Zimmerman Podcast: Draft Analyst E.J. Snyder [AUDIO]

| April 19th, 2019

  • The schedule is out. Bill and E.J. discuss key games, oddities about the schedule and the misnomer of having a hard schedule based on last year’s strength of schedule and how little that really means.
  • Snyder, draft analyst from Windy City Gridiron, breaks down the running back prospects in detail, plus some key prospects to look out for at safety, corner, edge and tight end.
  • Bill and E.J. breakdown draft strategy – should Ryan Pace look to trade up or trade down? Should he take a running back at 87 regardless?
  • A full discussion on how to approach the kicker position.

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Thoughts on the 2019 Chicago Bears Schedule

| April 18th, 2019

Commenting on difficulty level of a particular season’s schedule is silly. If the Bears are the team many expect – a team contending for the title – nobody on their schedule should frighten them, in any building. The Bears are good. Good teams beat other good teams.

But here are my thoughts on how the schedule shook out.

(The schedule is in the post directly above this one. See it? It’s right there!)

  • In the Evening Hours. Those of us who love the early Sunday game knew this schedule was going to break the wrong way. The NFL has been hungry for a good Bears team for years and they’re going to put them in front of a national audience every single chance they get.
  • The First Five. The Bears will be home to the Packers and Vikings, at the Broncos and Redskins and playing the Raiders in London. The natural reaction to this stretch is “the Bears should be no worse than 4-1 to start the year”. But more to the point, the Bears won’t be underdogs in any of these games (barring something bad happening this summer). It’s not a difficult start.
  • Bye Before Saints. If the Bears want to be in the Super Bowl next season, the Saints will certainly be in their way. Well, the Saints are on their schedule and the Bears will have two weeks to prepare for them. If the Bears don’t knock New Orleans off under these circumstances, and at home, they can’t expect to have the NFC playoffs come through Soldier Field.
  • The Middle Bit. Chargers, Eagles, Lions, Rams Giants. Five decent teams. Three at home. These are the kinds of games that determine a season. Bears played coin flips games with New York, Philly and Detroit last year. Easy to see a few of these games coming down to a play or two.
  • The Final Five. Tough, on paper. Lions are always good on Thanksgiving and realistically should have beaten the Bears in that spot in 2018. At Packers and Vikings are rarely a cake walk. And we’ll see what the Chiefs and Cowboys are in 2019, let alone what they are in the cold, primetime, Chicago air.



ATM: Placement of Cowboys, Saints Games Could Be Crucial

| April 16th, 2019

The strength of the teams on the schedule is always hard to predict. But if the teams are as good — or close to as good — as most expect, the placement of three home games could ultimately be important for the Bears.

While “Bear weather” is kind of a silly term, there is truth to the fact that a lot of warm weather teams just don’t handle the cold and windy weather that tends to hit Chicago late in the season. At least part of the reason the Bears were able to thoroughly handle the Rams last year is because they didn’t want to be there. And who could forget the Josh McCown game against the Cowboys in 2013 or Michael Vick desperate to be ANYWHERE else in mid-aughts?

This year, three of the Bears five non-division home games are against warm weather teams: the LA Chargers, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys. The last two could significantly impact playoff seeding.

Drew Brees’ struggles in cold weather have been well-chronicled and there’s no real reason to think that won’t continue as he ages. Shoulder issues early in his career impacted his arm strength and sometimes he struggles in just a brisk wind. That game won’t even have to be in prime time to impact Brees, as long as it isn’t in September. The splits will tell you that Phil Rivers and Dak Prescott actually play well in cold weather, but those don’t define cold adequately. Prescott has thrown nine touchdowns and zero interceptions in sub-40 degree weather over the last two years while Rivers has a career record of 8-4.

But who in Chicago considers 40 degrees to be cold? That would be a wonderful November or December night in this part of the country. Take warm weather players — not just quarterbacks — and put them in wind chills below zero and they’re going to struggle just to breath, much less play football.

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Don’t Freak Out About Chicago’s Perceived “Difficult Schedule”

| April 15th, 2019

The NFL schedule is set to be released this week, which means it’s time to talk about Chicago’s 2019 opponents. We already know all 16 teams they’ll be facing, and one of the reasons I’ve seen people suggest that the Bears are in for a rough 2019 is that they are going to have a really hard schedule. This fear is significantly overblown and is largely based on two pieces of misleading information that I want to debunk today.

1st Place Schedule

The first reason I’ve seen repeated over and over is that the Bears are in trouble because they go from a “4th place schedule” to a “1st place schedule.” That is, they had an easier schedule in 2018 because of their last place NFC North finish in 2017, but winning the NFC North in 2018 sets them up to face a much more difficult slate in 2019.

Let’s take a minute to review how the NFL schedule is determined for every team.

  • 6 games against your division (same every year)
  • 4 games against one other NFC division (rotates through 3 year schedule)
  • 4 games against one other AFC division (rotates through 4 year schedule)
  • 2 games against the other 2 NFC divisions’ team that shared your divisional rank the year before

If you’re paying attention there, you’ll notice that 14 of the 16 games on a team’s schedule are determined exclusively by what division they play in. So every single year the Bears play Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota 6 times and 8 of the exact same opponents as those division rivals.

Only 2 games change based on how you did the year before. The Bears’ last place NFC North finish in 2017 meant they played the Giants and Buccaneers in 2018, while other division opponents played different teams from the NFC East and NFC South. In those 2 games, the Bears went 1-1, and they went 11-3 in their 14 common games. If you’re scoring at home, that means the “last place schedule” actually hurt the Bears’ win % en route to their division title in 2018.

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Draft Prospect: Zach Allen, DE, Boston College

| April 12th, 2019

For those of you who are new here, here’s how I handle the NFL Draft. I watch a bunch of college football and when players stand out to me, I put their name in the Notes app on my phone. I don’t do any research on them. Just put their names in there. Then, around now, I see if they’re actually in the draft and find out what professional scout-types think.



From Lance Zierlein at NFL.com:

Hard-charging defensive end who calls on initial quickness, play strength and outstanding instincts to counter his lack of length and athleticism. Allen’s toughness and ability to diagnose quickly could allow him to play early as a run defender, but limitations as a rusher could push him inside on passing downs. He has average starter’s potential and could be in consideration by odd or even fronts at defensive end.
  • Relentless effort from snap to whistle
  • High football IQ with instant play diagnosis
  • Usually first off snap with good initial burst
  • Disruptive penetrator in the B-gap
  • Double digit tackles for loss in three straight seasons
  • NFL-ready play strength to handle himself at point of attack
  • Eyes work around blockers and stay peeled on backfield
  • Hands and upper-body power to stack-shed
  • Forward lean for momentum into bull rush
  • Hard press to outside edge before making inside charge
  • Base strength to power through redirect blocks
  • Attentive in looking to challenge throwing lane with 19 batted passes over three years
  • Experienced as a reduced rusher

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Draft Prospect: Saquon Hampton, CB, Rutgers

| April 11th, 2019

For those of you who are new here, here’s how I handle the NFL Draft. I watch a bunch of college football and when players stand out to me, I put their name in the Notes app on my phone. I don’t do any research on them. Just put their names in there. Then, around now, I see if they’re actually in the draft and find out what professional scout-types think.



Safety prospect with good size whose college versatility could get whittled down to a more specific role. Hampton might not have the agility and coverage twitch to handle man coverage in the slot, and his run support is too passive when he’s backed way off the line. His run support is more instinctive and effective as a down safety and he should be able to handle man coverage on big tight ends. He will need to crank up the aggression level and consistently play to his size to make it as a backup in the league.
  • Team captain, team leader
  • Possesses NFL size with a frame to add more
  • Offers big nickel and dime linebacker options
  • Above-average ball-tracker
  • Decent trigger to plant and drive from off-man or a pedal
  • Looks to attack ball side of the target and impact catch or take it away
  • Physical enough to jar the catch loose at impact
  • Operates with good feel for pursuit angles from box safety
  • Searches for ball-stripping opportunities
  • Consistent career roles in kick- and punt-cover teams

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Across The Middle: Bears Receiver Depth Should Be A Concern

| April 9th, 2019

The Bears seem to like their wide receivers right now, but that shouldn’t stop them from looking hard at the position in the draft later this month.

The top three of Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel appear to be set, but there are a bunch of question marks after that, for both 2019 and the future. Assuming Robinson is better another year removed from knee surgery and Miller takes a step as second-year receivers tend to do, the team’s top three receivers are really quite good. Unless, of course, someone were to get injured, which tends to happen in the NFL.

Both Robinson and Miller missed some time last year and the result was Josh Bellamy playing 321 snaps and Kevin White getting an additional 170. While White’s snaps and position are going to be easily replaced by free agent signee Cordarrelle Patterson, fans shouldn’t underestimate the loss of Bellamy.

Ideally, Bellamy would be replaced by Javon Wims, but Wims is anything but proven.

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Building a Tight End Profile for the Matt Nagy/Andy Reid Offense

| April 8th, 2019

Like I have previously done with wide receivers and running backs, today I’m going to look at tight ends who have been drafted for this offense to see if there’s a physical profile they typically follow. In order to increase the sample size, I looked at every tight end drafted for a Reid offense in Philadelphia (1999-2012, 2016-18 with Doug Pederson) or Kansas City (2013-present). This list included ten players. Then I combed through their Combine performance to see if any patterns emerged.

Full data can be viewed here, but in general I found three trends:

  1. They are light. According to Mock Draftable, the average tight end at the Combine weighs in at around 255 pounds, but the average for the 10 TEs in this sample was just under 250 pounds. The heaviest tight end here was L.J. Smith, who weighed in at 258 pounds, in just the 67th percentile for all tight ends. Meanwhile, 3 of the 10 tight ends weighed in at 245 pounds or less, which falls in the bottom 15% for all tight ends.
  2. They are fast. The average Combine 40 time for all TEs is 4.72 seconds, but for this sample it was 4.70. That is significantly skewed by Cornelius Ingram, who ran a 4.96. If you remove him from the sample, the average 40 time for the other 9 players is 4.67 seconds, with 7 of the 9 coming in under 4.70. Ingram ended up being a poor fit in Reid’s offense, as he lasted just one year in Philadelphia after being drafted in the 5th round.
  3. They can jump. The average tight end at the Combine has a vertical jump of just under 33 inches, but the average in this sample is 34.3, with 8 of the 10 coming in at 33 inches or better.

This then gives us a rough profile of a tight end who would be targeted as a pass catcher in this offense. They should be under 260 pounds, run a sub 4.70 40, and have a 33″ or better vertical jump. These all make sense. The main purpose of a TE in this offense (at least for the U TE) is to be able to catch passes. They need to be athletic and able to challenge defenses down the field.

Now let’s look at which tight ends in the draft this year fit the profile. The table below shows all of the tight ends from the Combine, sorted by how many thresholds they hit. Misses are highlighted in red.

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Zimmerman’s Podcast: Adam Rank from NFL Network [AUDIO]

| April 4th, 2019

Adam Rank of NFL Network joins Bill and:

  • Breaks down the Jordan Howard trade (and why Howard/Nagy didn’t work).
  • Deciphers whether the Bears free agency period was successful.
  • Takes on Bill’s “holder conspiracy theory” when it comes to punter Pat O’Donnell.
  • Makes odd pop culture references to the TV series How I Met Your Mother and the film Independence Day.

Listen! Now! Do it!

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