubt that he’s having a good early camp. But the organization believed, less than a year ago, that Fuller lacked the heart and desire to be a professional football player. If that’s changed, wonderful. But I need to see it in September.
  •  Another summer, another weird injury as Markus Wheaton had an appendectomy that will greatly stunt his assimilation into this offense. Bears have big plans for Wheaton so the appendix not bursting should mean he’s back into the fray in 3-4 weeks.

Telander Donates His Brain

Other than my friend Rick Pearson, the best political journalist in Chicago, I rarely look inside the Chicago Tribune (physically or digitally). Rick Telander is one of the reasons why the Sun-Times has gathered almost all of my attention and why I was so thrilled to hear their new ownership pledge allegiance to good, local writing. Here’s an excerpt from his wonderful piece on his brain, and CTE:

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163 Comments

Bears Questions From Twitter

| August 25th, 2016

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I had nothing to write. I asked Twitter what I should write. They gave me stuff.

 

I have watched every snap of Kyle Fuller’s young career and I really believe he’s at his best with his eyes on the ball, squared up to the QB. His corner skills are decent but it’s his ability to close on the football that sets him apart from young players. I see the move as possible. 

 

I think the secondary and offensive line are the team’s weaknesses. But the Bears front 7 is so strong I think they’ll be able to compensate for a lack of talent at the back.

 

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Turn the Beat Around: Thoughts From Those Paid to Cover the Bears

| August 15th, 2016

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JAHNS ON DEIONDRE’ HALL

Hall was a standout in Thursday’s preseason opener and Adam breaks down the physical traits that make him a fit for this defense.

At 6-2 and 201 pounds, Hall fits Fangio’s preference for big cornerbacks. He also played on the first kickoff unit against the Broncos.

His arm length, like an offensive tackle’s, makes him special. Assistant secondary coach Sam Garnes said Hall’s rules for technique differ because of it.

“[It’s] eyes, hands and feet, and then just staying patient,” Hall said. “I’m longer than pretty much everybody else out there, so I’ll be able to get my hands on a lot quicker.”

Hall said becoming a cornerback who excels in press coverage is a process, but he already was able to show Thursday how useful his long arms can be.

CAMPBELL ON FULLER 

Kyle Fuller is dealing with a nagging knee injury and isn’t with the team in New England. Rich pries into the enigmatic Fuller, analyzing his status with a hierarchy not responsible for drafting him.

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Bears Secondary: A Perceived Weakness May Be a Blossoming Strength

| June 22nd, 2016

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One position group quite a few people wished the Bears did a better job addressing this offseason was the secondary. But, despite not having any household names, they’re better back there than most think.

In 2015 the Bears defense ranked fourth in passing yardage allowed. But that’s not the eye-opening statistic. The thing that jumps out is a new metric Football Outsiders started using last year called ALEX, named after everyone’s favorite Checkdown Charlie, Alex Smith. The number ranks how often defenses forced quarterbacks to throw short of the first down marker — a clear sign of good coverage.

The Bears were the best in the sport.

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Postseason Positional Analysis Part VIII: Secondary

| January 20th, 2016

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Here are a few sentences I never thought I’d write, or think, in 2015:

  • The Bears really struggled covering the slot without Bryce Callahan.
  • Tracy Porter is playing like a corner who wants a contract extension.
  • The secondary has been the best level of the Bears defense several games this season.

My predictions were (1) the Bears would field the worst secondary in the league and (2) perhaps one of the worst secondaries in the organization’s history. Neither of those predictions were accurate. Neither was even close.

WHO IS BACK

Kyle Fuller and Adrian Amos both had up-and-down 2015s but both will be prominent members of the Bears secondary next season.

Tracy Porter isn’t a top tier corner but his ability to close on the football is somewhat astounding. If Calvin Johnson does actually retire this offseason, does Porter’s value increase?

Antrel Rolle doesn’t actually cost the Bears much in 2016 so it wouldn’t make sense for them to cut bait before Bourbonnais. Even if the Bears target safety in free agency or the draft, Rolle could provide cheap depth off the bench.

Bryce Callahan was arguably the defense’s most pleasant surprise and a player the Bears coaching staff will surely want to continue developing.

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All-22 Tweets: Kyle Fuller vs. Oakland

| October 7th, 2015

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Four Tweets after studying Fuller (and only Fuller) on the coaches tape.

  • He played a flawless first half, blanketing four or five different players. Never targeted. Not once.
  • Lost Crabtree on key play in the Q3 & responded two plays later by dislodging a huge 3rd down pass at goal line. Saved TD.
  • Showed terrific closing speed for tackles all afternoon. And was aggressive with contact. Didn’t miss a tackle.
  • Unbelievable to think this was same guy who looked like he couldn’t play a few weeks ago. Played like top corner Sunday.

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Things You Might Want to Watch During Thing People Call the Season’s “Dress Rehearsal”

| August 28th, 2015

Aug 8, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) looks on from the sideline in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles during a preseason game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

It is not a dress rehearsal. People should stop calling it a dress rehearsal. Dress rehearsals are attempts to recreate exactly what the performance of the play will be. Coaches don’t game plan these third preseason games and they won’t put anything on tape their week one opponent will utilize.

But here is some stuff you can look at.

(1) The most alarming moments of this week’s podcast with Adam Jahns was the concern in his voice when discussing Kyle Fuller. If Fuller does not perform to a solid level in 2015, the Bears secondary has a chance to be historically awful. He could use a decent performance in August to set the stage for September and this Saturday night he’ll get an opportunity against one of the league’s best receivers, A.J. Green.

(2) Right tackle. You can look over there but don’t look too closely.

(3) Eddie Goldman played far deeper in the second preseason game than I expected or would have liked him to. But it might be interesting to see the big monster out there with the first stringers this weekend, clogging the middle of the line to set the young linebackers free.

(4) Injuries. The Bears have ailing wide receivers, an ailing and aging left tackle, a suspended nose tackle…etc. If they are going to make anything of note out of the 2015 season, it would be helpful to put a decent roster together for their three difficult games to open the season.

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Bears at Packers Game Preview Addendum

| November 7th, 2014

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Can the Bears hit Aaron Rodgers enough times to make him not want to finish the football game?

Greg Blache was the first person in professional football I heard publicly state sacks were an overrated statistic. He was no longer Bears defensive coordinator a few months later.

Sacks are important. They are more important than pressures and hurries. They are more important than the newest ludicrous stat: disruptions. (According to Adam Hoge’s disruption chart Lamarr Houston was having a Hall of Fame year.) The reasons sacks are important should be obvious to anyone who has ever watched an NFL game. (1) It involves hitting the opposing team’s quarterback and potentially knocking him from the game. Nobody roots for injuries in the league but knocking the opposing QB out of the game has been a goal of defensive coordinators since defensive coordination began. (2) When you sack the quarterback, he is holding the football and thus there is a chance he will drop it and you might pick it up.

I’ve never heard of someone hurrying an opposing QB out of a game. Nobody has ever disrupted a fumble.The Bears need only to look at their win at Lambeau a year ago to understand why they must hit Aaron Rodgers Sunday night. (And I’m talking about hitting him in the black-and-white highlights on an old Zenith, John Facenda symphonic narration kind of way.)

Rodgers is a rhythm passer who will dissect any defense without hitting the ground repeatedly. The Bears need to make Rodgers aware that every attempt more than five yards down field comes with a bruise. If they can’t achieve this with their front four, they must manufacture the pressure. Can they do it? Will they try to do it?

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