Data Entry: Self-Scouting Chicago’s 2017 Offense

| February 6th, 2018

Chicago’s offense was generally bad in 2017. We all know this. They finished 30th in the NFL in yards per game and 29th in points scored.

Those types of basic stats are easy for anybody to look up, and they can help paint an overall picture of how effective a unit performed. They do not. however, tell a complete tale. It can be useful to look deeper and see in what areas the Bears might have struggled, as well as where they might have done well. This can be useful to help identify specific areas of strength to build on going forward, as well as areas that need to be addressed through personnel and/or scheme improvements.

In an effort to do this, I used the NFL Game Statistics Information System to look at Chicago’s offensive stats in a bit more detail. I broke down rushing and passing attempts by areas of the field to see where they target the most and how successful they are. Let’s have a look.

Rushing Attack

Chicago’s overall run game was solid in 2017; they finished 16th in rushing yards, 11th in yards per carry, and 11th in touchdowns. Now let’s break it down by different areas of the field.

Here’s the data for Chicago’s rushing attack 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:

  • Despite a bevy of offensive line injuries, things didn’t really change much from where they were at the bye. That’s a credit to Chicago’s reserves and running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.
  • What the heck happened on the right side? The Bears ran it well out there in 2016, but that was absolutely awful this year. It can’t all be blamed on right tackle Bobby Massie, though I think he did take a step back in 2017. Some of it might be due to poor blocking by wide receivers, but that didn’t seem to hurt them on the left, where they were good in both 2016 and 2017. My guess (though I don’t know of any way to numerically prove it) is that this is largely based on formation and tight end blocking. The Bears ran a lot of 2 and 3 TE sets this year, which usually resulted in runs. They often liked to load up heavy with tight ends to the right side when this happened. Between defenses knowing what was coming and Chicago’s largely new tight ends perhaps not blocking very well, bad things happened.
  • I hear a lot that left tackle Charles Leno is a finesse player who’s not good in the run game, but the Bears have consistently run the ball well off left tackle and left guard for two straight years. That’s certainly not all on Leno, but he’s heavily involved in all of those runs.
  • The Bears really don’t like running up the middle, something that hasn’t changed for two years now. To put into a little perspective how low their 32 attempts there were, the NFL average was 110, and all but 1 other team had at least 50. In terms of yards per carry, the Bears have been consistently good at these runs over the last two years, so I hope a new coach tries this a bit more.
  • Chicago was much better running off guard in 2017 than they were in 2016. At the bye, I attributed this to starters Kyle Long and Josh Sitton being healthier than last year, but that wasn’t the case down the stretch. Kudos to the Bears for making that work.
  • Chicago was consistently better at running left than right, but it appears they realized this and ran to the left more often. They ran to the left more in 2016 as well, despite similar success on both sides. I’ll be curious to see if a new coach with a new offensive system tries to change that or keeps rolling with a good thing.

Passing Attack

In contrast to the ground, the Bears were awful through the air in 2017. They finished last in passing yards, 25th in yards per attempt, tied for last in passing touchdowns, and 26th in passer rating. However, when we look at different areas of the field, we see that it wasn’t all bad.

Here’s the data for Chicago’s passing attack 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:

  • This also hasn’t changed much since the bye, though the outsides did get a little bit less ugly in a few spots. We’ll tentatively credit that to growth by rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
  • Chicago consistently found their best success attacking the middle of the field, but they didn’t throw there very often. This could very much be due to small sample size-especially in the deep middle-but it’s something to keep an eye on for next year.
  • The Bears generally didn’t throw a ton, but their short/deep splits seem fairly typical. Their volume rankings in short vs. deep zones aren’t all that different. Unfortunately I can’t split this data by week and thus remove Glennon’s games, but I did find this nugget on Twitter that said Trubisky had about an average rate of throwing deep balls and the 6th highest completion percentage on such passes.
  • There’s not much else to say here. Their passing attack was bad. Next year will feature a new coach, new scheme, and several new pass targets, so it’s not like there are many lessons to take away going forward either.

Overall Takeaways

The Bears were better running to the left than the right and continued to avoid running up the middle despite being pretty good at it. They stunk passing pretty much everywhere but the middle of the field.

I’m more interested in the running trends, because there should be less personnel changeover this off-season to impact that going forward. We’ll see how things might change on both the ground and the air in 2018.

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  • SC Dave

    (Almost) worst to first in 2018?

    I jest, of course.

    • willbest

      jags almost did it

  • That Guy

    I’m not sure any of the 2017 analysis is germane to 2018 and beyond. Beside Trubs growing into his role, and hopefully getting 1+ actual NFL-quality receivers, the offense is going to be different in just about every single way.

    The only thing that WON’T be different is the ability of the OLine, but then, guys have to get healthy and they’ll have to adjust to a different scheme that will rely on their athleticism more.

    • SC Dave

      What I’m interested in seeing is how well Nagy, et al, adapt the offense to the personnel they have. That is what makes the Patriots so successful. And something, frankly, the Bears have been terrible at on offense for the last 50+ years.

      Defense, on the other hand, is another matter.

      • That Guy

        Agreed. And with the exception of the WR position, there is some intriguing talent all across this offense, if only someone can figure out how to use it.

    • I’m not that worried about our Oline.

      Our OTs are servicable, and some teams would kill for that.

      Our interior has been somewhat INJ prone, but the Bears have done well plugging guys in.

      Long might be done, but Kush got hurt early and was out all yr. I expect him to be more than solid and maybe even an upgrade over either Long or Sitton if they’re hurt.

      The rest are dart throws, but that’s like every team. Sowell, Compton…and I expect some OG in the draft who better fits the WCO/RPO scheme.

      Whitehair is what he is. Hoping this yr is the yr he finally becomes an AP.

      As of right now Bears don’t have a dominate Oline, but it’s above avg, and if Pace drafts an Olinemen in the first, well, then we’re talking dominate.

  • Scharfinator

    • SC Dave

      That guy was so…. FUN. Hard to imagine another like him.

      • His acceleration from stop to start was phenomenal.

        Like when he did that rope-a-dope FG return for a TD.

        He just kinda walked, then, BOOM. He was gone.

        He blew by #92 (Hillenmyer?) who was a good 20 yrds ahead of him like he were standing still.

        His instincts, agility, and acceleration were off the charts.

        Even towards the end when he lost some of that top end speed, those things still made him dangerous.

    • Devin Hester the punter to beat…magic to my ears…sigh.

  • CanadaBear

    One reason for the lack of throws in the deep middle might be due to trying to avoid INT’s. Unless the guy was wide open I’m guessing MT avoided throwing there.

  • Big Mike

    Your calculator should show an error message.

  • willbest

    leno is arguably Emery’s best pick even ignoring draft position value. Quality LTs are fairly rare and almost never available in FA

  • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

    Let’s see, Gronk in Minnesota for SB. We should rob his house!


    Seems a little odd to me. I would think he would have had a security system of some kind, but the burglary was not reported till he got home last night.

    • CanadaBear

      This has happened to other athletes, too. If it were me I’d get a large dog and hire a house sitter every time I was away. If he has a posse, make them house sit.

  • ButtonShoes

    “Just had a great conversation with a friend who is super duper high-up at an AFC club. One point he made to me about the Bears: he doesn’t think they need to overhaul WRs to run Nagy’s offense.

    He thought a combination of Meredith, Wright, Inman could be very successful. He’d address the position but he didn’t see it as top priority.”

    This is the week you need to stop sniffing glue, Jeff.

    • evantonio

      He’s not saying he agreed with it or endorses this crazy line of thinking. He’s just saying he had a great conversation about it. Which, I guess, could be interpreted as meaning he’s optimistic about the words he heard.

      So yeah, lay off the glue, bruh.

    • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

      If Meredith is back healthy, I got to agree with them. Grab someone in FA, no need to use a high draft pick on the position. High draft picks should be used on Oline and pass rush.

      • ButtonShoes

        I’m not saying to use a high pick. No higher than a 2nd round pick for a WR, far as I’m concerned. But the idea that you should be ok with Meredith, Wright, and Inman as your 1-2-3? That’s fucking insane.

        • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

          Do you not read what you post? “He’d address the position but he didn’t see it as top priority.”

          • ButtonShoes

            And I see it as top priority.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            But you would not spend a 1st round on it, so it is NOT a top priority.

          • ButtonShoes

            I think using a 2nd and signing guys in free agency suggests that I think it is. But if “top priority” means using a 1st, then I guess you’re right and I don’t think it is.

          • Not necessarily. Some top priorities will get addressed in FA, making them less of a top draft priority.

          • I see OLB as the top priority. Then probably WR and CB tied, then OL.

          • ButtonShoes

            I’d agree with that. Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush.

      • KentuckyBearsFan

        Meredith + Free Agent Who Doesn’t Suck + Healthy O-line + Trubisky getting better

        Now if Meredith is questionable – and rookie receivers can only do so much -it might be worth throwing a bunch of money at a top free agent receiver who will be here for 3 seasons (or more).

    • I respectfully disagree, and the next 3 Tuesdays will lay out my case why, as well as looking at potential guys to target in FA (and build a physical profile for guys to watch for at the Combine. I’ll add a 4th after the Combine with guys in the draft who fit)

      • But I will add I’m very high on Meredith, who is a perfect physical fit for this offense and IMO is about to go beast mode.

        And Wright fits pretty well in this offense too, I’d be ok with him as a 3rd or 4th WR. Not a huge Inman fan moving forward, but I’m not going to complain if they give him a chance to earn a roster spot in camp.

        • CanadaBear

          You like Meredith way more than I do. I would much prefer they get a #1 (if possible) and slot Cam at #2.

          • There is nobody in FA better than Meredith, assuming Allen Robinson doesn’t hit the market (which he won’t).

            They were worried about nerve damage, but it came out after the surgery that it was just ACL and nothing more. http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2017/11/17/chicago-bears-cam-meredith-torn-acl-recovery/

          • Hmmm. If it wasn’t nerve damage, I’m more optimistic.

            That being said, I agree with Canada. He’s still more of a #2.

            The Chiefs passing attack worked because they had athletic freaks turning 3 yders into TDs.

            Guys like Hill and Kelce.

            We don’t have that. (Not to mention a vet QB hitting 70% comp)

            I would model our O more after the Eagles with Foles.

            They have a big TD threat in Alshon. A reliable slot and TE in Aghlor and Ertz. The rest is mix and match.

            It would be nice for Trub to have a security blanket big bodied #1 WR. Someone he can throw fades to without having to be perfect.

        • ManGod

          One tidbit for all to consider….the Bears also have a 2nd yr WR on the roster who fits very well in Nagy’s scheme and who reportedly has the best chemistry of all WR’s with Trubisky….Tanner Gentry. This kid was a beast in college (even though he played for DII/III school, if he can develop into a solid route runner and acquire the necessary skills to create separation, he could easily become WR#2/3 for Trubisky and would benefit greatly with C Meredith as WR#1 and he just might offer equal or better production than any Draft selection in 2018 vs value to pick ratio. Also, there is the unknown factor of K White and his health, giving him the benefit the doubt and assuming last season’s injury was a fluke, if he can regain his athleticism and speed, he becomes a major player in Nagy’s WSO/RPO scheme across from C Meredith…regardless of who is in the slot. Also, TE A Shaheen is definitely going to heralded as the Bears #1 TE and he definitely flashed signs of being a top level TE in the modern NFL pass systems and a very dangerous red zone threat as well as 1 of Trubiskys’ favorite targets. The biggest issue going into FA and the Draft….the Bears actually have a top notch Offensive Coaching Staff (easily 1 of the top 3 from HC down to assistants and consultants) and we have yet to see any evaluations from them regarding position groups or individual players outside of Trubisky, Howard and Cohen. With most assumed evaluations being centered directly around Trubisky and Howard in the Nagy offense. I believe the Bears are a lot more capable in terms of talent and competitiveness overall than they are given credit for, also I fully believe much of their problems, injuries and set backs were due directly to J Fox and his coaching philosophies, offensive schemes and his known dislike of starting rookies or even playing them in the regular season combined with DS Loggains vanilla schemes and play calling and the (maybe most important) the methods and training used by X strength and conditioning coaching staff.

      • ButtonShoes

        If you disagree, then you think it’s OK for the Bears to trot out Meredith, Wright, and Inman as your WR core this coming season? Because if so I…well I have no response to that. I just can’t understand it.

        • No, I respectfully disagree with the AFC scout

          • ButtonShoes

            OH! Well then, good. Then you haven’t lost your mind like Jeff is on the verge of doing.

          • Here’s what I think the WR depth chart should look like next year:

            WR1: Cam
            WR2: FA (ideally Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Mike Wallace, a guy like Emmanuel Sanders if cut)
            WR3: FA (ideally Albert Wilson, otherwise Wright is ok, or a guy like John Brown, plenty of other options here
            WR4: Mid-round rookie (4th round as their draft currently stands)

          • That requires at least 1 significant FA, plus a 2nd solid one (or re-sign Wright) and a mid-round draft pick. I’d call that an overhaul.

          • ButtonShoes

            Definitely an overhaul. Not a great one but light-years ahead of where we were last season.

          • I think that’s a very solid group. My ideal would be Cam-Lee-Wilson as your top 3, which would be a top 10 trio in the NFL, IMO. Add in Shaheen and Cohen as pass game weapons and you’re good to go.

            I have stats backing this up coming up in the next few weeks.

          • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

            I could see Nagy using Cohen in a Tyreek Hill type role, lined up as a WR a lot more.

          • I think he’ll play more WR, but don’t see him ever being that high volume. He’s a guy I’m very excited for, though, I think that Nagy and Helfrich will find good ways to use him (Oregon was great with using guys like that under Helfrich).

          • CanadaBear

            Read Biggsy rundown above.

          • evantonio

            no jarvis landry for you?

          • nope. He’ll cost as much as Lee + Wilson combined.

  • CanadaBear

    Biggsy going through the roster. Part 1 is linked at the bottom of the article.


    • I have compared Howard to Alfred Morris before. Think that’s pretty much who he is.

      That being said, beating Sweatness and Sayers in any category is impressive, and Howard can blow up in any game. Just a matter of consistency. Crazy to think the Bears rushed for over 220 yds in 4 games last season, which is one more than in our illustrious history.

      Agree about Cohen. He’s gotta learn when to take a 4yd gain as opposed to always trying for the TD. That might be the way he’s hard wired though. No-no-no…go-go-go

      Surprised we used FB as much

      “Burton received 179 snaps, which was a much greater commitment to a
      blocking back than the Bears showed the previous year when Paul Lasike
      was given 76 snaps.”

      I wonder if that will continue under Nagy.

      WCO doesn’t use the FB all that much (See Tresty-Clutts)

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