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Daniels, O’Donnell, Patterson: Three Under-Discussed Keys to the 2019 Season

| August 15th, 2019


#3 James Daniels

There’s been an assumption that Daniels will naturally slide into the starting center role and stay there for half a decade. Hell, it’s an assumption I’ve made on the radio in Des Moines with Daniels-centric hosts Trent Condon and Ken Miller.

But while Cody Whitehair struggled early with snaps, his ability to call out protections and lead this unit was a key to their success in 2018. The center is the most underrated position on the NFL roster. (Just look what happens to teams when they lose their starters there.) Daniels is now sliding into his natural position. But is he a natural leader?


#2 Pat O’Donnell

P.O.D. was having his best punting game as a Bear in the Eagles playoff loss until a nightmarish shank late allowed Nick Foles a short field for the go-ahead touchdown drive. Here’s what someone who works inside the organization texted me a few weeks ago:

He looks different. He looks good. He looks confident.

With a defense this good, long fields will kill opponents. The Bears need a different, good, confident O’Donnell.


#1 Cordarrelle Patterson

The Bears were last in the league in kickoff return average last season and added one of the two or three best kick returners in the game. Patterson’s signing should lead to a huge improvement in field position from day one.

But Patterson also had 21 catches for 247 yards last season in New England and paired that with 42 carries for 228 yards. This is an exceedingly productive offensive weapon who may cover some of the production the club is currently lacking from a struggling tight end group.

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

| March 20th, 2019

The Bears have made a number of moves in free agency, and I want to use some statistics to weigh in on their likely role on the roster / value to the team. Let’s start with a look at the offense.


Mike Davis

Davis has just 238 carries in 4 seasons so it was a little surprising to see the Bears move so quickly to sign him at the start of free agency. But a closer look reveals why they did so.

A few weeks ago I identified the typical physical profile of a running back in this offense, and Davis fits the bill, as you can see in the table below. Thresholds that he failed to hit are highlighted in red.

Davis matches the profile of backs who are usually targeted for this offense. He’s short but well built and has solid acceleration (as evidenced by the first 10 yards of the 40-yard dash) and explosion (as evidenced by the jumps). This doesn’t mean he’ll magically be a stud here after being a role player in San Francisco and Seattle, but it explains a little bit about why he was on the Bears’ radar.

Another way Davis fits is in terms of his skill set. Running backs in this offense are asked to do two things: run between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield. The table below shows how effective Davis was doing those compared to Jordan Howard in 2018, with both compared to Kareem Hunt as an ideal (on-field) back for this system. I highlighted cells in red when one running back stood out from the other two in a bad way, and green when one running back stood out in a good way.

A few thoughts:

  • The first thing that stands out is that Davis is better than Howard at running between the tackles, where both were asked to have a majority of their carries in 2018. This can be evidenced by his significantly higher yards/carry average between the tackles last year, when he was comparable to Kareem Hunt in that regard. It’s worth noting that this trend was only really true in 2018; Davis was generally inefficient at pretty much everything prior to that in his career, and Howard had -by far – the worst year of his career in 2018. Still, the Bears are banking on getting the 2018 form of Davis, which would be a running upgrade over 2018 Howard.
  • Sticking with running, let’s take a look at success rates in the bottom two rows. This was one area where I pointed out Howard actually did quite well, and Davis did as well (again in 2018, not so much before that). Since success rate is a measure of staying with or ahead of the chains, this indicates Davis should hopefully be able to continue Howard’s success converting in short-yardage situations.

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ATM: In Early Free Agency, the Bears Have Given Themselves Options at Running Back

| March 15th, 2019

Under Ryan Pace, the Bears have always tried to give themselves multiple options on draft weekend by filling roster holes in free agency. That approach held true earlier this week as the team signed two veteran options at running back. Mike Davis isn’t a household name. Most probably wouldn’t consider Cordarrelle Patterson a running back. But the two men give the Bears needed flexibility at a pivotal position.

In an ideal world, the Bears would’ve replaced Jordan Howard and Taquan Mizzell with one player – an all-purpose back who can pound between the tackles and beat linebackers in the passing game. They still might find that guy in the draft, but now, with these acquisitions, they don’t have to.

Davis is a stocky runner with a low center of gravity. He can work between the tackles and bounce runs outside, a trait that makes him a much better fit for this running scheme than Howard. Davis also is a capable receiver, which could help him stay on the field.



But Davis didn’t sign a contract that guaranteed he’d be the starter or even get a majority of the snaps. He signed a contract to compete. Who he’s competing with remains to be seen.

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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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Three Thoughts on the Actual Football Game Being Played Sunday in Atlanta

| January 31st, 2019

The best bar in Atlanta.


Thought 1. The Rams need a steady & consistent interior pass rush

Nobody pressures Brady from the perimeter because no quarterback in the history of the league is more comfortable stepping up quickly in the pocket and delivering the short-range bullet to a wide open, usually-white receiver. If your game plan to defend him is reliant upon edge pressure and disguised coverages (*cough* Vic Fangio *cough*) Brady will dice you up like a sous-chef working a garlic bulb.

You must put defenders in his face. And few teams are better equipped to do so than Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and these Rams. This game has career-defining potential for Donald.


Thought 2. Where the hell is Todd Gurley?

A few months back, the player Bill Belichick would have completely removed from this game would have been Todd Gurley. “Eliminate Gurley and force Jared Goff to beat us” might have been his rallying cry. And it would have been the correct approach. The Bears showed the league that if you take away the Los Angeles rushing attack and pressure Goff, you control the game.

But Gurley seems to have eliminated himself, unless you believe the injury fairy tale spewing out of the City of Angels. C.J. Anderson has somehow become every bit the horse but Anderson does not have anywhere near the game-changing explosiveness of a man many considered the best offensive weapon in the sport in, like, October! If the Rams are going to win this game, Gurley can’t be riding the stationary bike on pivotal possessions.


Thought 3. Return Men

Three names will be involved.

For the Rams, JoJo Natson.

For the Pats, Cordarrelle Patterson and Julian Edelman.

All three are capable of conjuring the kind of game-altering play that decides which team is holding the Lombardi at the end of the evening. (And all three rank in the top ten at all the relevant return statistics.)

Who will it be? Watch out for Patterson. If Greg the Leg gives him an opportunity to give the Pats an easy six, he may just do it.

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