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Advanced Defensive Stats: S and LB Pass Coverage

| June 30th, 2021

Let’s continue our quick tour of Chicago’s defense by honing in on pass coverage.

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At a surface glance, Chicago’s pass defense was just about the definition of average in 2020. They gave up 64% completion (14th in the NFL), 7.2 yards/attempt (16th), 28 touchdowns (16th),  had10 interceptions (23rd), and allowed a passer rating against of 94.9 (20th). They were 21st in Pro Football Reference’s Adjusted Net Yards/Attempt, which accounts for sacks, touchdowns, interceptions, and yards, and 13th in Football Outsider’s pass DVOA rankings, which is intended to be a one-stop measure of pass defense overall.

A closer look at advanced statistics from Next Gen Stats shows how QBs playing against the Bears played relative to the rest of their games and the NFL average.



A few thoughts:

  • Opposing QBs generally didn’t see any change against the Bears in terms of how long they held the ball before throwing it. This means that Chicago’s pass rush wasn’t forcing them to get rid of the ball quickly, but also didn’t let them hang onto it forever. Again: average.
  • In terms of where QBs threw the ball against Chicago, opposing QBs typically threw it slightly deeper against the Bears than other opponents, though the difference is pretty subtle (for context, individual QBs ranged from 5 to 11 yards for average pass depth). That small difference was completely eliminated when looking at average completion depth.
  • Opposing QBs also threw into tight coverage (aggressive throws) slightly more than normal against the Bears, though again that’s not a huge difference. For a little context, individual QBs on the year ranged from averaging 11% to 22% on aggressive throws.

Now that we’ve firmly established the overall pass defense was around average, let’s look at how individual players fared in coverage last year to see where Chicago might have strong and weak spots. We’ll go position by position, using advanced data from Pro Football Reference.

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Bears at the Mini-Bye Volume III: Defense & Playoff Odds

| October 15th, 2020

I already looked at a variety of statistics for the offense, including QB performance, run game woes, and explosive plays, and explored how Chicago has deployed their skill position players. Today I want to look at advanced defensive statistics from Pro Football Reference and think about Chicago’s playoff odds.


Missed Tackles

I highlighted missed tackles as a concern in the secondary heading into the season. As a team, the Bears are actually doing quite well with missed tackles right now; they rank 7th in the NFL with 22 through 5 weeks. The table below shows missed tackle stats (from Pro Football Reference) for all players with at least 10 tackle attempts, as well as cumulative totals for each position group.

For context, here’s how the positional averages compare to NFL peers over the last 2 years:

  • The median starting NFL DB misses right around 11% of their tackles, so Chicago’s secondary is about average here so far. That’s actually pretty good for them given the tackling concerns heading into the season with Kyle Fuller, Buster Skrine, and Eddie Jackson. Fuller in particular has struggled so far this year, but everybody else has been ok.

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Forget the Long-Term Financials, Bears Need to Honestly Evaluate Danny Trevathan Right Now

| September 23rd, 2020


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If Danny Trevathan has become the player he’s put on tape over the first two weeks of the season, and he chooses not to walk away from the game at season’s end (or earlier), the Bears will find themselves thigh deep in contractual quicksand soon enough. But that’s a conversation for the off-season. The Bears are in the thick of this season, their currently-undefeated 2020 campaign, and will face one of the game’s more prolific offenses Sunday in Atlanta. The Bears need to know now if Trevathan can still play. Not in 2021. This Sunday.

Because the game film suggests he can’t.

Week One featured Trevathan chasing backs in coverage and failing to shed blocks. Week Two was more of the same, just with severely limited playing time. All of the Trevathan traits fans have come to love – his dogged pursuit of ball carriers, ability to get sideline to sideline, ball awareness when sitting in the deep zone – are not present in 2020.

I texted someone close to the Chicago Bears organization.

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ATM: Bears Picked the Right Linebacker

| March 17th, 2020

It was a simple play.

On third-and-four, Dallas had running back Jamize Olawale sneak out of the backfield. He was open for a first down, very possibly a touchdown. Dak Prescott threw it but Olawale never looked. The play almost worked because Nick Kwiatkoski was late in coverage.

Andy Reid saw that play.

The Chiefs offensive guru ran something very similar two weeks later. On third-and-eight he swung a pass out to Damien Williams. Kwiatkoski late again. Touchdown.

As well as Kwiatkoski played last year, he was always going to have a fatal flaw and good offensive coaches were always going to attack him. That’s why Ryan Pace and the Chicago Bears made the right call in keeping Danny Trevathan instead.

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ATM: Nick Foles? Leonard Williams? Become Sellers? Deadline Decisions Loom.

| October 22nd, 2019


If the Chicago Bears think they are going to improve on their own this season, they’re going to fade into 2019 irrelevance, just as they have for most of the last 30 years.

There isn’t an easy fix for these Bears, but with the trade deadline coming next Tuesday, there are a pair of big moves that could get them back on track and save what was supposed to be a Super Bowl season. And, if they can’t pull those off, there’s a third move that could make the future at least a little brighter.

Trade for Nick Foles

He isn’t necessarily the franchise quarterback the fan base has been longing for, but he’s at least competent. Foles is very likely the best the Bears can do at quarterback for the rest of this season. He knows the offense and has excelled in it. He’d bring instant credibility to the offense and knows how to get the job done at the highest level.

The 30-year-old has been on IR since Week One, but he’s slated to begin practicing this week, opening up a 21-day window for activation. We don’t know when, exactly, he’d be ready, but he could return in Week 10. It has generally been reported that he won’t be eligible to play until Week 11 but that, presumably, is because the Jaguars have a Week 10 bye.

The Jaguars would have to eat a lot of money in order to trade Foles, but they’d still have to pay that money and then Foles’ salary in order to keep him. With rookie Gardner Minshew playing well (10 touchdowns and 2 interceptions) the Jaguars likely will want to move on from Foles at some point.

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A Thorough Breakdown of the Chicago Cap Situation

| January 16th, 2019

After a heartbreaking playoff loss, it’s time to shift from in-season coverage to looking ahead to what’s in store for the Bears this offseason as they prepare for 2019.

And that starts with looking at the money, because after all, the NFL is a business. So let’s get a feel for where the Bears are with respect to the cap, what moves could be made to clear up space, and what players are scheduled to be free agents.

Current Cap Situation

The table below shows the Bears’ current cap situation. All data comes from Spotrac.


As you can see, that looks a good bit different than in years past. The roster has gotten significantly more talented, but also significantly more expensive, which means they don’t have much money to spend. So don’t expect free agency to be nearly as exciting as it’s been the last several years. A few other notes:

  • All of these figures are flexible. There are always ways to change the cap situation, and I’ll look at a few of them below.
  • The 2019 cap projection is currently somewhere between $187 and $191 million. I went with the conservative estimate, but they might have a few million more than this to work with. We’ll know more sometime in the next few months (it was set in early March last year).

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The Positional Quick 3: Linebackers

| June 22nd, 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.


Linebackers

  • The Bears are deeper at inside linebacker than anywhere else on the roster. Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan will start. Kwik, Timu and Iggy will be right behind. They are young, deep and athletic at the team’s most historically-prolific position. (More on this group in a few moments.)
  • The Bears need two things to happen on the outside: Leonard Floyd has to become a sixteen-game star and they must find some production out of WHOEVER lines up opposite him. The guy I would spend significant time developing on the outside is Jonathan Anderson. But the Bears will inevitably keep sending Acho out there.
  • If I were Ryan Pace, I’d be trying to unload Trevathan now. He’s a terrific player but he was a Fox guy, he’s hurt all the time and he’s clearly not part of their long-term plans. Get something for him now before he’s cut next off-season. There’s got to be a team willing to unload a situational rusher or nickel corner or a fourth-round pick.

Monday: Secondary

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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.

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Bears Win One of the Strangest Games Ever Played & a Championship Defense Emerged

| October 23rd, 2017

Here’s how Roger Ebert opened his review of Joe Versus the Volcano, the brilliantly odd 1990 film from John Shanley:

Gradually during the opening scenes of “Joe Versus the Volcano,” my heart began to quicken, until finally I realized a wondrous thing: I had not seen this movie before. Most movies, I have seen before. Most movies, you have seen before. Most movies are constructed out of bits and pieces of other movies, like little engines built from cinematic Erector sets. But not “Joe Versus the Volcano.”

I have never seen a football game like Sunday’s Bears/Panthers tilt. Never. Think about what took place.

  • The Bears attempted 7 passes, completing 4 and only 1 to a wide receiver. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears averaged 3.1 yards per carry, with a long of 11 yards. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears ran 19 plays in the second half (sans kneel downs) for a grand total of 28 yards. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears were outgained in total yardage 293 to 153. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears had the football for 17 minutes less than the Panthers. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears got 15 less first downs than the Panthers. 15! And won by 2 touchdowns.

You could live to be a thousand years old and never see a game like this again. The iconic “They Are Who We Thought They Were” game from 2006 was not this lopsided statistically. Oddly enough, Trubisky’s four completions were matched that night by Rex Grossman’s four interceptions.


Sunday’s win over the Carolina Panthers was defined by one moment, one play. After Trubisky’s lunge for the end zone was deemed short, John Fox faced fourth-and-a-foot with about a minute remaining in the first half. If the Bears went and scored, they’d lead 21-3 and receive the ball to start the second half. If they went and failed, chances are the Panthers would have run the ball three times, forcing Chicago to burn their timeouts, but still giving the ball back to the Bears with enough time to score.

There was almost no reason NOT to go. John Fox did NOT hesitate. Field goal. 17-3.

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Data Responds: Bears vs. Panthers

| October 22nd, 2017

Well that was fun.

Chicago’s defense scored not one but two touchdowns and shut Carolina’s offense down, staking the Bears with an early lead that held up for the entire game. Even though the offense never really got anything going, this was the Bears’ easiest win in a long time.

Offense

  • The Bears were up 14 points before the offense was really asked to do anything. That shifted an already conservative game plan even farther to the safe side, making them even more predictable. As a result, they went three and out with regularity, picking up only 153 yards and 5 first downs on the game. This forced the defense to spend too much time on the field and get tired; credit them for holding up under those conditions.
  • Credit to the coaching staff for not sitting on a 14-3 lead with just over 3:00 left before halftime, like we all expected after watching their conservative approach this season. They came out and let Mitchell Trubisky throw deep to Tarik Cohen on 1st down, resulting in 70 yards and 1st and goal from the 5 yard line. They were unable to finish for the touchdown, but a field goal (plus a little rest for the defense) on that drive was key.
  • The second half offense was just plain offensive. Prior to the final drive that ran out the clock, the Bears had the ball 5 times, picked up 3 total yards, and went 3 and out five times. At least they didn’t turn the ball over, I guess, and they were able to run out the last 3:36 of clock with two 1st downs on the ground. Read More …

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