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Data Entry: Self-Scouting Chicago’s 2017 – Defense

| February 6th, 2018

Chicago’s defense was generally good in 2017. We all know this. They finished 10th in total yards allowed and 9th in points allowed.

Let’s take the same approach we took with the offense.

Rushing Defense

Chicago’s overall run defense was solid in 2017; they finished 11th in rushing yards against, 12th in yards per carry allowed, and 9th in touchdowns given up. Now let’s break it down by different areas of the field.

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:

  • There were some clear changes here from what this looked like at the bye, when the Bears were halfway through the season. That makes sense given all of the injuries that forced different personnel to play down the stretch. A few noticeable shifts include runs to left end and the middle, which I’ll expand more on individually.
  • At left end, the Bears improved a good bit in the 2nd half of the season. Halfway through, they were giving up 5.4 yards per carry there, and their work in the 2nd half dropped by a full yard per carry. Some of that might be due to a small sample size (only 18 runs in the first half), while others might be due to personnel. Cornerback Prince Amukamara largely played on that side, but he missed a large part of the first half. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee also played less there down the stretch, and replacing his lack of speed with somebody else might have helped.

  • On runs right up the middle, the Bears got noticeably worse. In the first 8 games, they gave up only 3.3 yards per carry, a number that plummeted down the stretch. I’m guessing that largely has to do with injuries to nose tackle Eddie Goldman and inside linebacker Danny Trevathan, though both eventually came back after missing some time. The Bears had a couple weeks after the bye with a MASH unit at inside linebacker, which might have hurt there.
  • It doesn’t seem like teams prioritized attacking one side over the other on the ground, which makes sense. The Bears weren’t generally better at defending one side than the other.
  • I have no clue what happened at right end there. The Bears were consistently solid to mediocre in run defense everywhere else, but absolutely awful outside to the right. And this isn’t something that cropped up after the bye either. I don’t know if that’s an indictment of Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson, who primarily played on that side, the rotating cast of linebackers who were primarily over there, or something else entirely. I’m tempted to blame Fuller and Jackson because neither of them played in 2016, when this wasn’t an issue. Most of the other players who were largely on that side (Mitch Unrein, Jon Bullard, Sam Acho, Leonard Floyd, Nick Kwiatkoski, Christian Jones) played snaps there in 2016 as well.
  • On closer look, blaming Kyle Fuller for the run defense on the right side seems fair. Pro Football Focus credited him with 21 missed tackles, the most of anybody in the NFL by a wide margin (2nd had 14).

Passing Defense

Likewise, Chicago was generally fairly solid defending the pass in 2017. They were 7th in yards allowed, 15th in yards per attempt allowed, 7th in sacks, and 18th in passer rating against. But when you break it down by different zones of the field, you see that there was quite a bit of fluctuation.

Here’s the data for Chicago’s passing defense in 2017. The number of plays, completion percentage, and yards per attempt are given for 6 zones. Each zone is colored according to the average of the yards per attempt and completion percentage (green = top 10, red = bottom 10, yellow = middle 12).



A few thoughts:

  • If I’m going to blame Fuller and Jackson for run defense above, I should probably credit them for pass defense here. Teams loved throwing to the right this season, but found very little success doing it. I very much hope Kyle Fuller is a Bear again in 2018.
  • Like with run defense, looking at individual stats can help provide support for region-based conclusions, and here they back up that Kyle Fuller had a banner year defending the pass. Pro Football Focus says he was targeted 199 times (most in the NFL by 10 targets), but only gave up 61 completions. That’s good for a completion percentage of 51.3%, which was 17th best among NFL CBs, and a passer rating of 69 (nice!), which was also 17th among CB. On the season, Fuller gave up only 6.1 yards per target, which aligns nicely with the low yards per attempt to the right side.
  • The pass defense anywhere but the right side is nothing pretty, but not all that different from what it looked like at the bye. Deep left got a little bit worse, but that’s likely just due to the small sample size in the first half of the season (only 10 plays). I don’t understand why teams kept throwing at the spots they weren’t successful instead of the ones where they were, but I’m not complaining.
  • The left side in particular is interesting to me. That’s largely where Prince Amukamara played this year, and it seems teams didn’t want to throw at him very often. There’s value in that, as it could indicate he did a good job most of the time, but teams found excellent success throwing there when they did.

Overall Takeaways

Chicago’s run defense was consistently solid to average almost across the board, except for right up the middle and outside runs to the right. In the passing game, they defended passes to the right very well but struggled everywhere else. Weirdly, teams kept targeting the right side over everywhere else.

Chicago’s defensive coaching staff is back largely intact, and the bulk of their defensive personnel should be the same in 2018. Thus this type of information can be useful when evaluating what types of improvements coaches want to make in personnel and/or scheme this off-season to fix problem areas.

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  • SC Dave

    Reading all the Urlacher stuff makes me pine for the days when were were first on the list of fewest points given up.

    • evantonio

      Bend Don’t Break was a lot more effective when we could force TOs and field goals.

      • SC Dave

        Indeed it was. Our Bears gave up near the fewest points per game of everyone, and not just for some fluke season. For years on end.

  • “I’m tempted to blame Fuller and Jackson because neither of them played in 2016, when this wasn’t an issue.Most of the other players who were largely on that side (Mitch Unrein, Jon Bullard, Sam Acho, Leonard Floyd, Nick Kwiatkoski, Christian Jones) played snaps there in 2016 as well.” – Data

    I think it’s a combo.

    1. Unrein, Bullard, Acho, Kwiat, Jones are servicable, at best. They’re not at Hicks or even Goldman level.
    2. Floyd while a good pass rusher doesn’t seem like a brick wall vs run. He’s always been light, and might be able to get pushed around when RBs are running downhill at him.
    3. Unrein, Bullard and Floyd (and as you mentioned, Goldman) all missed time, if I remember correctly. Which meant guys like Rashaad Coward (who?) and John Jenkins.
    4. I don’t know the amount of time our Dline was on the field, but it seemed like a lot. Like the opposite of the Eagle’s deep rotation. Fangio seemed to grind his Dlinemen to a nub which may lead to break downs esp late games
    5. As we all know, Fangio didn’t exactly blitz or do anything exotic, which may lead to fewer stuffs which could skew the stats (esp since we don’t have another Hicks at LE to make up for it)

    Interesting about Fuller being credited with so many missed tackles. I wouldn’t have guessed that since he seemed to be a solid tackler and always around the ball.

    The ILBs are also responsible.

    Christian Jones seemed ok in the run. But We also had Kwiat and Anderson in there, and they’re JAGs at best.

    We simply need to upgrade Dline which is why I wanted Pace to sign Baker or Poe in FA, but Pace in his infinite wisdom gambled on Jaye Howard and an totally unproven Bullard (who was terrible his rook yr) and RRH.

    These are the results.

    • SC Dave

      1. Some organizations, for example New England, seem to have 6 or 7 guys on the defense and *every year* manage to be a really good team with them.
      2. Concussions
      3. Makes you appreciate guys like this, who just *played* https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/M/McMiSt00.htm
      4. Especially poor Akiem
      5. Irish hates the non-bllitz. While I’m too lazy to do the research (esp since the Play Finder probably has no filter for “blitz”), I bet in the modern NFL, the blitz is a losing proposition.

      Poe may have been as bad for us as Hicks was good, except waaaay more expensive. No way to know.

      The only big-money FA that I would call “worth it” that the Bears ever signed was Peppers.

      • Haha. I like that they have ‘Ming the merciless” on there!

        Poe I think took a 1 yr flyer, so he wasn’t originally expensive. There was some concern about his back, but he seemed worth the flyer to me.

        Baker is the guy I really wanted more. I think he ended on IR, but no one can predict those. He was having a solid yr before then, and infinitely better than Jaye Howard. A few other FAs too that I wanted, like Authur Brown (ILB) but I won’t rehash all that.

        I’m not necessarily advocating blitz, but blitzes can lead to more stuffs (and big plays going the other way). That might explain why our D is avg against the run.

        I hope Fangio takes some advice from Nagy who said that a team has to be aggressive, but choose wisely when to be aggressive.

        Floyd is not a great run defender. Just not his thing. He weighs like 230 at most. His rook yr he was getting washed out. He seemed to do better this yr, but the stats say otherwise I guess.

        That’s why it’s important to get big boys in front of him.

        Erik Kendricks on the Vikes is also undersized (6 230 at most) but the Dline protects him and allows him to use his speed to make plays.

        Hopefully, we get a true upgrade at LE.

        I respect Unrein, and have hopes for Bullard and RRH, but I see them as Massie type guys who can be improved on.

        • evantonio

          That’s why it’s important to get big boys in front of him.

          I bet there are stats out there that can confirm or deny this, but even Urlacher was at his best with Washington and Traylor on the line in front of him.

          • SC Dave

            I would imagine so. If nothing else, it probably extended Brian’s career by reducing early wear & tear.

        • SC Dave

          “I hope Fangio takes some advice from Nagy who said that a team has to be aggressive, but choose wisely when to be aggressive.”

          Amen, Butch. Amen.

  • willbest

    Butler is out with a general denial of wrong doing that would hurt the team. That was obviously drafted by his agent.

    Its clear that whatever happened, did so Saturday or Sunday. He practiced all week. He wasn’t deactivated. And if he were told on say Friday, he probably would have had it together and not crying during the national anthem.

  • willbest

    So an internet prank that might have caught a couple really stupid people that were going to get darwined sooner or later merits a law regulating the attractiveness of a tide pod?

    http://abc7ny.com/3043393/

    • SC Dave

      America is doomed. It’s not like we’re talking about 3 year-olds here.

      • CaponeBot 1.0

        Fucking doomed.

        • CanadaBear

          Tim Horton’s made a doughnut with the icing looking like a Tide pod. Gotta love Canadian humor!

    • CaponeBot 1.0

      Reading that made me sad as a human being.
      I’m becoming more and more angry as the minutes pass after reading that Tide article. It reads like a fucking Onion article.

    • Big Mike

      I like the verb form of Darwinian. Darwined. A good term.

  • willbest
    • BearDown100393

      And it worked perfectly. Kudos.

    • SC Dave

      Classic!

      • Cindy

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  • BearDown100393

    Bears defense ranked #20th on 3rd down. That needs to be cleaned up a bit going into next season’s playoffs.

  • BearDown100393

    “Bears firing John Fox will be the most significant offensive upgrade in the NFL this season.”

    Was Hobo the 2017 Jeff Fisher (for offense)?

  • evantonio

    Wooooow. McDaniels changed his mind and is staying in New England after agreeing to take the Colts job.

    Think Kraft got to him and promised him the gig after Belichik “decides to retire” in a year or two?

    • Or he got Luck’s shoulder x-ray.

      Wow. Crazy. You know the Colts stopped looking for an HC.

      Now, whomever they hire will be a leftover.

      • evantonio

        Sloppy seconds HCs always work out wonderfully. SEE: Dick Juaron.

        • Big Mike

          Doug Pederson was the Eagle’s second choice.

      • willbest

        Good news for the rest of the AFCS. Hard to feel too bad for them, they spent a decade on top of that division.

    • Dis Guy Trublinsky (Johnnywad)

      If not, he’s going to struggle to ever get a head coaching position after that stunt.

      • willbest

        His NE contract extension better come with a $100 million balloon payment if he isn’t made HC of the pats after its over

    • CaponeBot 1.0

      Yes, but you never know, there may be a black equipment manager that needs to be interviewed for the job before that happens.

      • KentuckyBearsFan

        That guy already turned down the job. Thought they should have kept Garoppolo.

      • SC Dave

        Never know where the next Lombardi might originate.

  • willbest

    It is so American that we would put a car into deep orbit

  • Irish Sweetness

    Fuller missed more tackles than anyone in the NFL? Wow. Food for thought there.

    A corner that can’t tackle, how much is that worth? Is he Deion making ‘business decisions’?

  • Irish Sweetness

    ** Spoiler alert **

    So Han Solo used to have curly hair and a high-pitched voice … who knew?

  • Irish Sweetness

    McDaniels: Hey Bill, I got the Colts’ HC job.
    Bill: You can’t do it.
    McDaniels: Huh?
    Bill: You’re a ‘tard. Stay here.
    McDaniels: Damn, you’re right.

  • Cindy

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