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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.

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A Few Quick Thoughts on the New Bears: Cordarrelle, Buster & Mike

| March 14th, 2019


Cordarrelle Patterson, WR/RB/KR

  • The Bears needed someone to be their kick returner. Yes, the position has been devalued in recent years but no team was worse returning the kickoff in 2018 than the Bears. They were THIRTEEN yards worse than the league’s best kickoff return average. That’s astronomical.
  • Patterson is a toy on offense. He’ll run some jet sweeps. He’s run some deep stuff. He can even spell the tailbacks. He’s the kind of player that presents match-up problems for the opposing defensive coordinator.
  • This is a player you add when you think you’re close to winning a title. This is a “final piece” type move. This is a move designed to get a big third down in a division game in December.

Buster Skrine, CB

  • From Adam Jahns on Twitter: “Matt Nagy in October on nickel back Buster Skrine, who is now expected to be signed: “He’s one of the better nickels in this league, if not the best. I mean, he’s good. He’s a good nickel in there.”
  • Skrine commits penalties because – like Prince Amukamara – he plays with his hands. But having watched a ton of Jets football (every one of their games) many of Skrine’s penalties are committed when he’s asked to cover for too long. The Jets had no pass rush for two years. It happened a lot. It won’t in Chicago.
  • His greatest value in a Chuck Pagano defense might be his ability to get to the quarterback from the slot.

Mike Davis, RB

  • He’s not Taquan Mizzell

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