115 Comments

Understanding the Role of Newly-Acquired Free Agents in 2019: Defense

| March 21st, 2019

The Bears have made a number of moves in free agency, and I want to use some advanced statistics to weigh in on their likely role on the roster and value to the team. We looked at the offense yesterday, and now will move to the defense, where the Bears will be replacing two starters.

Buster Skrine

Nickelback Bryce Callahan followed Vic Fangio to the Broncos, and the Bears replaced him with Buster Skrine, who was a bit cheaper ($5.5 million/year vs. $7 million/year) and has been a bit healthier (5 games missed vs. 12 games missed in last 3 years). According to The Quant Edge, both players have spent the majority of their time over the last three years at nickel, though Skrine has spent a bit more (roughly 30%, compared to 15%) playing outside.

The table below uses data from The Quant Edge to show how effective each player has been in coverage. In order to increase sample sizes, I looked at Skrine and Callahan cumulatively from 2016-18 (I’ll note this actually helped Callahan and hurt Skrine, lest I be accused of trying to skew the numbers in the Bears’ favor), and for context compared them to averaged 2018 stats from five other nickelbacks who are widely viewed as being quality players: Chris Harris, Aaron Colvin, Tavon Young, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Justin Coleman.

Based on this data, it is pretty clear to see that Skrine is a downgrade from Callahan, but that is not to say he’s a bad player. Skrine gets targeted more frequently than other nickel CBs, but holds up to the targeting quite well. The only thing that really jumps out poorly there is the TD:INT ratio. Like Callahan, Skrine doesn’t really get many interceptions, and he has given up more scores than you would like to see.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

120 Comments

ATM: Safety Swap Should Help Keep Bears On Top

| March 19th, 2019

When the Bears signed HaHa Clinton-Dix for roughly a third of what the Packers paid Adrian Amos, it was a great example of how teams on top stay on top.

Amos’ biggest fans have been the folks at Pro Football Focus. Through their various platforms, PFF raved about the Packers signing Amos and making him one of the ten highest-paid safeties in the league. But even they would have to admit there isn’t a very big difference between Amos and Clinton-Dix. The latter finished eighth in their silly ranking system last year and was their third-highest-ranked safety available in free agency.

While it’s safe to say nobody likes Amos more than PFF, it’s also safe to say they also quite like HHCD.

PFF doesn’t actually know how to grade safety play — or any other position, for that matter —  so those grades are worthless. But, if they — the group that likes Amos more than anyone — think paying $9 million per year for him was a great move, what do they think of the Bears paying a player who is only slightly weaker $3.5 million?

We’d know, but PFF has been oddly quiet about the HHCD signing.

Read More …

Tagged: ,

107 Comments

Audibles From the Long Snapper: Massie Extends, McCaskey Speaks, Jahns Writes & Bear Movies!

| January 28th, 2019


Bobby Massie Inks Extension

Many folks around the Bears blogosphere (and beyond) like to DM me when players are negotiating (or thought-to-be negotiating) contracts. There are two reasons for this: (1) They know I have friends inside the building and (2) I’m rarely, if ever, going to publish the information myself before it becomes public. That is why I’m still able to acquire the information I do. But I’m usually happy to confirm stuff.

Here’s what I know about the Massie deal:

  • During the season, several people inside the the Bears commented to me that Massie was playing at an outstanding level. Offensive linemen are very difficult for the average fan (and folks like PFF) to evaluate because it’s all about assignment football. When the Bears sat down and did their post-season roster evaluation they determined Massie was going to be impossible to bring back should he hit the open market, especially with tackle-needy teams like Buffalo and the New York Jets having buckets of money to spend.
  • The money isn’t a big deal but it values Massie as one of the best right tackles in the sport. I have news for you. He was every bit that in 2018.
  • The organization’s attention has now moved to their other in-house free agents: Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan.
    • Amos’ agents are pains in the ass and they passed on an extension last off-season, citing the PFF grades as reason the Bears were low-balling their client. Bears don’t view Amos as a top safety. And they won’t pay him like one.
    • Two things on Callahan: (1) He’s switched to Roquan Smith’s agents. (2) He’s got a chronic hip issue that he’s learned to manage over the last few years but that many inside the organization believe leads to his frequent injuries. The Bears want him back. The locker room loves him. But his health history and position make the deal tricky.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

141 Comments

Projecting Contracts for the Key Free Agent Bears

| January 17th, 2019

The Bears have three starters – Bryce Callahan, Bobby Massie, and Adrian Amos – and a key role player – Aaron Lynch – who are all free agents this offseason. They’re tight up against the cap, so keeping all of them will be hard.

In order to prioritize which ones might be most important and attainable to hang onto, we need to understand how expensive their contracts are likely to be. Let’s look at each player one by one and look at the types of contracts signed by comparable players in recent years to get an idea for what to expect. All data is from Spotrac.


Bryce Callahan (27 years old)

Callahan’s contract is a difficult one to project because it is complicated by health. Callahan has been one of the best nickel backs in the NFL when healthy, but he’s only played 45 out of a possible 65 games (including playoffs) in 4 years, which should keep his price down a little bit. It’s also a bit difficult to parse out nickel back contracts from the other cornerbacks, as they’re listed generically together even though NFL teams clearly pay them differently. Nevertheless, here are four recent nickel back contracts that can help give us an idea of what Callahan’s market should be.

Harris’ deal sets the standard for nickels, but I don’t think it will have much bearing on Callahan. I’m sure his agents will point to it as what they’d like to get, but I don’t think teams view Callahan on Harris’ level, both because of health and big plays. Harris missed 1 game in 4 years before signing this deal and had 10 interceptions to Callahan’s 4.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,

114 Comments

Turning Chicago’s Fortunes Around Will Require Turning Over Opposing Quarterbacks Through the Air

| August 6th, 2018

Chicago returns their entire secondary from last season, which is good news.

Off-season additions like Eddie Jackson and Prince Amukamara, coupled with breakout seasons from Kyle Fuller and Adrian Amos, helped construct a quality 2017 pass defense. The Bears were 7th in passing yards allowed, 15th in yards per attempt, and 5th in fewest touchdown passes given up.

But there is one area where improvement is desperately needed: interceptions. The Bears caught only 8 for the third year in a row in 2017. Only two NFL teams had fewer.

This has to change if the Bears want to become a good team. To understand why, let’s look at how important turnovers are to winning football games.


Turnovers & Winning Games

Over the last five years, there is a correlation of 0.50 between a team’s turnover differential and the number of wins for a given season. That means that roughly half of a team’s season outcome can be explained simply by looking at how many times their offense turned the ball over compared to how many times their defense took the ball away. Other studies have looked at this in greater detail and found the correlation to be somewhere between 40% and 65%.

I wanted to put this into a visual that’s a bit more concrete, so the table below shows how a team’s turnover differential corresponds to various season outcomes over the last 5 seasons (full data available here).

Teams that have a better turnover differential win more games and make the playoffs more often. It’s not a revolutionary idea, but I think it’s helpful to see some numbers.


Fumble Luck Doesn’t Last

So if the Bears want to improve, they need to improve their turnover differential. They actually weren’t awful last year (as I predicted before the season), as they had a differential of 0 by turning it over 22 times and forcing 22 turnovers, but that was with a hyper-conservative offense designed to limit turnovers.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,

58 Comments

The Positional Quick 3: Secondary

| June 25th, 2018

I’m traveling in Dingle, Ireland years ago and I’m exhausted. This was my first day ever in Europe and I couldn’t keep my eyes open at 4:30 in the afternoon. My uncle turns to me and says, “Have a quick three. You’ll be fine.” I drank three Guinness in the span of a half hour. Seven hours later I’m dancing to a shitty Irish house DJ with Jenny Pye, a local lass who dreamed of being an EMT in New York City.

I’m very tired of this 2018 off-season. And incredibly eager for the season to begin. So I’m taking the quick three approach to each position group as we head into the summer. Not grading the groups or anything. Just making some points.


Secondary

  • Is there a star at the back of this defense? PFF says Adrian Amos is. (He’s not.) Kyle Fuller often flashes star qualities but he’s not one of the top corners in the league. Every time I try to convince myself this could be the best defense in the league, I find myself wondering how that’s possible with questionable outside rush and no stars at the back. I think they’ll be a terrific unit but they need more elite-level talents at these impact positions.
  • What’s up with this PFF/Adrian Amos shit? It’s bizarre. Amos is a decent enough player but “coming close to elite status”? I’ve seen every snap of his career. A lot of them twice. And while I think he’s a player the Bears can win with, I also can’t name anything he does at an elite level. He’s a good box safety. He’s serviceable with the ball in the air. He doesn’t get out of position too often. But Harrison Smith is what a great safety looks like. Amos don’t look like that.
  • There is a tremendous amount of pressure on Fuller this season. Two years ago he never overcame an injury many considered minor and had coaches publicly questioning his desire to play. Last year he was the player the Bears expected when they selected him in the first round and he got paid. If he doesn’t deliver on that contract in 2018, a suspect fan base will not be giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Data & Andrew, tomorrow and Wednesday. Thursday: Defensive coaches.

Tagged: , ,

42 Comments

Data Entry: Establishing Ryan Pace’s draft profile, day 3

| April 17th, 2018

The last in a three-part series, breaking down Ryan Pace’s approach to the NFL Draft when it comes to prospects. Today, day three, rounds four through seven.


Draft History

2015: RB Jeremy Langford (R4), S Adrian Amos (R5), T Tayo Fabuluje (R6)

2016: LB Nick Kwiatkoski (R4), S Deon Bush (R4), CB Deiondre’ Hall (R4), RB Jordan Howard (R5), S DeAndre Houston-Carson (R6), WR Daniel Braverman (R7)

2017: S Eddie Jackson (R4), RB Tarik Cohen (R4), OL Jordan Morgan (R5)


Trend 1

Prioritize Rounds 4-5

Under Ryan Pace, the Bears are averaging two round 4 picks per year and are currently slated to have two in 2018. They will potentially have more if Pace trades down in round 2 again, as is he wont.

The Bears also acquired a fifth round pick in the Brandon Marshall deal. These are the rounds where he likes to operate, and he has done quite well, landing five solid contributors in three years: Adrian Amos, Nick Kwiatkoski, Jordan Howard, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen.

On the flip side, Pace doesn’t seem to care much about round 6 or 7, where he has made only three picks total through three years. He’s made several trades sending these picks out.

  • 6th for Khari Lee
  • Throw-ins for a trade on day two that netted extra 4ths
  • 6th to move up for Kwiatkoski
  • Throw-in 7th to get 5th back when trading Brandon Marshall to Jets
  • Conditional 2018 7th for Inman that they kept in 2018.

Don’t be surprised to see one of those traded away, perhaps to help move up for a coveted player in round 4.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

124 Comments

Data Entry: Random Roster Thoughts

| April 6th, 2018

Note: thanks to Butch for the cool new header picture

Free agency is settling down, so now is a good time to take a look at where the Bears’ roster currently stands. This will give us a better idea of what minor free agency moves should still be made and where the draft attention should focus for the first few rounds.

Let’s start with a rough depth chart, followed by a few quick thoughts. This is just my estimate of what a depth chart could look like, don’t read too much into details like Roy Robertson-Harris being above Jonathan Bullard, or anything like that.

Reflections, in no particular order:

  • The Bears currently have 65 players under contract. They’re scheduled for 7 draft picks, and will likely sign a few more cheap veterans, but there’s going to be plenty of room to fill out the roster with undrafted free agents after the draft. Expect them to bring in at least 15 of them, and thus it’s no surprise that they’ve been meeting with several players projected as possible UDFA targets, including Jonah Trinnaman and Jarvion Franklin.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

242 Comments

Data Responds: Bears at Vikings

| December 31st, 2017

Sorry for the break the last few weeks. I haven’t been able to watch games live due to various holiday scheduling hijinks. Darn that real life for getting in the way!

Before we get into today’s game specifically, reports are that John Fox will be fired today. I won’t miss you as Chicago’s head coach.

In general, this game looked very much like a disinterested team playing out the string on the road for a soon-to-be-fired coaching staff against a hungry opponent playing to lock up a first round bye.

Offense

  • The Bears got the ball to start and opened with a heavy set Jordan Howard run into a stacked box for no gain. On their 2nd drive, they followed that up with a Jordan Howard run into a stacked box for -4 yards. Shockingly, both drives ended in 3 and outs. Oh how I am not going to miss that.
  • On Chicago’s 3rd drive, they threw the ball on 1st down! You’ll be surprised to find out that not being incredibly predictable actually worked. Of course, the Bears followed that up with a FB dive into a 9 man box on 3rd and 1 (why is Michael Burton still a thing?), which lost yardage and forced a punt. Before they could get the punt off, the Bears took a delay of game penalty, because of course.
  • Rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky had a bad rookie moment that resulted in a safety. Under pressure, he kept backing up until he was in the end zone, which was the mistake. He then threw the ball away to pick up an intentional grounding penalty, which is a safety in the end zone. My complaint is not with the grounding, but with the fact that he backed up into the end zone first. He could have taken the sack at the 3 yard line, and needs to know the field position situation there.
  • Trubisky also had a terrible throw in the fourth quarter where he missed a wide-open Dontrelle Inman because his feet were not properly set. Despite a clean pocket, he did something weird where he torqued his upper body, which caused him to put the ball far too wide and out of bounds. Those mechanical issues, and the corresponding accuracy concerns, have been a repeated problem this offseason, and are the #1 thing Trubisky needs to work on this offseason.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

211 Comments

Data Responds: Bears at Eagles

| November 26th, 2017

Well that was ugly. This one felt like a few drubbings the 2014 Bears received after the Bears had quit on Marc Trestman. The John Fox era is officially over, though we almost certainly still have to endure 5 more games before it becomes official. Hopefully those games aren’t all this ugly.

The Bears were never going to win on the road against the best team in the NFL, but they looked completely unprepared in every possible way. They picked up penalties, had zero creativity or imagination anywhere, and were generally outschemed, outcoached, and out-executed.

I’m not going to focus much on coaching, because this staff is obviously finished, but one particular atrocity deserves special attention. Facing 3rd and 17 from their own 1 yard line, the Bears called time out to save half a yard from a delay of game penalty. That’s bad enough, but the worst is the offense had only 10 men on the field after an injury time out gave them more than 2 minutes to prepare. That’s a team with comically inept coaching.

I’m going to focus most of my specific observations on the first half, because quite honestly I didn’t pay as much attention after that. The 24-0 halftime deficit meant the game was over by then anyway (honestly, it was over well before halftime).

Offense

  • Mitchell Trubisky threw an early INT on an inaccurate throw, and it caused the coaching staff to turtle back into their worst habits. It was a long time before they let him throw past the line of scrimmage again, and even then that only came on 3rd and long. Instead, they chose to repeatedly run out of heavy sets into loaded boxes. You might be surprised to learn this was not an effective strategy.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,