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Ranking the Entire Bears Roster: Bottom of the Fifty-Three (40-59)

| July 19th, 2018

Most of the guys battling at the bottom of the roster either played for the Bears or another team in recent seasons. They have talent and have stuck in the league for a reason. Outside of the specialists, however, none are ideal starters.

59. Jonathan Anderson, LB

It’s kind of weird that the team lists Anderson as an outside linebacker. Was a college safety who has played inside up to this point in his career. Solid special teamer.

58. Marlon Brown, WR

The Bears love their Georgia guys. Brown is 6’4” — listed at 6’5” for some reason — but hasn’t been able to find a job in the NFL. He caught 49 passes as a rookie with the Ravens in 2013, but hasn’t caught a pass since 2015.

57. Cre’von LeBlanc, CB

LeBlanc can do some good things, but his shortcomings have hurt the Bears too many times the last two years.

56. John Timu, ILB

Ten years ago, Timu would’ve been a stud. He has great size and instincts, but his lack of speed and athleticism has killed him in pass defense.

55. Kasim Edebali, ILB

28-year-old who spent most of his career with the Saints. Had five sacks in 2015, but hasn’t done much since. Played for the Broncos and Lions last year, appearing in 13 games with one tackle.

54. Hroniss Grasu, C

Might be Ryan Pace’s worst draft pick. No single player more negatively affected the Bears run offense last year.

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Ranking The Entire Bears Roster: The Long and Longish Shots (60-90)

| July 18th, 2018

The Bears report to training camp this week with a large number of guys you probably don’t need to know.

This is my third year ranking the entire roster and the bottom of the roster is as much of a guess as it’s ever been. There are very few known names, as the team brings in a great many high-upside UDFAs to replace roster spots formerly used for vets like Rueben Randle and Taylor Boggs. What that tells me is that the Bears are more confident in who their final 53 is going to be so they’re more willing to take risks.

It’s entirely possible that one of the guys listed below becomes a player at some point, even if it isn’t this year. It’s also possible — and far more likely — they’ll be out of the league by this time next year.

Because I know you don’t want to research every player, I went ahead and did it for you. You’re welcome.

90. Colin Thompson, TE

Second-year player from Temple couldn’t break five seconds in the 40 coming out. How many tight ends who are that slow succeed?

89. Josh Woods, LB

Listed as a linebacker, Woods weighed just 211 pounds at his Maryland Pro Day and ran the 40 in 4.66. He earned a trip to camp after trying out after the draft, but this is likely as far as he’ll get.

88. Jeremi Hall, OG

Kind of an interesting signing for an offensive line that values athleticism. The Bears list Hall at 340 pounds, but he weighed in at 307 in March and really isn’t a good athlete.

87. Brandon Greene, OG

Second-year player from Alabama. Lengthy (6’5″, 295 pounds) and not very athletic. How’s that for a breakdown?

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The Bears Have a New Director For Their Young Star. Now They Begin Rehearsals.

| July 17th, 2018

This week the Bears report to Bourbonnais for training camp.

Yea, they do this every year; pack up their shit and invade the campus of Olivet Nazarene, a university that sounds like it should have Pontius Pilate as Athletic Director. Training camps used to be brutal, grueling tests of survival – a series of two-a-days in sweltering sun, with players completely cut off from their families and friends. Oh, and there used to be tackling. Tons o’ tackling. Way more tackling than not tackling.

Parcells, Walsh and Gibbs wore their teams out in the summer the way a good drill sergeant wears out recruits on Parris Island. They believed war was coming and the only way to properly prepare was to mirror those conditions. Players HATED it. Free agents would postpone signing contracts until the last possible minute if it meant missing a single day of camp.

Prior to the innovations of Bill Belichick, who introduced the idea that a game plan could be altered each week for that individual opponent, camp was when the entire system was installed. The great teams in NFL history were completely unsurprising before Belichick. Those coaches did what they did. If you beat it, you won.

Now training camp is simply part of the installation process. Practices are short. Contact is minimal. Time in the classroom is more important than time on the field (for the most part). And with starters seeing less and less preseason game action, teams won’t know if any of it is working until that first weekend in September when they print the scores in the morning paper.

But this training camp is pivotal for the Chicago Bears because it is hopefully about the establishment of the team’s leadership for the next decade at its two most essential gigs.

Coach. Quarterback.

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How Inconsistent was Chicago’s 2017 Ground Game?

| July 16th, 2018

On the surface, the Bears’ running game didn’t change much from 2016 to 2017.

  • In 2016 they ran for 1,735 yards (17th in the NFL) and averaged 4.6 yards per carry (6th).
  • In 2017 that shifted to 1,788 yards (16th) and 4.2 yards per carry (11th).

The total yards slightly increased, the yards per carry slightly decreased, but the overall run game stayed average to above average.

But sometimes total numbers don’t tell the whole story, and some fans felt like Chicago’s rushing attack took a step back in 2017 due to inconsistency. For every dominant game (222 yards and 2 TD against Pittsburgh, 231 yards and a TD against Baltimore) there was an absolute clunker (6 yards against Philadelphia, 20 yards against Tampa Bay). DBB reader Butch thought that this perceived inconsistency was particularly frustrating, and he asked me to look into it.

Quantifying inconsistency is actually fairly straightforward using standard deviation, which is a measure of how much variability exists in a set of numbers. Basically, the higher a standard deviation is, the more inconsistent the numbers in that sample are. To see where the Bears ranked, I looked at their rushing yardage and yards per carry for each game in 2017 and found the standard deviation for both sets; I also did the same thing for the other 31 teams in order to give some context to the Bears’ results.

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Audibles: Enthusiasm Grows, Cutler Stars, Gabriel Catches & More!

| July 13th, 2018

Three Thoughts on the Bears

  • Mentioned it on KFAN in Minnesota earlier in the week but I can’t remember this much enthusiasm and excitement around the Bears heading into a season. This might be the most I’ve seen since 2005 – the Year of the Blog – and that season’s optimism seemed to dwindle with Rex Grossman’s summer injury. (I wrote and produced my first play that year so it took me a month to get sad.) The Bears don’t believe they’re going to be 8-8 this season. They believe they’ll be playing football in January.
  • Had drinks with an NFL GM Monday afternoon and he summed up the Bears off-season perfectly: “They did everything right. But right in the spring isn’t always right in the fall.”
  • This is more anecdotal than anything else but the player other fans and media covering other teams keep bringing up to me is Anthony Miller. There’s a real buzz about him in league circles. I’d still keep expectations low for any rookie wide receiver entering a new offense with this many pass-catching options but many others are not, including Miller himself.

Jay Cutler: Television Star

What makes me laugh is that many of us knew Cutler’s personality was incredible. It just wasn’t a Peyton-Manning-endless-quarterback-cliches-that-talking-heads-love personality. He has no patience for morons and apparently this program is chock full of them. (I will never watch a single episode of it on TV. Ten second clips are just fine.)

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The Most Important Bears: Offense

| July 11th, 2018

Unlike the defense, the Bears offense is going to feature a bunch of new players expected to fill big roles. Nearly half of the club’s Week 17 starters are being replaced, some by high-profile acquisitions. But it’s the returning soldiers who figure to be essential to the team’s success this coming season.

Before getting into the list, the name you won’t see here is Tarik Cohen. Cohen is a very talented player and one they’re sure to use 12-to-15 times a game. He’s going to make big plays but the offense isn’t going to be dependent on his skill set. The guys you will see on this list are guys who are going to be more crucial to the functionality of the offense.


5. Jordan Howard

Johnathan Wood did a great job breaking down the Bears running back duo a couple of weeks ago and two of the biggest takeaways were:

  • Kansas City ran between the tackles a lot more than the Bears did last year.
  • Howard was terrific running between the tackles.

There is a general thought the Bears are going to be more pass-oriented in 2018 and that may very well be true. But they’re also going to have to run the ball effectively. Historically, Andy Reid’s offenses have always struggled when they failed to move the ball on the ground.

The other issue is that the Bears don’t have a true backup for Howard. Cohen is a different kind of player and not one they really want carrying the ball 20 times a game. Benny Cunningham has carried the ball a total of 30 times the last two seasons.

It’s been popular to say Howard is overrated, but before he came into the lineup in 2016, the Bears couldn’t run the ball and there’s no real reason to think they could without him two years later.


4. Trey Burton

Making a player with just 63 career catches one of the five highest-paid tight ends in the league doesn’t make much sense unless the team knows they need his skill set. Matt Nagy made it known the Bears absolutely needed a player like Burton. Now that they have him, they absolutely need him to be good.

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Which Reid Offense Will Chicago Most Resemble?

| July 9th, 2018

There’s been a good deal of talk this offseason about how the Bears will model their offense after the Kansas City Chiefs, which makes sense given that new head coach Matt Nagy spent his last several years in Kansas City learning from Andy Reid.

But I think Chicago’s offense will end up looking more similar to what Philadelphia has run the last two years under Doug Pederson, another branch on the Reid coaching tree. Even though both offenses are similar, there are some subtle yet important differences that are worth looking at. So today I want to start by looking at personnel to see which one Chicago matches better, and then I’ll compare and contrast offensive styles.

Personnel

Kansas City’s offense was built around three main producers: running back Kareem Hunt, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and tight end Travis Kelce. Those three combined for 4,069 of Kansas City’s 6,007 yards from scrimmage, meaning they were about 2/3 of the offense.

Quite frankly, the Bears just aren’t built to be that reliant on a small number of players. Outside of Jordan Howard and Allen Robinson, nobody has been a high-volume producer, and even Robinson has only hit 1,000 yards in a season once in his four years.

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The Most Important Bears: Defense

| July 3rd, 2018


Returning most of their defensive roster, the common thought is the Bears are going to take a big step up next year. That’s only true if their key players stay on the field and improve.

As badly as the Bears were hurt by injury last season, they managed to keep most of their key defensive players on the field. They had injuries to players like Quintin Demps and Jerrell Freeman, but those are two positions at which they proved to have great depth.

Three of their four starters in the secondary played at least 80% of snaps, the fourth was Adrian Amos, who played every snap in eight games. Their best defensive lineman played 85% of snaps. Their best linebacker came in at 67.4%.

The biggest injury loss last year came when Leonard Floyd went down, but they were fortunate it happened toward the end of their schedule when they played several horrendous teams.

A repeat of last year’s success is far from a guarantee, but it’s also possible they take a huge step up. In any event, these five players just might be the most crucial:


5. Bryce Callahan

In the modern NFL, the slot corner is basically a starter. Callahan played just under 50% of the team’s snaps and they missed him when he wasn’t out there.

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If Jordan Howard Wants to Stay in Chicago, He’ll Need to Improve in Passing Game

| July 2nd, 2018

Jordan Howard has surpassed all expectations as a fifth round pick. After a series of injuries gave him an opportunity just a few games into his career, he grabbed the job and literally ran with it. 2400 yards and 15 touchdowns later, Howard is firmly entrenched as one of the best runners in the NFL.

Yet for all his excellence on the ground, there remains a nagging doubt about Howard because of his limitations in the passing game. Fans remember his dropped touchdown against Atlanta in Week 1 last year, and he has only 423 receiving yards through 2 seasons. Catching the ball is an important part of any running back’s job in the modern-day NFL, and especially in the new offense head coach Matt Nagy is mostly importing from Kansas City. So today I want to look a little bit deeper at Howard’s impact – or lack thereof – in the passing game and what that might mean for his future (I’d like to give a special thanks to DBB reader Evantonio for this idea).

Let’s start with the basics, looking at how Howard has done in the passing game. I’m going to compare him to a few different groupings of players:

  • Bell cow running backs who are focal points of the offense and rarely leave the field – Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliot, LeSean McCoy, Le’Veon Bell.
  • Situational running backs known for their running – Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Carlos Hyde.
  • Kansas City running backs in the Reid offense – Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Charles.

Groups are sorted by color coding in the table below. Charles’ data is only for the years when Reid was in Kansas City (2013-16), and drop figures are courtesy of Player Profiler, which only had them for 2017.

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