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ATM: Trubisky Has Earned Optimism

| June 25th, 2019

The Vikings kept bringing the heat, and Mitch Trubisky kept beating it.

Minnesota was playing for everything in Week 17 and all they needed was a stop and a score. They brought the heat and Trubisky dissected them, despite playing without his top three wide receivers.

After a Vikings touchdown made the score 13-10, the Bears young QB took over.

Third and five, the QB runs for 12.

Third-and-six, Javon Wims for 16.

Third-and-six again, Burton for nine.

Third-and-seven, Wims for nine and a first down at the eight.



Two plays later, Cohen runs in a touchdown before Trubisky drills a pass into the chest of linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski for the two-point conversion.

Ball game.

Trubisky’s 2018 season has been dissected over and over and those doing the dissecting have always been able to find enough evidence to come to their pre-reached conclusion. The season was enough of a roller coaster for Trubisky that almost anybody can find evidence to prove any opinion correct. What isn’t debatable, however, is the mastery Trubisky showed at the end of the season, specifically that final regular season Sunday against one of the three best defenses in the league.

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Self-Scouting Chicago’s 2018 Defense: Run & Pass Across the Field

| June 24th, 2019

Chicago’s defense was awesome in 2018. We all know this. They finished 3rd in yards, 1st in points, and 1st in turnovers. So let’s take the same approach we did with the offense and look at how they did defending different areas of the field. All statistics come from the NFL Game Statistics and Information System or Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder.

Run Defense

Chicago’s run defense was fantastic in 2018, finishing 1st in yards against, 4th in yards/carry allowed, and 1st in touchdowns given up. Now let’s break it down by different areas of the field to see if there were any weak links.

Here’s the data for Chicago’s rushing defense in 2017.

  • The line at the bottom is the line of scrimmage, runs are split into 7 zones, and attempts and yards per carry are listed for each zone, with ranks relative to the rest of the NFL in parentheses.
  • The height of the bar is proportional to yards per carry, and bars are colored green for top 10, red for bottom 10, and yellow for middle 12.
  • Note expected yards per carry varies by region, so the colors are relative to their peers in that region.


A few thoughts:

  • My goodness, that is beautiful. Their run defense was consistently among the best in the NFL pretty much everywhere. It didn’t matter where teams tried running on the Bears, they weren’t going far.

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Projecting Cody Whitehair’s Coming Extension

| June 19th, 2019

Offensive lineman Cody Whitehair has quickly become a stalwart on Chicago’s offensive line. In three years with the Bears, he has been a high-quality center who missed only 26 total offensive snaps, and he was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2018.

Now that he has three seasons under his belt, Whitehair is eligible for a contract extension, and friend of Da Blog Adam Jahns reported earlier this offseason that this is expected to happen before the 2019 season begins. So today I want to take a look at contracts signed by comparable players over the last few years to see roughly what Whitehair’s contract should be expected to look like.

This is a bit more complicated than usual because of Whitehair’s position change this offseason; after three years as the starting center, he is shifting to left guard. This is actually a good move for Whitehair, because guards actually make a little bit more money than centers do. So I imagine in negotiations the Bears will try to pay Whitehair as a center, which is what he played to earn this contract, while Whitehair’s camp will push for him to be paid as a top guard, which is what the Bears expect him to be going forward. Thus we’ll look at contract comparisons for both positions to see how much they differ.


Center

The table below shows recent contract extensions signed by centers after 3 years in the NFL. I am not looking at free agent deals, because those are usually higher. Signing after three years – with one year left on the rookie deal – is usually the best time for a team to get terms that are slightly more friendly. All numbers used in this piece will be from Spotrac.

Some factors to consider:

  • All of these players signed at a younger age than Cody Whitehair, who will be 27 in the 2019 NFL season. That shouldn’t be a huge deal, but is probably a consideration when thinking about length. I’d guess Whitehair’s contract falls in the 4-5 year range.
  • The closest comparison to Whitehair in terms of player quality here is probably Travis Frederick, as he’s the only one of this bunch with a Pro Bowl to his name.
  • Looking at when a deal was signed is important because the salary cap keeps going up. It was $155 million in 2016, $167 million in 2017, and will be $188 million for 2019. Thus expect contracts to be inflated appropriately.

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ATM: Appreciating Josh McCown

| June 18th, 2019

Josh McCown announced his retirement yesterday after a 15-year career in which he played for seven teams, including the Bears from 2011-2013, with his final season being the one that extended his career and left fans wondering “what if?” It’s too bad most Bears fans couldn’t appreciate McCown’s time with the Bears.

But we all remember the Dallas game.

Monday Night Football.

Eight degrees with a wind chill of negative-nine.

Mike Ditka’s jersey being retired.

McCown — who half the fans were still calling McNown — balling out in a 45-28 Bears win.

[Editor’s Note: I was there. I didn’t thaw out until Friday.]

It was the most fun many of us ever had watching a Bears offense. They scored on all eight of their drives before ending the game by taking a knee. McCown, specifically, was special, going 27/36 with 348 yards, four touchdowns and another rushing. He spread the ball out too, as four players had five or more catches.

McCown’s performance was as special as we got until this past season when Mitch Trubisky torched the Buccaneers for six touchdowns.

And yet, we couldn’t enjoy it.

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In Appreciation of Tarik Cohen

| June 17th, 2019

Tarik Cohen followed up a solid rookie campaign with a really good sophomore season in 2018. Despite playing less than half of the available offensive snaps and getting fewer than 100 carries and 200 total touches, he finished with 1,169 yards from scrimmage, scored 8 touchdowns, and was one of the most explosive players in the NFL. For good measure, he was also a 1st team All Pro as a punt returner after leading the NFL in punt return yards and finishing 5th in yards per return.

Despite all of this, I think Cohen’s limited snaps and touches keep people from appreciating just how valuable he is to the offense. Cohen’s diminutive stature keeps him from being a conventional lead running back, but he still has a substantial impact on offensive production.

And there are actual numbers to back it up. The graph below shows the relationship between the total number of touches (carries or pass targets) that Cohen gets and how many points the offense scores. In order to account for different numbers of snaps in games, I looked at Cohen touches out of total snaps for that game. So if he got 10 carries + targets and the offense played 20 snaps, 50% of the plays went to Cohen.



There’s a pretty clear trend where the offense scores more points when more plays run through Cohen. We see that anecdotally as well, as the Bears scored 27 or more offensive points all 5 times Cohen was involved in 14+ plays in a game, and only 1 time in the other 12 games (including playoffs). An R2 value of 0.65 gives a strong number to support this correlation (a value of 0 would mean there is no relationship, while 1 would mean the relationship is perfectly linear).

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