Data Entry: Building a WR Profile for Chicago’s New Offense

| February 20th, 2018

The Combine approaches in a few weeks in Indianapolis, and with it an obsession over everything that can be measured. Height. Weight. Hand size. Three-cone. Jumping ability. Speed. Everybody will soon be discussing 40 times like they make the difference between a good and bad football player.

Before we get a bunch of data from the Combine, let’s take a look at which measurables might matter, specifically at wide receiver.

New head coach Matt Nagy comes from the Andy Reid offense in Kansas City, so I took a look at the Combine stats of WRs the Chiefs invested in  -either in the draft or free agency  -since Reid came to Kansas City in 2012. Basically, I wanted to find a physical profile for well-performing wide receivers in that offense that the Bears might look to follow this year. This can help us identify what wide receivers at the Combine might make sense as targets for the Bears in the draft.

Building the Profile

There were 8 Chiefs WRs identified that were drafted by them, signed to a substantial deal in free agency or earned a meaningful role with the team as an undrafted free agent since Reid took over in 2012. These players were Tyreek Hill, Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, Jehu Chesson, Demarcus Robinson, Da’Ron Brown, and De’Anthony Thomas. I used Mock Draftable to look up their Combine data (or found data from their pro day when the Combine was not available) in every category I could find, and compared it to the average WR mark in each of these categories that Mock Draftable has compiled. Full data can be seen here.

Many of the measurables didn’t show any clear pattern, but I identified three where players consistently scored well: 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump.

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After an Exhausting 2017 Season, Some Thoughts on Football Media – Chicago & Beyond

| February 19th, 2018

(1) Everything I thought about David Haugh was confirmed when I watched him order a Blue Moon from Marco at The Billy Goat Tavern. Everything.

(2) Jason La Canfora continues to embarrass himself nationally. ESPN has Schefter and Mort. Fox has Glazer. NFL Network has RapSheet. And yet CBS, one of the league’s preeminent partners, continues to march this Human Misinformation Machine onto their New York City set every Sunday to be wrong. When JLC reported the Bears were bringing in Bill Polian last year, my source inside the Bears responded with this text: “Hahahaha.” JLC makes things up. There’s no other way to say it.

(3) For the first time in my twelve years writing DBB, I dabbled in the the “breaking news” game and I have to admit it was a shitload of fun. There is something genuinely thrilling about having information before everybody else, even when that information is as trivial as who the next offensive line coach of the Bears will be.

But sadly, “breaking news cache” seems to be all football fans care about anymore. A decent opinion doesn’t register. A good sentence or two? Fuck that! I’ve been doing the same crap on Twitter for years and I basically doubled my following because I knew Mark Helfrich would be the next offensive coordinator before Brad Biggs. And the sad part is I didn’t do anything for that information outside of have a friend. The sentences are the hard part!

(4) Is Adam Jahns my pal? Yes. But we became friendly (initially) out of mutual respect for each other’s work. Jahns tackles Bears issues with objectivity and intelligence and – most importantly – style. He can write! He is a pleasure to read! He’s the best the Bears beat has to offer day-to-day.

(5) Brad Biggs has lost his fastball. He was the best Bears beat writer for a decade, and his Monday Ten Things was the only must read of the week. Neither of those things is remotely true any more. One thing you should know: the organization hated that Phil Emery leaked so profusely to Biggs. They love that Pace does not. There are people in the building who actively root against Biggs getting stories.

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Pertinent Off-Season Dates

| February 16th, 2018

Full disclosure: I rarely visit ChicagoBears.com. It used to be a vital site for post-game pressers and game highlights but there are literally dozens of better locations for both of those things now, especially the former, which now go directly from the cell phones of media members to the fans in a matter of seconds.

But in January, the site’s lead writer Larry Mayer posted a collection of pertinent off-season dates and that is something I’m constantly searching for this time of year. Here they are:

February 20: First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

February 27-March 5: NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana.

March 6: Prior to 3 p.m. (CT), deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

March 12-14: Beginning at 11 a.m. (CT) on March 7, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2017 player contracts. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 3 p.m. (CT), on March 14.

March 14: Prior to 3 p.m. (CT), clubs must exercise options for 2018 on all players who have option clauses in their 2017 contracts.

March 14: Prior to 3 p.m. (CT), clubs must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.

March 14: Prior to 3 p.m. (CT), clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2017 contracts who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.

March 14: Top 51 begins. All clubs must be under the 2018 salary cap prior to 3 p.m. (CT).

March 14: All 2017 player contracts will expire at 3 p.m. (CT)

March 14: The 2018 league year and free agency period begin at 3 p.m. (CT).

See the rest of the year’s dates after the jump…

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Backing It Up: Should the Chicago Bears Draft Luke Falk as 2nd String QB?

| February 15th, 2018

The Chicago Bears have found their answer at starting quarterback, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely set at the position. It remains to be seen who else will be in the quarterback room with Trubisky this year, backing him up.

We know for sure one guy who won’t be there: Mike Glennon. Glennon’s a fine backup, and I’m sure he’ll land somewhere in 2018, but it won’t be Chicago. Then there’s Mark Sanchez, who undoubtedly proved an excellent mentor to Trubisky, and is someone I’d like to see stay with the organization in some capacity. I just don’t know if I want him out on the field if Trubisky gets injured. (Actually, I’m pretty sure I don’t.)

So what are the Bears to do?

Certainly there is never a shortage of veteran backups looking for a landing spot and the hot rumor has Matt Nagy looking at Chase Daniel this March. But there’s also another option: a rookie quarterback later in the draft.

When Ryan Pace was first hired as Chicago’s GM he was quoted as saying he wouldn’t be opposed to drafting a quarterback every year. Well he didn’t take any in years one and two, so maybe he’s due for another QB in year four?

One quarterback prospect expected to go in the later rounds, who has gotten a fair amount of press coverage due in part to making a positive impression on multiple teams during Senior Bowl week, is Washington State University quarterback Luke Falk.

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Across The Middle: Bears Should Think Bigger Than Chiefs

| February 14th, 2018

When Matt Nagy was hired as Bears head coach, comparisons to Kansas City – both their talent and approach – were immediately made by fans and media alike. How would the Bears find their version of Chiefs Player X? Who would the Bears target to run Chiefs Concept Y? But the Bears should be thinking bigger — literally and figuratively.

As exciting as Kansas City’s offense was last year, they were relatively easy to defend when the field shortened and their speed became less of a factor. The result was a shockingly bad red zone team. After ranking 30th in red zone scoring % in 2016, the team only increased to 29th last year. These were the two seasons Nagy has had at least a share of the offensive coordinator tittle.

In those two years, Kansas City scored on just 43.8% of their red zone trips. And it wasn’t like they had a bad kicker — their kickers made 47-of-51 attempts from 39 yards or less. They just couldn’t get into the end zone.

Over the same stretch under Dowell Loggains, the Bears scored on 55% of their red zone attempts. While the Bears had 23 fewer trips inside the red zone, they only managed one less score.

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Data Entry: What Passing Targets do the Bears Need?

| February 13th, 2018

There has been and will continue to be a great deal of talk about how the Bears need to add at least one stud wide receiver to their roster this off-season. Everybody wants a Julio Jones or Antonio Brown, with good reason, and the Bears are in desperate need of an upgrade in talent at the position after a season in which they finished last in the NFL in both passing yards and touchdowns, 25th in yards per attempt, and 26th in passer rating.

The Bears are going to add more talent at WR. But what exactly do they need? Should they look for one great player, two good players, or three plus capable players?

In an attempt to answer this question, I looked at how top passing offenses split their production among targets in recent years. After all, that’s the ultimate goal for the Bears, right? They want to become one of the top passing offenses in the NFL.

Accordingly, I looked at top 10 passing teams according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA for each of 2015, 2016, and 2017 and tracked how many receiving yards each of their top 5 leaders in that category had for the season. While this DVOA stat is not a perfect metric, it is an attempt to measure the efficiency of a passing attack instead of volume, which you would get from just looking at passing yards. The full list can be seen here.

No Clear Pattern

The first thing that jumps out is that there is no single defined way to have a top 10 passing offense. Some teams did it with one clear stud and a bunch of secondary weapons. Others had two dominant targets. Some had no clear dominant target at all.

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Final Thoughts on the 2017 NFL Season

| February 12th, 2018

The season has been over more than a week so I thought I’d throw a bunch of thoughts on the entire league into one semi-coherent post.

(1) It was a bad season for the NFL and it all stems from mismanagement at the top. The fallout from injuries/head trauma, player protests, rules issues…etc. were manageable and fixable. But Roger Goodell once again showed himself to be the most flaccidly ineffective commissioner in the history of professional sports.

(2) The “catch rule” has been the mostly thoroughly debated issue in the NFL and the Super Bowl seemed to be a turning point for its legislation, with two touchdowns actually being ruled touchdowns. (This despite the utter confusion of the commentary box, where Michaels and Collinsworth acted like they were asked to call a three-day test cricket match on forty minutes notice.) Possession. Two feet down. That’s it. If you have possession of the ball and two feet on the ground, you have caught the ball. For the first time in a long time, it feels the NFL is headed back in that direction.

(3) Ryan Pace took over the GM job in Chicago prior to the 2014 season.

  • His first year? Low expectations.
  • His second year? Three quarterbacks played, one of whom was benched for C.J. Beathard in 2017 and another didn’t approach an active roster.
  • Year three featured the drafting a quarterback with the second pick and nobody should put win/loss expectation on a rookie quarterback.

Now we enter year four. Pace has his coach. Pace has his QB. And if the latter stays healthy, the Bears should be expected to win games in 2018.

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Sunday Data Entry: Understanding Where the Bears Currently Stand with the Salary Cap

| February 11th, 2018

The questions…

  • Where do the Bears now sit relative to the cap?
  • How much money do they have to work with?
  • How much can they create with cuts?
  • What players of their own do they have to re-sign before looking for improvements elsewhere?

I know the salary cap can be confusing, so I try to break it down step-by-step as much as possible here. If you’re not interested in the specifics, you can just jump to the end for general numbers. All salary data comes courtesy of Spotrac.

Current Cap

The table below shows the Bears’ current cap situation.

Every line is important for the math, but the bottom line, highlighted in yellow, tells you they have roughly $32.1 million to spend after accounting for the likely contracts of their upcoming draft picks.

If you care where that number comes from, I’ll explain below the table. If not, just keep that $32.1 million in mind and jump to the next section.

The gray areas up top are the current cap expenses the Bears have.

  • Their 51 players under contract have a combined cap hit of $143.8 million.
  • They have $1.2 million in dead cap (money previously paid to cut players that didn’t count under previous caps).
  • Their draft picks are estimated to use up $7.6 million of cap space.

This all adds up to $152.6 million. Those numbers are broken down on a player by player basis here.

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DaBearsPod: The Brian Urlacher Edition [AUDIO]

| February 9th, 2018

On this week’s special edition of DaBearsPod:

  • Jeff finishes off the Josh McDaniels/Bears discussion, monologue-style.
  • Former Urlacher teammate Cam Worrell tells us all what made Lach special on and off the field. (There’s a great story here about a banquet Cam attended years after playing with Brian.)
  • A should-be-more-famous clip of Urlacher defending Cutler after the 2010 NFC title game.
  • Reverend Dave sings 54’s praises from eastern Africa.
  • Music from Monty Python & Henry Mancini!

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Film Review – ’85: The Greatest Team in Pro Football History is an Amateurish Disaster

| February 8th, 2018

There are two ways I evaluate documentaries, my second favorite genre of film behind the movie musical. (1) Is the content compelling? (2) Is the presentation of the content compelling? There are plenty of documentaries that satisfy one and not the other. There are hours of Holocaust footage assembled into difficult-to-watch “documentaries” but that content isn’t presented with any artistry, most likely because it doesn’t require any. Andy Warhol’s docs are studied in film schools for their approach to the form (and Jonas Mekas’ camera work) but try sitting through Empire. Seriously. Try.

When the content and presentation are both compelling we find documentary genius. Usually this kind of work is reserved for artists like Errol Morris, Agnes Varda, Alex Gibney, Frederick Wiseman and D.A. Pennebaker. It yields films like Harlan County USA, How to Survive a Plague, Grizzly Man and, of course, Hoop Dreams.

And sports have always been a fertile playground for documentary as that last film mentioned proved. Sports lends itself perfectly to reflection, especially when additional insight from those who experienced the game is added. There are game histories; NFL Network’s America’s Game series was breathtaking. There are moments in history; the Bill Simmons-led 30-for-30 series on ESPN has popularized the art form for a whole new audience. And there are high art masterpieces; Hoop Dreams and The Two Escobars are probably the best sports docs ever made because like all great sports movies they are not about sports.

’85: The Greatest Team in Pro Football History, a documentary by Scott Prestin, is a terrible piece of filmmaking (with a stupid title). It is incoherent, boring and endlessly redundant. There is not a single new moment, not ONE piece of new information, in its entire, bloated 1:41 run time.

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