In his sophomore campaign, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky saw statistical improvement across the board. He completed a higher rate of passes, threw for more yards per attempt, and was much more efficient throwing touchdowns. The one area where he regressed from his rookie campaign (statistically speaking), was throwing interceptions. He threw them on 2.8% of his passing attempts in 2018, compared to just 2.1% in 2017. If he had stuck to his 2017 rate he would have been intercepted only 9 times. He threw 12 picks.
Throwing fewer interceptions is a good goal for Trubisky in 2019, but what does he need to improve to make that happen? In order to figure that out, we need to break down the film, because not all interceptions are created equal. Sometimes it’s the quarterback’s fault, sometimes it’s on the wide receiver, and sometimes it’s hard to tell. In general, I think you can group them all into one of four categories:
The first two are both the fault of the quarterback, though in very different ways. The third one makes it pretty much impossible for us to assign fault. The last one is the fault of the target.
As I did last year, I want to look more closely at each of Trubisky’s interceptions to see which of these categories they fall into, and then consider what we can learn from all 12 together. Special hat tip to Andrew Link of Windy City Gridiron for providing all the GIFs. If you’re a fan of the Bears, you should definitely follow Andrew on Twitter.
Two things have leaked regarding the 2019 Chicago Bears schedule: (1) Packers are rumored to open the season on Thursday night at Soldier Field. (2) Bears will be in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day…again. What do these two reports mean, if anything?
Bears coach Matt Nagy finished up his round of hires Friday, promoting two coaches to finish up the team’s defensive staff.
Sean Desai, a Bears defensive quality control coach for the past six seasons, will serve as the team’s safeties coach. Deshea Townsend, who was hired to coach the Bears’ defensive backs last month, had his title changed to secondary coach. Bill Shuey, who spent last season as a defensive quality control coach, has been named defensive pass analyst/assistant linebackers coach.
I have absolutely nothing to add to these two paragraphs.
The Chicago Bears won’t be signing Kareem Hunt. The great debate ended before the offseason officially began, as the former Kansas City Chiefs running back, facing disciplinary action from the league for a history of violent behavior, signed with the Browns. Time will tell if he’s worth the trouble for Cleveland, but the Bears still need to add some explosiveness to their backfield if they hope to improve their run game.
Because while Jordan Howard is a good player, the Bears simply need more. Forget for a second his sub-4.0 yards per carry number. The Bears offense just didn’t function well with him on the field.
Matt Nagy seems to know it too. In the playoff game he used a formation with three wide receivers, one tight end and Cohen over Howard 21 times. Their next most-used formation was used five times, that also didn’t have Howard in it. Howard played just 22 snaps — 34% of the team’s total — against the Eagles. From a football perspective, signing Hunt would’ve been the easy move, but not one the Bears could make without knowing his availability. Now, they have to figure out something else.
By Andrew Link
Filed under the “trying something new” category comes a collaboration of personalities, strengths, styles, and even blogs. I am very excited to bring a unique cross-over between Da Bears Blog and Windy City Gridiron.
This off-season project started months ago as a few random Twitter comments sparked an interesting idea. There are tons of analytics folks out there in the NFL world, and an equal amount of film buffs. But something hit Johnathan Wood and myself at the same time: what if we used the analytics to tell the story and confirmed/de-bunked with the old “eye test?”
The result is something that we both think is pretty cool and hopefully Bears fans will enjoy this as well. I urge you to read Johnathan’s article before going any further (although I will be taking excerpts from his article in this one).
Trubisky was really good on short stuff, but struggled throwing the ball deep. This isn’t a surprise to anybody who watched the Bears this year, but it’s good to see the numbers backing up what we all observed. Stay tuned tomorrow, when Andrew Link of Windy City Gridiron will look to the film to see what went wrong to account for Trubisky’s deep struggles.
Nobody really wants to see a bunch of short throws, besides, there will be some more silver lining articles to come, so let’s focus on the deep ball. 15 yards seems to be the magic number for what constitutes a deep ball by the numbers, I am not sure I totally agree, so I mainly focused on throws over 20 yards.
Things weren’t as pretty when we look at the deep ball though, as you can see in the table below:
That’s not as good as we’d like to see. Trubisky was well below the league average in all four categories, and he even threw more interceptions (9) than touchdowns (7). Deep passes completely account for Trubisky’s uptick in interceptions as a sophomore, and improvement here would turn him from an average/above-average QB into one of the better passers in the league.
The numbers clearly show that there was something off about Trubisky’s deep ball, but there has to be a reason, right? I came up with 3 reasons why the deep ball struggled. As with many things in sports, you can make the case for different reasons on the same play. Cause and affect. Did poor mechanics cause a throw to be inaccurate? Possibly. Could a poor decision still be well thrown? Absolutely. While I had to ultimately put clips into certain categories, there are often times when you could put a play into any of the 3.
Statement from GM John Dorsey: pic.twitter.com/TUgoBalvkg
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 11, 2019
There were many people hoping another team would make this move, sparing the Bears faithful from the endless debate that would accompany such a signing. It happened. Hunt is now a Brown.
Were the Bears interested? Absolutely. Were they willing to make the move THIS soon, prior to an NFL ruling on Hunt’s availability for 2019? Absolutely not. The Bears have designs on winning a championship next season. They need availability. Because if 2018 proved anything, it proved the gap between the best team in the NFC and the fifth or sixth-best team is minuscule. (If the Bears make a kick in Miami, they would have been in the NFC title game this season.)
The Bears don’t have Hunt next season. But they still need A Hunt.
This is the first of a series of collaborations between film guru Andrew Link of Windy City Gridiron and stats guy Johnathan Wood of Da Bears Blog. We’re excited to be working together to bring fans of both sites great content by combining our approaches.
Last year, I looked at Mitchell Trubisky’s rookie season and found that, by the end of the year, he was statistically performing like a league average quarterback in every area except throwing touchdowns. So that was his challenge for 2018: throw more touchdowns without getting worse everywhere else.
Let’s see how he did. The table below shows Trubisky’s performance compared to NFL average in the four categories that go into passer rating.
Trubisky got much better at throwing touchdowns, as is common for young quarterbacks looking to improve from year 1 to year 2, and stayed at or above average at completing passes and picking up yards. His interceptions took a slight uptick from right around league average to be higher than you would like, and we’ll look at that more closely later in this series.
Add it all up and Trubisky produced like an average to above average quarterback in his sophomore campaign, a significant improvement from his rookie season, when he was (statistically speaking) one of the worst QBs in the NFL.
But there is certainly still room for improvement, and to illustrate where that improvement needs to come I used the Pro Football Reference Game Play Finder to break up pass attempts into short (less than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage) and deep (15 yards or more past the line of scrimmage).
The table below shows how Trubisky performed compared to the rest of the league in short passes:
Personnel moves are not going to tell the story of the 2019 Bears. They could improve their roster this off-season, be a better team than they were in 2018 and STILL win fewer than twelve games. No, with lofty expectations for the coming year, everything will depend upon the improved play of their starting quarterback, Mitch Trubisky.
Here’s what Matt Nagy had to say about Trubisky’s progression into 2019 at the year-end press conference [Cut to 16:30]:
According to Nagy, his young QB has already conquered the “next play mentality” and “the steps of 101 progressions.” In layman’s terms, Trubisky knows what he is doing when it comes to running the offense. But it’s understanding what the opposing defense is up to that comes next, or as Nagy puts it, “recognizing pre-snap what he’s about to see from these defenses.” At quarterback, if you know what your 11 are doing, and you know what their 11 are doing, it just comes down to making the plays.
And Trubisky can make ALL the plays.
Look no further than those final drives against the Eagles. Season on the line. Avoiding the rush. Hitting targets deep down the field with pin-point accuracy. Every completion was met with elation from the crowd. Everyone in that building felt something was changing because something was changing.
And then Parkey happened.
The Bears are in the position most NFL franchises want to be in February. They don’t need to spend the next three months searching for starters. They’re looking for complementary pieces to fortify a championship run. And there are several places they should look.
Mitch Trubisky has a miss, especially when he’s throwing deep left. The miss is high. When he gets too pumped up – much like a starting pitcher – the miss is high. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue having this miss as I’m in the camp the Trubisky of September 2019 will bare little resemblance to the Trubisky of September 2018. But in the meantime, why not put a bit more size on the outside? The Bears have a star number one in Allen Robinson and tons of speed around him. But they’ve got no reach.
So why not look for a power forward – a big man to post up at the sticks on third-and-six and catch the ball in traffic? Could that be someone like Kelvin Benjamin or Michael Floyd? Sure, if the money is right. Is the answer possibly in-house, with someone like Javon Wims stepping up in 2019? It’s possible but I’m always wary of depending on players who struggle to even crack the 53 in their rookie season, especially at a position that saw multiple injuries.
The Bears need to add a different kind of player to this group. Someone with size and physicality.
Emily made a thorough argument against the Bears signing Kareem Hunt.
I made the case, as best I could, for the Bears pursuing the troubled running back.
Andrew explained why this Matt Nagy offense needs Kareem Hunt.
Nagy can’t run his offense without an every-down running back who threatens the opposing defense in the passing game.
If the #Bears don’t sign Hunt, their best bet is Howard returning next year. And, let’s be clear, that isn’t a BAD option.
But Howard can’t do this… pic.twitter.com/ymeeOhyGCG
— Andrew Dannehy (@adannehy) February 5, 2019
Even if the Bears don’t acquire Hunt, they need to acquire a player LIKE Hunt.
I texted a league source in November with a question I’m fond of asking: “Tell me something about this Bears team I’m not smart enough to see.”
His response: “Leonard Floyd is playing out of his mind.” He went on to break down the many things Floyd was doing in coverage and explained to me how few outside backers – if any – were capable of that.
For every NFL franchise, each offseason begins with self-evaluation. That process is driven by one prevailing question: where can we improve our roster? The Bears have a very good roster; one of the better in the league. But their deficiencies in 2018, one in particular, kept them from advancing in the playoffs. They have a serious, specific need. And that need must be addressed in the coming months.
Cody Parkey will be handed a pink slip as soon as it makes the most financial sense, leaving the Bears looking for a starter at the pivotal kicker position. (If you don’t think kicker is pivotal you missed this postseason.) Three points of note:
(1) Redford Jones was chum for the sharks. This is not to say the Tulsa product can’t kick his way onto the 2019 roster but that is not the current expectation inside the Halls of Halas. The 24 year-old product of Steve and Kristi Jones (Wikipedia is so funny) has one significant advantage: for most of January, all of February and half of March he’s going to be the only kicker on the Bears roster with a chance to play football for the team in September.
Helpful advice for Jones: go to Soldier Field and kick. Even if you have to steal the key from someone on the custodial staff.
(2) Free agents cost money and good free agents cost almost exclusively too much money. If the Bears want to bid for Stephen Gostkowski, they’ll end up making the same mistake every team makes when they acquire a Belichick castoff. The answer in free agency – IF there is an answer in free agency – is Robbie Gould. From a Patrick Finley piece in the Sun-Times:
“Obviously I still have an affinity for the city of Chicago,” Gould said while helping other Payton Award nominees build a playground at Warren Boys and Girls Club. “I really enjoy playing for San Francisco. They have exclusive rights to talk to me until free agency opens up. I think there’s a mutual understanding of wanting to go back there, but I’ve been through free agency before and you never know what’s going to happen.
“They’ve said they want to bring me back, obviously. At some point we have to negotiate a contract. . . . When the time’s right, they’ll do that and we’ll figure it out. If not, we’ll figure it out.”
If Gould does ends up as a free agent, he would find the Bears intriguing. His family still lives here and will continue to do so after he retires. If he signs a long-term contract, though, he plans on taking his family with him to that city.
“I’d like to be next to my family,” he said. “Those are things that will play a big part in free agency, for sure, if I ended up getting there.”
Clearly, Gould wants to return. But he can’t say that, of course. If the Niners don’t franchise him and free agency opens, the Bears have no choice. They must sign him. Because even if he misses every single kick he attempts in 2019, it’s a decision that will never be second-guessed.