0 Comments

ATM: Bears Must Follow the Rams Model & Stay Aggressive Off the Field

| January 22nd, 2019

If the 2019 Chicago Bears plan on making the same kind of jump the 2018 Los Angeles Rams did, they must find ways to add high-caliber players, just as the Rams did. They simply can’t sit back and let the rest of the division catch up to them.

The Rams went into the 2018 offseason with a goal to get better and did they ever. They traded for Marcus Peters, Brandin Cooks and Aqib Talib. They signed Ndamukong Suh. Once the season started, they traded for Dante Fowler and signed C.J. Anderson. All six of these players were essential to their reaching Super Bowl LIII.

At every turn, the Rams had an eye toward making their roster better. Talib and Suh were both veterans whose previous teams decided to move on. Peters and Cooks were young players who most figured would be re-upping with their former teams. But, alas, the Rams saw opportunities and made moves.

The Bears need to do the same. Who they can get remains to be seen.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

180 Comments

Bears Offense Should Take Significant Step Forward in 2019

| January 21st, 2019

Chicago’s defense was awesome in 2018, leading the NFL in points allowed, turnovers forced, touchdowns scored, and passer rating against. They also finished third in yards and sacks and were generally the best defense in the NFL by a wide margin. Their play propelled the Bears to a 12-4 finish, NFC North title, and the franchise’s first playoff berth in eight years.

It’s hard to expect much improvement from that unit in 2019. In fact, they’re almost certainly not going to repeat that level of dominance. So when I write that I expect the Bears to improve in 2019 and be one of the top Super Bowl contenders, that must mean I expect it to happen because of the offense.

Unlike the defense, there is plenty of room for improvement on that side of the ball. Chicago had a pretty mediocre offense in 2018. They finished:

  • 21st in yards per game
  • 20th in yards per play
  • 9th in points per game
  • 20th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings, an all-encompassing metric intended to evaluate an entire unit.

Outside of points per game – which was likely aided by all the turnovers and defensive touchdowns – the offense was pretty consistently below average in most important metrics. So why am I so confident the offense will improve next year, even though they probably won’t be making many significant personnel changes?

To put it simply: NFL history strongly suggests that significant improvement is coming.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , ,

162 Comments

Friday Audibles: Response to Data, Aerobics Video, Title Game Picks & More!

| January 18th, 2019

Data Entries: A Response

Data has done a tremendous job over the past two days breaking down the cap situation facing the Bears this off-season. But I disagree with some of his conclusions, primarily a single point.

The Bears had the best defense in the NFL in 2018 and exited the playoffs on Wildcard Weekend. There’s no doubt in my mind they can return to Wildcard Weekend without Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan on the roster. (The Eagles just made it a weekend further with Cre’von LeBlanc as their BEST corner.)

The immediate focus should be Bobby Massie. Is the right tackle one of the best in the league? Probably not. But he’s a very good starter and a solid veteran presence on the offensive line. Couple that with the great unknown beside him at right guard and it would seem pivotal for the Bears to not enter the 2019 season with the right side of their OL being a question mark. The offense has to make a jump in Year Two of Nagy. Continuity will be key.

Sign Massie.


Kareem Hunt

The Hunt situation is a delicate one. So next week both Emily and I will be writing full-length columns on the prospects of the Bears bringing him to Chicago.  I thought it was imperative to present a female perspective. But I also thought it was imperative to present an opinion with an historical, football-based context. We’ll do both.


The Mannelly Award

We’ve had fun with Pat Mannelly over the years, specifically naming this column space after his crazy decision in that Packers. But he’s one of the best long snappers in NFL history and now he’s trying to pave the way for the next generation of specialists. It’s very, very cool.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , ,

141 Comments

Projecting Contracts for the Key Free Agent Bears

| January 17th, 2019

The Bears have three starters – Bryce Callahan, Bobby Massie, and Adrian Amos – and a key role player – Aaron Lynch – who are all free agents this offseason. They’re tight up against the cap, so keeping all of them will be hard.

In order to prioritize which ones might be most important and attainable to hang onto, we need to understand how expensive their contracts are likely to be. Let’s look at each player one by one and look at the types of contracts signed by comparable players in recent years to get an idea for what to expect. All data is from Spotrac.


Bryce Callahan (27 years old)

Callahan’s contract is a difficult one to project because it is complicated by health. Callahan has been one of the best nickel backs in the NFL when healthy, but he’s only played 45 out of a possible 65 games (including playoffs) in 4 years, which should keep his price down a little bit. It’s also a bit difficult to parse out nickel back contracts from the other cornerbacks, as they’re listed generically together even though NFL teams clearly pay them differently. Nevertheless, here are four recent nickel back contracts that can help give us an idea of what Callahan’s market should be.

Harris’ deal sets the standard for nickels, but I don’t think it will have much bearing on Callahan. I’m sure his agents will point to it as what they’d like to get, but I don’t think teams view Callahan on Harris’ level, both because of health and big plays. Harris missed 1 game in 4 years before signing this deal and had 10 interceptions to Callahan’s 4.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,

258 Comments

A Thorough Breakdown of the Chicago Cap Situation

| January 16th, 2019

After a heartbreaking playoff loss, it’s time to shift from in-season coverage to looking ahead to what’s in store for the Bears this offseason as they prepare for 2019.

And that starts with looking at the money, because after all, the NFL is a business. So let’s get a feel for where the Bears are with respect to the cap, what moves could be made to clear up space, and what players are scheduled to be free agents.

Current Cap Situation

The table below shows the Bears’ current cap situation. All data comes from Spotrac.


As you can see, that looks a good bit different than in years past. The roster has gotten significantly more talented, but also significantly more expensive, which means they don’t have much money to spend. So don’t expect free agency to be nearly as exciting as it’s been the last several years. A few other notes:

  • All of these figures are flexible. There are always ways to change the cap situation, and I’ll look at a few of them below.
  • The 2019 cap projection is currently somewhere between $187 and $191 million. I went with the conservative estimate, but they might have a few million more than this to work with. We’ll know more sometime in the next few months (it was set in early March last year).

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,

170 Comments

ATM: Pagano Hire Solidifies Bears As Nagy’s Team

| January 15th, 2019

The hiring of Chuck Pagano to replace Vic Fangio confirmed one thing: this is Matt Nagy’s team.

The Bears won in 2018 because of their defense, first and foremost. It was a defense and coordinator Nagy inherited. When Fangio left, it would’ve been easy to go with the continuity candidate Ed Donatell. But Nagy took a chance, bringing in someone from the outside, someone who more represents Nagy’s style.

There is no measure that tells us if being aggressive is better than being conservative defensively, but there’s no question that Fangio was on the conservative end and Pagano fits Nagy’s aggressive mentality.

During the end of the season presser, Nagy described Pagano as having an “attacking style” before saying again that Pagano is aggressive.

Pagano’s lone season as a defensive coordinator, in 2011 with the Baltimore Ravens, represents that. Pagano’s Ravens sacked opposing quarterbacks on 8.2 percent of their drop backs, even better than the 2018 Bears’ rate of 7.5. Opposing quarterbacks finished with a passer rating of 68.8, throwing for just 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, all numbers comparable to the 2018 Bears.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

149 Comments

Commentary on & Criticism of the Year-End Pace/Nagy Press Conference

| January 14th, 2019

Thoughts Before the Press Conference

  • Nobody should expect to hear Pace or Nagy address Cody Parkey’s future or the Today Show appearance. But both questions must be asked. What absolutely cannot be said today is “Parkey is our kicker next season.” This organization can no longer show blind, ignorant loyalty to an inadequate player.
  • It’ll be interesting to hear how each man discusses Chuck Pagano’s addition. I suspect neither was thrilled with the game Vic Fangio called against the Eagles so it won’t be surprising for them to signal what Pagano will change on that side of the ball.
  • The Kareem Hunt conversation is going to get started soon enough. Wonder if it is today. Reclamation projects are very possible in this league (See: Hill, Tyreek) and it is unlikely Hunt won’t be in the NFL next season. Unlike Ray Rice – whose career was already essentially over at the time of his incident – Hunt will only be 25 years old when the 2019 season kicks off.

Thoughts During & After

  • The tone was established with Pace’s opening remarks. “Proud of what we accomplished but not satisfied” and “stay on the right track” were clearly what the GM wanted to communicate.
  • Pagano. Pace made it clear the hiring was made by Nagy, not him. Nagy used the two words I expected to here: attacking and aggressive.
  • Parkey was brought up almost immediately. Two things: (1) Pace sounded like Parkey was going somewhere else. (2) Nagy said Parkey didn’t mention Today Show appearance in their exit interview, and seemed displeased with the whole ordeal. He made it clear it was a “me” gesture not a “we” one. Parkey is gone.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,

34 Comments

Pithy Comments on the Divisional Round From a Parkey-Scarred DBB

| January 14th, 2019

  • Prediction: Patrick Mahomes is going to be the first NFL quarterback to need Tommy John surgery.
  • The Chiefs catch everything and I’m glad some national folks are finally noticing. When you watch the Chiefs weekly you notice that all Mahomes has to do is get the ball in the general vicinity of his pass catchers. Every single one of them has great hands. Mahomes isn’t particularly accurate yet and he doesn’t have to be.
  • Chiefs clearly saw something on tape and got their hands up on the defensive line. Andrew Luck couldn’t get a ball beyond the line of scrimmage for the first quarter and a half.
  • Colts offensive line was abysmal, including All Pro guard Quenton Nelson. If you block the Chiefs, you can rip them apart in the secondary but the Colts never got them blocked.
  • 273 rushing yards for the Rams? In a playoff game? Against a good Cowboys defense? How is that even possible? The Rams are not a particularly difficult team to defend. Take out their run game and make the quarterback throw it 35 times. How are Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard managing to get to sleep?
  • Sean McVay needed that win. The “what has he won” crowd was starting to grow in numbers and volume. In fairness, it’s not McVay’s fault that Kliff Kingsbury and Matt LaFleur – two supremely unqualified individuals, but McVay friends – are now head coaches in the NFL. McVay put in nine years as an NFL assistant.

Read More …