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Training Camp Diary: Jimmy Graham Makes the Comparison

| August 6th, 2021


You can argue the health of the offensive line is important. But really, it’s not. It’s August 6th.

You can argue the depth at corner is an issue. But really, it’s not.

The only thing important right now for the Chicago Bears organization is Justin Fields. And that’s why today’s diary is just this Adam Jahns Tweet, quoting Jimmy Graham, a guy who has been around.

If you’re getting sick of Fields-specific posts, I have a recommendation for you: find another blog.

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Examining Chicago’s Personnel Usage/Tendencies on Offense in 2020

| June 1st, 2021

Like I’ve done the last few seasons, I want to explore how the Bears deployed their skill position players on offense in 2020 to see if there are any trends or tells for which opposing defensive coordinators can look. These are tendencies Chicago’s coaches should be aware of and look to rectify in the future.

The table below shows changes in run percentage when skill position guys who played between 35-65% of the snaps were in the game vs. on the sideline.

  • On the high end, that excludes players who played more than 75% of snaps, because their “off-field” splits would be too small to consider. That was only Allen Robinson in 2020.
  • On the low end, that excludes players who played less than 25% of snaps, because they are often mainly in the game in specific situations, where a run or pass may be expected (i.e. the 4th WR in a 4 WR set for 3rd and long, or the 2nd TE in a short-yardage set). This excluded Demetrius Harris, Cordarrelle Patterson, and a host of other role players who played a few offensive snaps.

(Note: This data is pulled from the NFL Game Statistics and Information System, which includes sacks and QB scrambles as passing plays.)

A few thoughts:

  • David Montgomery had pretty even splits when he was on and off the field. Therefore I won’t look at him any further when I split the sample into different personnel packages below.
  • This is a change from 2019, when Montgomery’s presence on the field made a run much more likely, and is almost certainly due to Tarik Cohen’s injury. In Cohen’s limited 76 plays before getting hurt, the Bears only ran it 29% of the time. He clearly had the passing downs role, and Montgomery absorbed that when Cohen got hurt.
  • Everybody else has fairly significant changes in how frequently the offense runs when they are on the field vs. off of it, which warrants further exploration.

Different Personnel Groupings

I was curious how much the personnel groupings might influence these splits, so I looked at how frequently the Bears run the ball in different groupings. Generally, there are five skill position guys (WR, TE, RB) on the field for a given play, so I split the sample up by how many of them were wide receivers.

The more WR the Bears have on the field, the more likely they are to pass. That makes sense, but the significant difference in run frequency here means we’re going to have to look at each of these groups individually to see how players really impact the run/pass ratio when they are on the field.


3+ Wide Receivers

Let’s start with plays featuring 3 or more WRs, which means there are 2 total TE + RB. The most common setup here was 11 personnel, which features 1 RB, 1 TE, and 3 WR.

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This Offense Isn’t “Ugly”, It’s Embarrassing.

| November 2nd, 2020


A few weeks ago, Nick Foles suggested the Bears win “ugly”. Let me clear something up for him.

Ugly isn’t throwing off your back foot while under no pressure and forcing passes to the wrong receivers. The last quarterback did that. And he doesn’t play anymore because of it.

Ugly isn’t failing to build a significant package of plays for your second-round tight end. Every single week.

Ugly isn’t designing a run-heavy game plan against one of the league’s best run defenses, and stubbornly refusing to deviate from that plan. (The two runs after the interference call in the end zone should have forced Ryan Pace to personally take the play sheet away from Matt Nagy.)

Ugly isn’t inexcusably being called for a delay of game weekly, often coming out of timeouts.

Ugly isn’t failing to get a first down or two and at least forcing the opponent to start their possessions in their own territory.

Ugly isn’t sucker punching a defensive back, costing your team a vital possession, and celebrating the punch like you achieved something.

Ugly isn’t dropping two passes, in overtime, on the potentially game-winning drive. If Anthony Miller and Jimmy Graham catch those balls, do the Bears win? Who knows? But it would have made it far more difficult for them to lose. And that’s the difference between being in first place and being outside the playoff picture.

No, what the Bears do on offense isn’t ugly. Ugly is too cute a word for it. What the Bears do on offense is embarrassing. And with the season now at the halfway point, it’s time to acknowledge this is unlikely to change during the 2020 campaign.

This is who the Bears are on offense. A sloppy, undisciplined, poorly-coached unit. David Montgomery runs hard. Allen Robinson leaves it on the field. Darnell Mooney gives hope for the future. The rest? Thoroughly uninspiring. Nagy changed his coaching staff. Nagy changed his quarterback. Nagy changed his tight end room. And somehow, they’re worse.

They’re 5-3. Hope is not lost for playing in January because there isn’t a game left on their schedule the defense won’t keep them in. But unless that group returns to 2018 form and starts scoring, the battle will be consistently uphill.

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A Single Question for the Bears Offense: Why?

| October 20th, 2020

(AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

[Editor’s Note: The following column is written from a place of jubilance. The Bears are 5-1. They are playing some of the best defense in the National Football League. But if our expectations are going to venture beyond just making it to January, they need to improve.]


3rd down and 2.

1:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Bears are nursing what feels like a tenuous seven-point lead.

Two yards ends the game. Two yards and the Bears are coasting to 5-1, allowing their defense to relax on the sideline and celebrate a job well done.

This is when you call your best play.

Your two-point conversion play.

Your “Chicago Special”.

This is when you roll out that thing you’ve been practicing every week because these moments don’t often present themselves over the course of a game. How many times are you actually in the position to say, “Get a couple yards and get a W.” The Bears faced one Sunday.

And then they ran…something. I don’t have the foggiest idea what it was. Foles took the snap and threw a dud of a pass to Allen Robinson on a well-covered shallow cross. No creativity. No imagination. I’ve drawn up better plays during street games in Kearny, New Jersey. (“Run to the Buick bumper and turn” always worked.) In the notebook I’ve been keeping during these games I wrote a single word.

Why?

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Bears Beat Brady: Rapid Fire, Quarter-By-Quarter, Real Time

| October 9th, 2020


Did something a bit different with this week’s recap. Took notes quarter-by-quarter. So don’t judge what you read in quarter one, follow the entire narrative.

Quarter One

  • Troy Aikman in the pre-game commentary suggested that the Bears running game was built around Mitch Trubisky’s abilities and had to be rethought for Foles. I had never seen or heard that anywhere, but it should be assumed that came from the Bears.
  • Roquan Smith missed a big TFL opportunity and I’m thinking, “Bears need their defensive stars to PLAY like defensive stars.” Smith has to make that play and all-but kill the drive. Khalil Mack has to make the interception last week. This defense has opportunities every single week. They have to take them,
  • Where is Robert Quinn?
  • Nick Foles absolutely can’t miss the easy third down conversion throw on the Bears’ first drive. That’s amateur hour.
  • Does Ted Ginn ever catch punts on the fly? His ball awareness as a return seems severely lacking through a few games. (And boy it seems the Bears miss Tarik Cohen more than I expected they would.)
  • Get the sense Tashaun Gipson more an old school strong safety, even though that position doesn’t actually exist anymore.
  • Allen Robinson, perfect back shoulder throw, off both of his hands, intercepted. Does this guy ever win a contested ball? It seems weekly the answer is no. I know he’s a very good wide receiver but I’m not giving $80 million to a guy who does this every single week.
  • The touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Evan was absolute perfection. He’s Tom Brady for a reason.

Quarter Two

  • Deep ball to Darnell Mooney and third down pass to Robinson, Foles threw the ball to the wrong spot. Foles looks absolutely lost in the playbook right now.
  • Bruce Arians going for it with a sneak on fourth and inches inside his own 20 is borderline insane. But it was the decision I did not want him to make. So that makes it he right one in that spot.
  • Roquan Smith again exploding into the hole and not wrapping up the ball carrier. After Sunday’s game, he’s pitching a dud.
  • Jaylon Johnson called for a pass interference on a deep ball. Terrible mistake on a pass that had no chance of being caught. He’s got to learn to trust his coverage skills. Because he has them.
  • Is it bad that when a kickoff goes over Cordarrelle Patterson’s head my first thought is, “Get a first down before you punt”?
  • Terrific drive orchestrated by Foles to get the Bears into the end zone. Made short, precise throws and gave his guys a chance to make plays.
  • Khalil Mack knocking down Brady’s first down thrown on the Bucs’ final drive of the half was a crucial moment.

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Foles Takes Over: Rapid Fire Response to the Bears Winning Their 3rd Straight

| September 28th, 2020

Read this Tweet. Now, read it again. This quote from Nick Foles illustrates why many, including myself, argued he should have been the starter from day one. He is a smart, competent quarterback. The sham quarterback “competition” could have cost the Bears wins. Thankfully, it didn’t. Foles is now the quarterback. And the Bears are undefeated.

Rapid fire.


  • Tarik Cohen’s loss can’t be understated. But one would think Cordarrelle Patterson will see a significant increase of offensive snaps and Anthony Miller will assume the punt return duties full-time. Question. Why not use Ted Ginn as the punt returner? He was electric in that role at Ohio State.
  • Two of the more telling moments of this broadcast were sideline cuts.
    • After Mitch was benched, Kyle Fuller made it a point to go over to him and give him a fist bump. Mitch wanted nothing to do with it but the moment mattered. Mitch will still be needed by this time at some point this season.
    • As Nagy and Foles were scheming later in the game, Mitch was seated on the bench, alone. Yes it sucks getting benched but Mitch needed to be right up beside them, listening to everything, devouring the concepts, learning. It’s great that he did the Zoom conference call with reporters after the game but the Zoom conference call isn’t making him a better quarterback.
  • Don’t have the snap counts yet but Danny Trevathan played more than I expected. And not particularly well.
  • Did Mitch Trubisky throw a single deep sideline route in bounds?
  • Trubisky’s interception was awful but from all reports the Bears were considering making a QB change at halftime. That tells me Nagy was infuriated by the Miller deep miss late in the second quarter. Nagy had been setting it up the entire first half and Miller had three yards on the secondary. That’s an easy touchdown for most, if not all, starting quarterbacks in the league.

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The 26Shirts Game Preview: Week Two

| September 18th, 2020

The current shirt from 26Shirts is my concept and design and you can see it over on the right rail (or down below on mobile). Proceeds going to great cause. You can read all about that, and place your order, by CLICKING HERE. It ain’t just tee shirts, either. The hoodies, light and sweatshirt-style, are both very cool.


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears, despite this Allen Robinson situation.

Would I like to see Robinson in Chicago long-term? Of course. Would I be rushing to give him $20 million a year without knowing who my quarterback is in 2021? Nope. No I would not.

Nevertheless, Robinson’s case is only supported by positive play and that’s what I would expect moving forward.


Breaking Down the New York Giants

Offense

  • Everything with this offense feeds off the running game and Saquon Barkley. If the Giants are getting four or five yards a carry with their star running back it opens up their entire playbook and makes them a very difficult group to defend.
  • If the run game isn’t working for the Giants, they’ll try to compensate for deficiencies at the offensive tackle spots with quick, mid-range slants to Sterling Shepard or by mismatching their tight ends on opposing linebackers and safeties. This is a difficult way to move the ball because it requires 10-12 plays, mistake free, for points.
  • Darius Slayton is the deep threat and the Giants will take their shots if Daniel Jones is given consistent time in the pocket. Eddie Jackson can’t let Slayton get over the top.
  • Pressure, of course, is always key, but specifically against Jones. When Jones is drop-and-toss he’s strong-armed and accurate. When he sits deep for an extra second or two (and often pump fakes) he gives defensive backs opportunities to make plays on the ball. He’s also one of the game’s more prolific fumblers.
  • If you blitz Jones, you better have eyes on Barkley. He’s a home run waiting to happen on every screen. And Barkley is one of the worst blocking backs in the sport so his only viability in the passing game is in space.

Defense

  • This is not a particularly talented group but they compensate with (a) hustle and (b) disguise. If their opener is any indication, they’ll keep Trubisky guessing right up until the snap.
  • Two players to account for on this defense: Lorenzo Carter and Blake Martinez. They are the engine.
  • The Bears will once again be seeing an underwhelming collection of corners. James Bradberry can play but Corey Ballentine and Darnay Holmes are liabilities with the ball in the air. Trubisky can’t be afraid to give his receivers opportunities to make plays. If he’s waiting for Robinson and Miller and Mooney to get open in space, he’s waiting too long.

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Practice Notebook (8/21/20)

| August 21st, 2020


With a week of practices almost in the books, I’ve actually started doing some “work” around here again, texting folks around the club to find out what’s happening. Here are some of their thoughts, and a lot of mine, in these early days.


The Lady’s Got Potential

Several people around practices have noted improvements in Mitch Trubisky’s footwork but let’s hit the breaks a bit. Does anybody care what a quarterback’s mechanics look like in practice sessions? Mitch can set his feet and throw at Halas Hall, I’ve no doubt about that. But can he set his feet and throw when those Smith boys from Green Bay are coming around the edge? If his mechanics are improved it’s undoubtedly a good thing. But nobody will know how improved until they start keeping score.


A New Argentina

Jimmy Graham was the best player on the practice field this week. Cole Kmet made his presence known immediately. There’s no reason to get overly excited about practices but it sure seems like the most improved position on the 2020 Bears will be tight end. Kmet is a stud. His early success won’t surprise me at all. Graham? As someone deep inside the organization told me this spring, “Ryan believes Jimmy is going to have a big season in this offense. So does Jimmy.” Soon, there might be some other believers around the league.

[Side note: I haven’t played fantasy football since Shaun Alexander was in the league but Jimmy Graham is someone I’d be looking at were I to play this season.]


The Art of the Possible

Note from a scout friend: “I think Tulane kid.. Mooney is going to be really good.“

Darnell Mooney can fly and the Bears think they stole a real player in the fifth round. Will he have major impact this season? Well, the truth is he doesn’t have to. With Teddy Ginn on the roster, the rookie can grow into the season and watched a seasoned speedster go about his work.

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ATM: Don’t Sleep on Jimmy Graham Signing

| March 24th, 2020

Although the Chicago Bears signing Jimmy Graham was largely seen as one of the strangest free agent signings of the early period, don’t be surprised if he makes a big impact. Too many are judging the big tight end on his raw stat line in 2019, without looking at context. Even more people are using lazy narratives. Yes, Graham’s statistics were down. The 38 catches and 447 yards he had in 2019 were both the second-lowest totals of his career. But Graham’s decreased production was more about a lack of opportunity.

Outside of maybe quarterback, no position was more impacted by the scheme change the Packers underwent last year than tight end. TEs have certainly had success in the style of offense Matt LaFleur runs but they’re also asked to block more. If there is one knock on Graham that has followed him his whole career it’s that he’s a horrendous blocker. As a result, he went from playing 74 percent of the snaps in 2018 to 58 percent in 2019. Blocking tight end Marcedes Lewis saw an increase from 18 percent to 45.

Graham caught 63.3 percent of the passes thrown his way in 2019, which is in line with his career average, as was his 11.8 yards per catch.

The narrative that has been spun is that Graham can no longer run.  While he’s certainly not as fast as he was when the New Orleans Saints essentially used him as a wide receiver, he can still get down the field. According to Sharp Football, the Packers had 12 explosive plays from the tight end position, accomplishing them at the eighth-best rate in the league (the Bears were 32nd with one explosive play from the tight end position). Of those 12, Graham had nine and had the ninth-best rate at the position.

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New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears – Monday Workday & Monday Night Football Thread

| December 15th, 2014

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Some Final Thoughts…

1 – Have read in multiple places the Bears now have an opportunity to utilize Marquess Wilson more prominently in the game plan due to the absence of Brandon Marshall. Poppycock. Wilson should be utilized in the exact same manner he would have been were Marshall healthy. Bears are already making a terrible decision by changing the positions of Jon Bostic and Christian Jones in the name of, to paraphrase Trestman, “less disruption”. All three should spend the final weeks of 2014 playing the positions they are projected to play in September of 2015.

2 – Josh Bellamy should start tonight for the Bears and Cutler should target him. When I watched Bellamy play against Cleveland this summer he handled first-round pick Justin Gilbert with ease. (I was so convinced by Bellamy I expected him to spend the year on the Browns roster.) I think he’s a pro.

3 – So now every time the Bears run the ball unsuccessfully, media and fans will question whether the blame belongs to the blockers and back or if Cutler should have checked out. That is the damage done by Aaron Kromer. That is why its inexcusable he is still a member of the coaching staff. (Do you think Tom Coughlin would still have Kromer around? John Harbaugh?)

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