111 Comments

More Thoughts on the Kicker Situation (With Assistance From You)

| July 19th, 2019

The best place kicker in movie history?


I. A Tweet from Data.

Data did a nice thread on Super Bowl kickers and this Tweet was the basic summation.

I agree with his basic conceit that the Bears don’t need a great kicker over the duration of the NFL season to have a great NFL season. But how many times do we need to see kickers make SIGNIFICANT kicks in the postseason to understand that this position makes and breaks postseason runs almost every season. I’m not questioning whether the Bears can win ten games with one of these kids kicking their field goals. They can. I’m questioning whether they can win a title. And that’s the goal now.


II. A Comment from the Comments

From “That Guy”:

Vinatieri was unknown. Gould was a nobody.

Kickers come out of nowhere. Often they go back to nowhere.

Absent signing a “proven” guy to an overpriced contract (ahem, Parkey), you’re gambling.

If kicker is the biggest problem we deal with all season, we’re winning the Super Bowl.

I’ll take these point-by-point because these are basically ALL the points.

(1) What does Vinatieri and Gould were unknown mean? Their rookie years for the Patriots and Bears were 1996 and 2005, respectively. The teams they started for in those seasons were coming off 6 and 5 win campaigns, respectively. Both teams had wonderful seasons but had almost zero expectations. You can gamble with young players at pivotal positions when your expectations are low.

(2) “Absent…you’re gambling” is something you write when your team just missed the boat on a kicker signing. There is a dramatic difference between signing a kicker to an expensive multi-year contract and hosting a camp battle between two men who’ve never attempted a field goal in the league. Wouldn’t bringing in Matt Bryant – who barely missed a kick last season – make some sense? You could still give one of the kids the job but at least have the veteran, reliable option.

(3) Kicker was the biggest problem the Bears had heading into January last year and the Bears missed a chip shot field goal to advance in the playoffs.

Tagged: , ,

142 Comments

Gambling on Young Legs is Risky Business for Pace, Nagy.

| July 17th, 2019

When one peruses NFL.com for statistical information regarding the only two kickers on the current Bears roster – Eddy Pineiro and Elliot Fry – one is met with a disconcerting sentence:

“This player does not have any statistics…”

And so sums up the kicker situation for the 2019 edition of the Bears. Maybe one of these two kids will be the next great kicker in Chicago. Maybe both will completely flame out over the summer. You don’t know. I don’t know. The Bears don’t know. And therein lies the problem. The Bears are heading into this campaign with their most talented roster in a few generations, as genuine contenders to win the Super Bowl, and they’re doing so with a significant liability at this critical position.

The scary part of this process is the Bears could potentially not find out if the kicker position will cripple them until opening night against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. Camp success is by no means a precursor to season success, no matter how many gimmicks Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace create around the competition. And even if Pineiro and Fry are both perfect through the summer’s fake games, a crucial miss late in that Thursday nighter will make them THE story on Friday morning.

Imagine making the bold move on draft night to get up one spot for the quarterback you covet. And imagine making the franchise-altering trade to acquire one of the game’s best defenders. Now imagine doing those things and risking everything by only having on your roster two kickers, neither of whom has ever ATTEMPTED a field goal in the NFL. To quote Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, “Sounds crazy, no?”

It is crazy. It is also negligent. NFL teams are far too close talent-wise these days and we consistently see playoff games decided by a kick here or kick there. The 2019 Bears are going to be a good team, no matter who is kicking the football. But they won’t be a championship team if Fry or Pineiro doesn’t emerge as a better-than-average option at this pivotal position. And there’s no evidence to suggest they will…or they won’t.

Tagged: ,

78 Comments

How Old Is Eddie Jackson: A Deep Dive Into The Best Safety In The Game

| July 16th, 2019


As I sat down to write this investigative piece, a yellow hummingbird rested outside my window and began pecking away.

Tap, tap tap…

Every time I moved the keys…

Tap, tap tap…

The bird looked in at me. I stopped to acknowledge it only to see a serious look on its face. Perhaps this was a sign that someone, somewhere didn’t want me to uncover what I was about to come across.

Should I stop? No, the truth is too important.

How old is Eddie Jackson?

It’s a simple enough question, right?

Google tells you Jackson is 26 years old. The best and most accurate database in the history of the world, Pro-Football-Reference, says the same. So does the NFL’s official website.

Case closed, right?

Wrong. Jackson is 25 years old.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

100 Comments

Will the Bears Defense Regress in 2019? History Tells Us…Not So Much.

| July 15th, 2019

Chicago’s defense was really, really good in 2018. They led the NFL in points allowed, turnovers forced, touchdowns scored, and passer rating against, and finished 3rd in both yards and sacks. They finished as the runaway best defense in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, which is intended to be an all-encompassing metric, and even finished as the 8th best defense ever in DVOA’s database, which runs back to 1986.

Now as we head into 2019, fans are rightly wondering if Chicago’s defense can repeat that performance. While I won’t pretend to be able to predict the future, I can look at the past to see what it might have to tell us. So I looked at top defenses in recent NFL history and measured, through a variety of metrics, where the 2018 Bears excelled. Then I looked to see how they followed that up in the next season. Full data collected can be viewed here for transparency’s sake.


DVOA

The DVOA system is set up such that an average defense gets a score of 0, with negative numbers indicating you are better than average (the farther from 0 the better). The Bears finished with a final score of -26.0, so I looked at other teams in the last decade (2008-17) who finished at -20 or better. This was quite a small list, as it featured only 10 teams. Here’s how they fared in the season following that dominant performance:

  • Average DVOA: -25.1%
  • Average following DVOA: -8.8% (8th in NFL)
  • Change: 16.4%
  • # teams with better DVOA following year: 0
  • # teams top 5 in DVOA following year: 5
  • # teams top 10 in DVOA following year: 8
  • # teams below average in DVOA following year: 1

First, notice that none of these defenses were as good the following year. This isn’t surprising; there were only 10 teams in 10 years who achieved this caliber of DVOA. The odds of doing that twice in a row are very low.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

113 Comments

ATM: Bears Need More From Floyd

| July 9th, 2019

When Khalil Mack wasn’t on the field, the Bears had one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL. That is a direct reflection on former first-rounder Leonard Floyd.

Perhaps the biggest argument for Mack’s Defensive POY candidacy last year was how much the Bears struggled to get after the quarterback when he was limited or not on the field at all. In the four games Mack was playing hurt or not playing at all, the Bears managed a combined 24 quarterback sacks and hits, applying such pressure on just 14.6% of the drop backs (not counting quarterback runs which are often the result of good coverage). That rate would’ve been the second worst in the entire league, ahead of only — surprise, surprise — Oakland.

In all, the Bears pass rush wasn’t bad last year. When Mack was on the field, they hit opposing quarterbacks at the fifth-highest rate and finished 15th overall. Floyd was third on the team in both sacks and hits, but spent too much time doing his best Sam Wheat impression.

Nine times last year, Floyd didn’t even touch the opposing quarterback. Some of those struggles can be contributed to a preseason hand injury — he didn’t record a QB hit or sack in six of the team’s first seven games. But he still had three such games in the team’s final seven and half of his sacks came in one game — both largely the result of pressures by Mack.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,