Don’t Sleep on the Aaron Lynch Signing.

| April 3rd, 2019

Lynch isn’t a great player but very few teams have three guys on the edge who are great players. What Lynch provides is depth at one of the three most important positions in the sport. And with pass rush being the club’s signature strength in 2018, a drop-off should not be expected in 2019.

This signing also continues the Ryan Pace trend of solving depth problems in free agency to create flexibility in the draft. It’s a smart move by a suddenly smart team.

That’s all I have to say on the matter. It’s fucking April.

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ATM: Nagy’s “Vision” Could Look to Supersize What Was Mizzell’s Role

| April 2nd, 2019

While maddening in 2018, Matt Nagy’s insistence on using Taquan Mizzell was a sign of what he envisions the Bears offense becoming.

Mizzell wasn’t used as often as it seemed in 2018. He played just 70 snaps, with nine rushes and ten targets in the passing game. That’s attempting to get him the ball every 3.7 snaps. That rate isn’t as high as Tarik Cohen’s (once every 2.6 snaps), but not all of Cohen’s touches were plays drawn up for him. The Bears seemed to see Mizzell as a weapon.

He wasn’t.

This is something Nagy should’ve known since he was comfortable cutting “Smoke” out of training camp last year before putting him on the practice squad and later back on the active roster. But just because Mizzell couldn’t do it, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a job out there for the right player. That job could prove to be vital to the offense.

On a basic level, Mizzell had value as a backup to Cohen. He’s quick and can do some good things in the receiving game. He just isn’t anywhere near as good at those things as Cohen. But, what if, in theory, the Bears were able to add a player who could do some of the same things at a very high level? There are quite a few options in this draft.

It seems highly unlikely that the Bears will be able to get their version of Kareem Hunt. Yes, running backs drop in the draft, but the success rate of running backs taken later still isn’t as great as fans tend to think. In this specific draft, there just aren’t that many dual-threat backs. Typically, at least five running backs are drafted before the 87th pick in the draft. This year that list likely includes Josh Jones, Damien Harris, David Montgomery, Darrell Henderson and Miles Sanders. Outside of those five, there aren’t very many who seem capable of filling the kind of every down role Hunt filled for the Chiefs.

While it’s difficult to find every down backs in this draft, there are a handful of players who could fill and expand Mizzell’s role. Players like Justice Hill, Tony Pollard and James Williams. Then there is the option of players like Trayveon Williams, Travis Homer, Karan Higdon and Mike Weber, who might not be big enough to handle an every down load, but could bring more explosiveness to the offense.

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What RBs in the Draft Fit the Physical Profile for Chicago’s Offense?

| April 1st, 2019

With Jordan Howard officially no longer a Bear, it’s time to start looking to the draft to see who could be acquired as his replacement. Before the Combine, I looked at running backs who have been brought in for the Andy Reid offense in Kansas City (which the Bears are now running) to see if there were any physical patterns that could be found. To recap, I found five areas where backs consistently stood out from the average:

  • Short: Reid RBs are routinely at or below league average of 5’10”.
  • Well-Built: Reid RBs at or above league average 214 pounds.
  • Good Acceleration: Reid RBs at or below average first 10 yards of the 40-yard dash of 1.59 seconds.
  • Explosive: Reid RBs at or above average vertical jump of 35″ and average broad jump of 118″.

Every RB Reid has brought to Kansas City hit at least four of these five thresholds. With that profile in mind, let’s look at the running backs in the 2019 draft and see who might fit the physical profile for this offense.

Four Thresholds Hit

No RBs hit all five thresholds at the Combine, but six players went 4-for-5. They are shown below, with the threshold they missed highlighted in red.

A few thoughts:

  • It’s really important to note that best physical fit does not mean best player. Think of it more as a chance to identify players who the Bears are likely interested in, and then do some film study of them.
  • Most of these players fit the athletic testing requirements quite well but are simply very light. Since the Bears like to do so much inside zone, I’m not sure if a small back like Justice Hill or James Williams would be able to hold up very well. (Though it’s worth noting that Jamaal Charles weighed 200 pounds at the Combine and did just fine for 2 years as Reid’s lead back.)
  • Alex Barnes is probably the best physical fit for this offense in the draft in that he’s just a little tall, but otherwise matches every single box in terms of bulk and athleticism.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Packers/Bears, Pass Interference, Ted Phillips & More!

| March 28th, 2019

Packers at Bears to Open Season

My Thoughts:

  • I hate it. The opening Sunday of NFL football is my favorite day of the entire year and if the Bears are not playing in that early window it is ruined for me. (Hopefully the Bills are home that weekend so I can make something of the whole experience. I’ll just go up there and eat the world’s best wings and drink Blue Light.)
  • I hate it. Bears/Packers – and all important divisional games – should be scheduled for later in the season. None of these teams are playing their best football in September. I’ll continue fighting for the NFL to move all out of conference games to the first month of the calendar.
  • I hate it. Because it means the NFL is all-in on the 2019 Chicago Bears and that means the club will be all over primetime television next season.

Reviewing Pass Interference

The league had a pass interference problem, more than any other piece of officiating. Bad pass interference calls were destroying the flow of the viewing experience and in many cases deciding game outcomes. That issue reached its peak in the NFC title game on the other side, with a no-calling putting the Rams in the Super Bowl.

Will this rule change – allowing PI to be challenged – extend games? Who cares? I can handle football games being 5 minutes longer if the calls are right. (And the networks could cut down commercials with ease and nobody would notice.) Will this rule change open the floodgates to challenging all penalties? No. Challenging a hold or a shift or something menial will be as difficult to overturn as challenging a spot. And if they allowing roughing the passer to be challenged, they’d be smart.

Just check out how video replay is working in the Premiere League. They’re getting calls right. It’s wonky, yes. Nobody is quite sure how to deal with the change in flow. But they’re getting calls right. That’s all that matters.

Jahns with Ted Phillips

You should read all of Adam Jahns’ excellent conversation with Ted Phillips. But here’s a passage that shows why Ted is good at his job and has been instrumental in bringing these Bears back:

As Pace explained the positives — from Mack’s age to him playing a “need” position to his lack of baggage — Phillips said that trading for him started to make too much sense.

“I don’t need to have four committee meetings and let’s discuss it all,” Phillips said. “That’s why you have to have the right people in place.

“You have to be decisive. It wasn’t a long, drawn-out, lengthy discussion. Once I understood it all — because [Pace] never leaves a stone unturned, he’s very thorough — and when I hear it all, it’s, ‘Go get him.’ ”

And Pace did.

Jahns will be joining me for an extended conversation (podcast) in the coming week.

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ATM: Opener is Time for Bears to Retake Control of Rivalry

| March 26th, 2019

What better time for the Chicago Bears to reestablish their dominance with their oldest rivals than the opener of the 2019 season?

On Monday, the NFL officially announced the opening of the 2019 season, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the league with the Chicago Bears hosting the Green Bay Packers.

The Bears have a target on their backs throughout the 2019 offseason and the Packers are making the biggest surge. With a spending spree that included two pass rushers, a new starting guard and, of course, Adrian Amos, the Packers have already attacked some of their biggest weaknesses. With two first round picks and 10 selections overall in the draft next month, it isn’t hard to see a scenario in which their roster looks almost nothing like the sorry group they trotted out last year. All of that, of course, will go around quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers are trying to do what the Bears just did and the Rams did two years ago by winning their division in the first year of a new regime.

The Bears simply can’t let that happen.

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Which Wide Receivers in the 2019 Draft Fit the Testing Profile for Matt Nagy’s Offense?

| March 25th, 2019

Last year, Data Entry looked at wide receivers who found success in coach Matt Nagy’s offense in Kansas City and identified physical traits they all shared. When examining their Combine performance, all typically excelled at three drills:

  • 40 yard dash: 4.51 seconds or better
  • Vertical jump: 35.5 inches or higher
  • Broad jump: 10 feet or longer

Receivers who were targeted for that offense usually hit at least 2 of those 3 thresholds, with many of them hitting all 3. And this seemed to hold true in Chicago, as Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, and Taylor Gabriel all hit at least 2 of 3 (it’s worth noting that Javon Wims hit 0 of 3, though a 7th round pick is far less of an investment than was put into the players listed above).

Though the Bears have far less of a need at the position this year than they did in 2018, it’s still not out of the realm of possibility they invest a later pick in somebody to improve positional depth, so let’s look to see who from this year’s crop matches the physical profile. As always, these test results are not a way to say how good or bad a wide receiver will be, but simply if they match the physical characteristics of previous players who have excelled in this offense.

Hit All Three

There were 42 wide receivers who did tests at the Combine, and 17 of them hit all three thresholds. They are shown in the table below.

A few thoughts on this group:

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The DBB Five Rules for Maintaining Sanity on Sports Social Media

| March 22nd, 2019

2019 will be a different year for me on Twitter.

No more insulting David Haugh’s inability to produce an interesting paragraph. No more attacking Pro Football Focus’ misinformed player grades. No more fights with Greg Gabriel, especially after he’s engaged his evening Tito’s and tonic.

Twitter brings out the worst instincts in me as a writer and person. And I’m just gonna go back to ten years ago when only booze did that.

With that states, here are my five rules for social media, sports department.

(1) Don’t Tweet during game action.

Games are emotional events. And social media is no place to be when your emotions are revvin’ to seven. You’ll argue about things that don’t necessitate argument. You’ll allow a run call on third-and-one in the first quarter to enrage you, not understanding it’s setting up a beautifully-designed, play-action screen in the fourth, two hours later. You’ll end up making ridiculous (and wrong) proclamations that become featured by @OldTakesExposed or some feed like that.

In-game commentary is commentary without perspective. Commentary without perspective is often, if not exclusively, useless.

(2) Admit what you don’t know…

…because you don’t know a lot.

I have watched all-but-one Chicago Bears game since 2001.

I watch more than 100 NFL games a season. Way more. Not a point of pride. Just a fact.

A lot of games I watch multiple times. Often with All-22 tape. Sometimes in slow motion. Because I wake up at 4 AM.

And I have no idea what constitutes good guard play. Sure, I can see it when Kyle Long pancakes a guy or pulls outside and makes an important block downfield. But down-for-down I don’t know the assignments and am completely incapable of evaluating overall performance. That doesn’t just go for guards. It goes for safeties too. And a lot of linebacker stuff. And interior DL. And a majority of folks on specials.

I don’t know. And you don’t either. Admitting that fact is comforting.

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