Today, DBB is content free as we pause to celebrate the champions of the 2019 NFL season. We’ll return tomorrow.
I’m very excited for this Super Bowl matchup between two of the best teams in the NFL. Here’s what I’ll be watching for on Sunday night.
There was a time, when I was a younger man, I would have taken David “Blue Moon” Haugh’s latest exercise in journalistic futility and dissected every single sentence, right down to the incorrect placement of punctuation. I would have shown you that not only was the work devoid of intellectual competence, but also another shining example of why it’s not a wise idea to hire someone for a writer’s position who isn’t good at writing. Haugh’s greatest crime is not his transparent attempts to write his blowhard nonsense into a daily spot on Around the Horn. No, his greatest crime is against the English language itself. That the same newspaper can employ both Blue Moon and the great Rick “Drinks Like an Actual Man” Pearson blows my fucking mind daily.
But I am not that younger man. If you haven’t read Haugh’s take on head coach Matt Nagy’s decision to bench his starters for the team’s fourth practice game, don’t. There will be no link provided here and don’t waste a valuable minute of your life searching it out. Instead, read a few chapters of John McCain’s wonderful book Faith of My Fathers or Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues or some classic Royko columns being run in the Sun-Times. Hell, just read anything else.
What Matt Nagy achieved this weekend, in a practice game, was somewhat extraordinary.
Forget the result. The result means nothing. Nobody in their right mind believes the second units of the Chicago Bears are better than the first units of the Kansas City Chiefs, a playoff team a year ago. Nobody in their right mind believes Chase Daniel is a rare combination of Joe Montana’s accuracy and Steve Young’s elusiveness. Nobody in their right mind believes anything they see on the preseason field, except Denny Green of course, but was he ever in his right mind?
So what mattered?
While Dan Pompei believed Nagy’s decision to rest players sent “the wrong message” and was an example of coaching “scared”, the sideline reflected the exact opposite.
Mitch Trubisky was the game’s loudest cheerleader, especially when it came to the play of his backup. The starters erupted in support of Kevin White’s first touchdown in a Bears uniform. Players like Danny Trevathan and Tarik Cohen were seen rushing to greet their teammates as they came off the field from a successful drive. These guys were engaged and excited. Why?
Because NFL starters, especially veterans, don’t want to play in these games. They don’t want to risk their long-term financial security in physical contests that count neither in the standings nor in the stat column that ultimately determines how many zeroes are on their paychecks.
There’s been a good deal of talk this offseason about how the Bears will model their offense after the Kansas City Chiefs, which makes sense given that new head coach Matt Nagy spent his last several years in Kansas City learning from Andy Reid.
But I think Chicago’s offense will end up looking more similar to what Philadelphia has run the last two years under Doug Pederson, another branch on the Reid coaching tree. Even though both offenses are similar, there are some subtle yet important differences that are worth looking at. So today I want to start by looking at personnel to see which one Chicago matches better, and then I’ll compare and contrast offensive styles.
Kansas City’s offense was built around three main producers: running back Kareem Hunt, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and tight end Travis Kelce. Those three combined for 4,069 of Kansas City’s 6,007 yards from scrimmage, meaning they were about 2/3 of the offense.
Quite frankly, the Bears just aren’t built to be that reliant on a small number of players. Outside of Jordan Howard and Allen Robinson, nobody has been a high-volume producer, and even Robinson has only hit 1,000 yards in a season once in his four years.
John Fox’s coaching staff was bashed for not getting the ball to rookie tight end Adam Shaheen enough, but that doesn’t figure on changing much under Matt Nagy. Shaheen played just over 24% of the snaps last year. That number should increase in 2018, provided he can beat out Dion Sims as the starting in-line tight end. But if the moves this team has recently made turn out the way they think, it’s hard to see Shaheen catching a lot of passes in 2018.
He’s not much of a blocker, but the Bears signed Burton to be their top tight end. The Bears made him one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league. That’s not happening if they don’t expect him to play nearly every snap.
Burton’s signing alone didn’t indicate a smaller role for Shaheen. The club also invested heavily at receiver by paying Allen Robinson star money, Taylor Gabriel starter money and trading a 2019 second rounder to draft Anthony Miller with the 51st pick. Not only did the Bears spend a high pick on Miller, but they reportedly tried to move back up into the end of the first round to draft Calvin Ridley.
Their aggressiveness at the position is a strong indication that they’re going to have three receivers on the field quite a bit. Not a surprise. In his time in Kansas City, Matt Nagy’s offenses rarely utilized the second tight end. Over the past five years, KC’s second tight end averaged just 5.6% of the team’s targets — 29 per season. This is about the same as the fourth wide receiver. The third receivers came in at 9.2%.
• The Bears have two wins because they have a good coach and a good quarterback. You were told that they would win some games for that reason, I know you were because I’m the one who told you. (Pats self on back).
• Through five games in 2014, Matt Forte had 118 touches. Through five games in 2015, he has 120. I don’t know when we should start worrying about over-usage, but he looks damn good right now. He isn’t the only one getting the ball a lot, the Bears backup running backs have combined for 26 touches after totaling 42 last year. Fox wasn’t kidding when he said he wanted to run the ball, the Bears are 12th in attempts after finishing 30th last year.
• Coming into the game, there was a debate about which team had the better quarterback. That debate is dead. You saw on Sunday why turnovers aren’t the end all, be all when it comes to quarterback play. The guy still has to be able to make plays. Smith can’t. Cutler can.
(1) Saw no issues w/upper body strength. To contrary he planted defenders into the ground several times. Love how he finishes blocks.
(2) All his mistakes – including Cutler sack/TD – were assignment errors, not physical errors. He AND Slauson both confused on sack.
Grasu 3. His athleticism is obvious. Tom Thayer did a nice job breaking down how impactful it is in this video: http://t.co/HrqBofWbjY
— DaBearsBlog (@dabearsblog) October 13, 2015
(4) His comfort level and confidence increased every quarter. He was a stone wall on the Bears two touchdown drives.
(5) It is only one game but this kid can play. If this game was an example of his growing pains, the Bears found a good one.
Where do we start? Oh yeah, the quarterback.