168 Comments

Stop Talking About Chicago’s Defense as a Strength

| April 8th, 2021

There seems to be a prevailing consensus among Chicago fans that the Bears still have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that is true.

The Bears had a great defense in 2018, but that was 3 years ago, an eternity in the NFL. They led the NFL in pretty much every defensive stat imaginable that season, but we’ll track their decline since then with a simple one: points allowed.

  • 2018: 17.7 points/game, 1st in NFL
  • 2019: 18.6 points/game, 4th in NFL
  • 2020: 23.1 points/game, 14th in the NFL

That’s right, Chicago’s defense was more average than good in 2020 (with 32 NFL teams, 16th is exactly average). That feels weird to say, right? I know I certainly didn’t think of them that way last year. But a broader look at the statistics paints exactly that picture, as you can see in the table below. DVOA is a measure of total defensive performance from Football Outsiders, and net yards/attempt (which factors in sacks and pass attempts) is from Pro Football Reference.



The only major stat where the defense ranked in the top ten was yards/run allowed. Everywhere else was mostly middle of the pack besides forcing turnovers, which they were bad at.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

165 Comments

If Not QB, Then Who: Part One

| April 6th, 2021

If the Chicago Bears are unable to secure a trade up for one of the five best quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft, they still should be able to get a quality player.

Should five quarterbacks go in the top 20, that will push the rest of the skill position players down. And this draft is (supposedly) rich in areas the Bears could use upgrades.

Here is a quick look at some of the positions the Bears could look to fill early in the draft and the players who could fill them.


Offensive Tackle

We can feel confident that the Bears see a need here based on the reports that they were going after Trent Williams. Williams re-signed a huge deal with the 49ers and there was never a thought that he would come cheap, so the Bears were clearly — if the reports were remotely true — willing to shell out a large sum of money for this position.

The Bears have an adequate left tackle in Charles Leno Jr. and Germaine Ifedi played well at right tackle last year. The pursuit of Williams tells us the Bears want to do better than adequate at left tackle.

This would be a good draft to revamp the tackle position. While five quarterbacks will surely go within the top 20 picks, along with a handful of defensive players, wide receivers and a tight end, the Bears could be looking at franchise tackle, so to speak.

The only tackle who is pretty much guaranteed to be drafted before the Bears choose is Penei Sewell — widely seen as one of the five best players in the draft. The Bears would probably love to get their hands on Christian Darrisaw from Virginia Tech or Rashawn Slater from Northwester. Slater is more likely as some teams won’t like his size and could project him as a guard or strictly right tackle.



Even if all three are gone, the Bears could grab a mauler in Teven Jenkins, though he might be strictly a right tackle.

Tackle is widely considered the deepest position in the draft, so the Bears could wait until the second round or later. A player like Standord’s Walker Little could be a great pick at 52 or they could grab Dillon Radunz from NDSU or Brady Christensen from BYU.

Read More …

Tagged: ,

132 Comments

ATM: For 2021 Bears…Russ or Bust.

| March 30th, 2021

The San Francisco 49ers trading up to the third pick didn’t just hurt the Bears because it meant three quarterbacks would go in the first three picks. It also hurt because the trade illustrates what the cost will be for Chicago to get into position to select either of the other two premier quarterback prospects.

The 49ers traded three first round picks — including the 12th pick in 2021 — to move up nine spots. Even if the 49ers win the Super Bowl the next two seasons, the value of the picks they surrendered far outweighs the value of the pick they got. More likely, they’ll pick somewhere between 16th and 25th, which really blows the value charts out of the water.

What that means for the Bears is that even if two of the quarterbacks get out of the top 10 — possible, though not likely — the cost to move up to say 12 with Philadelphia is going to be astronomical. And doing so would firmly take the Bears out of the Russell Wilson sweepstakes because, even if the Bears have a quarterback the Seahawks would want, they wouldn’t have the draft capital to make the trade work.

It has to be asked, what is more likely:

(1) That the Bears trade three first round picks and solve their decades-long quarterback crisis with Mac Jones, Trey Lance or Justin Fields.

Or

(2) That they use those picks to trade for Russell Wilson, who then solves the quarterback crisis himself.

The answer is pretty clear.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

193 Comments

Unpopular Opinion: Bears Can Win With Dalton

| March 23rd, 2021

Putting all your hopes into Andy Dalton isn’t the best spot. But it certainly isn’t the worst.

At this point, we know what Dalton is, which is good and bad. He can go through progressions and make easy plays. He won’t beat teams with his athleticism or his arm, but he also won’t beat his own team by regularly throwing interceptions in the end zone like both of the Bears quarterbacks did last year. Dalton is securely in the lower-third of starting quarterbacks. That’s not good enough. But it’s the best the Bears could do for now.

The other options weren’t all that appealing. Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick have made careers out of wowing teams with great plays, but ultimately turning the ball over too much to make a difference. The best Winston could do with a Super Bowl-ready roster was go 7-9.

Dalton is similar to Nick Foles in that they’re both limited, but their limitations are different. Foles throws a better deep ball. Dalton is better on intermediate routes and moves better. Foles’ immobility proved especially problematic last year, as he played with a decimated OL for most of his time, and he just couldn’t handle any amount of pressure.

Perhaps the biggest reason the Bears signed Dalton is because if there’s one thing Foles has proven in his NFL career, it’s that he can’t stay healthy.

So, Dalton it is.

Read More …

Tagged: ,

141 Comments

Sam Mustipher Answers Big Question for Bears

| March 10th, 2021


The Chicago Bears seem to have answers on the interior of their offensive line, thanks to a former undrafted rookie. Both Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy went out of their way last week to compliment Sam Mustipher as being a calming presence on their offensive line and essential to the improvement they showed down the stretch.

“I can’t say enough about Sam Mustipher, we’re so lucky to have him,” Ryan Pace told Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer last week. “His leadership, his intelligence, his ability to calm everybody down. It’s infectious. He’s the guy sprinting 20 yards down field, picking up the ball carrier, leading the whole group.”

In an interview with Dan Wiederer and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Matt Nagy offered similar remarks.

“Things really got calm,” Nagy said about when Mustipher entered the lineup. “He proved to use that he is more than capable of being a starting center in the NFL. The number one thing he brings is leadership. He’s such a multiplier.”

That last line from Nagy is crucial.

Read More …

Tagged: ,

89 Comments

Bears Need to Force Action on Russell Wilson

| March 2nd, 2021

Once Russell Wilson has been dangled in front of the faces of Bears fans, little else will do. And recent reports out of Seattle make two things clear:

  • Wilson doesn’t want to keep beating his head against the wall in Seattle.
  • Seattle doesn’t want a QB who publicly speaks his mind.

None of that would matter except, shockingly, the Chicago Bears just so happen to need a quarterback and Wilson listed them on his list of teams to which he would accept a trade. Like the Texans with Deshaun Watson and the Packers with Aaron Rodgers, the Seahawks seem to have little interest in trading their star quarterback right now. Doing so would actually cost Seattle $39 million in 2021; keeping Wilson would cost them $32 million. Paying $7 million to get rid of a franchise quarterback is bad business, no matter how upset they might be with him.

So, what can the Bears do? Well, there is an unconventional way in which the Bears and Seahawks could work out a trade.

The teams would have a handshake agreement to finalize the trade after June 1, and doing so would mean trading Wilson is only a $13 million cap hit for Seattle in 2021 and they’d save $19 million — that math is much better for them. The teams couldn’t necessarily exchange draft picks in 2021, but — in theory — the Bears could make a pick with the idea that they’d be trading that player to Seattle. The cleaner way would be to not include any draft picks until the 2022 season, but the Bears have to be flexible.

The problem, however, is that Seattle couldn’t use any assets they would get from the Bears to make trades. If they’re trading a franchise quarterback, they’d surely like to get one in return and there’s no telling if that could happen with the 20th pick. The Bears would surely want to know if they have the 20th pick to use or if it’s traded before then. Then again, Seattle doesn’t ever want to pass anyway, so maybe Nick Foles would be good enough for them.

Read More …

Tagged: ,

138 Comments

ATM: Trading Robinson Could Help Bears Land Franchise QB

| February 23rd, 2021

It certainly doesn’t seem as if the Chicago Bears are going to be re-signing Allen Robinson to a long-term extension, which means they have to find a way to make his exit a positive for the future of the franchise. The best way to do that is by moving him in a deal that would help the team draft the next franchise quarterback.

As I wrote last week, the team’s options at quarterback are relatively limited and trading up would cost them more picks than most GMs would be comfortable with unloading. Their most valuable asset could be Robinson through a tag and trade scenario.

In recent years, worse receivers have been traded for first round picks, so that’s where the bidding could start for Robinson. Last year, Stefon Diggs was traded for the 22nd pick and some change after a season in which he caught just 63 passes. Considering he’ll be on the franchise tag with a hefty raise coming, it’s not unreasonable to consider Robinson as having the same value as Diggs.

Trading Robinson makes the Bears future prospects at least a little more interesting.

Read More …

Tagged: ,

180 Comments

ATM: Wentz Might Be Best Option for Bears

| February 17th, 2021

The carousel.

While many are expecting the 2021 offseason to be a busy one when it comes to quarterback movement, it’s worth wondering if the current pause in the carousel just might be permanent and if the Chicago Bears need to find their guy soon.

The pause is because of Deshaun Watson.

While he has requested a trade and, reportedly, insists he won’t play for the Houston Texans anymore, the Texans are still without a real good reason to trade him. Perhaps refusing to trade Watson would look bad for Houston but in the long run, if they refuse to move him, Watson will have to either show up or retire. The latter option would likely mean repaying some of his signing bonus. All signs point to Houston not budging, at least for the foreseeable future.

If Watson isn’t moved soon, Derek Carr surely won’t be. The Raiders would be idiotic to move Carr without a surefire upgrade in place and it certainly appears they don’t see Marcus Mariota as that upgrade. The 49ers are also likely to stand pat with Jimmy G, though the latter likely wouldn’t be seen as a surefire starting option anyway, given his injury history.

You can bet Russell Wilson won’t be traded and the Packers have insisted they won’t move Aaron Rodgers. (He wouldn’t be available to the Bears anyway, but could cause another domino to fall.)

So, where does that leave teams like the Bears and the Colts?

Read More …

Tagged: ,

196 Comments

Deja Vu: Bears Need to Be More Explosive

| February 16th, 2021

I’ve been tracking explosive plays for a few years now because they have a strong relationship to points scored. To put it simply, good offenses produce plenty of big plays. Let’s look at how Chicago did in this department in last season.


Basic Overview

The table below shows how many explosive passes, runs, and total plays the Bears produced in 2020, as well as how those results ranked compared to the rest of the NFL. Explosive passes are those that gain 20+ yards, while explosive runs gained 15+ yards. All data is from Pro Football Reference, and explosive play data is from the Game Play Finder.

A few thoughts:

  • If these results look awfully familiar, it’s because they are. The Bears were the least explosive team in the NFL in 2019 with 49 explosive plays. If you want to look on the bright side, this year actually showed a slight improvement, though they were still one of the least explosive offenses in the league.
  • You can view the full results here, but Chicago’s totals put them right in line with teams like the Washington Football Team, Giants, Jets, and Bengals. Yuck.
  • I found last offseason that there is very little year-to-year correlation for explosive plays. Based on this, you could argue that finishing horribly in this category 2 years in a row is random bad luck, but I’m more inclined to think it’s an indictment on the personnel and/or scheme.

Explosive Players

I also want to look briefly at who produced the explosive plays. I want to caution that I’ve found there is very little year-over-year consistency in these results, so a player having an explosive or non-explosive 2020 doesn’t necessarily guarantee it will repeat in 2021.

Let’s start with a look at the quarterbacks, and I want to note that passes here include sacks for a more accurate reflection of total pass plays.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

154 Comments

ATM: Draft Changes Make Picks Less Valuable

| February 9th, 2021

The NFL Draft is always a crapshoot, but in 2021 the odds of hitting are even lower, making the picks – at least the early selections – less valuable.

We’ve heard the story hundreds of times. A team likes a player’s tape, brings him in, puts him on the whiteboard and falls in love. In some instances, teams fall in love at dinner meetings in which the player made the reservation under a fun name and then walked them back to his crappy Toyota.

Same old story. But that won’t happen this year.

According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, all teams are prohibited from timing, testing, interviewing in-person or giving medical exams to any draft prospects outside of a school’s pro day or an all-star game because of concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a ban on all private workouts, facility visits, dinners and film sessions with prospects.

Communication can be done virtually or at structured events, but teams don’t like that. They want to get prospects in their building, have them speak to position coaches and work them out to see if they can do the specific thing the team wants the player to be able to do.

This is particularly important for quarterbacks.

Read More …

Tagged: ,