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Across The Middle: Don’t Sleep on Kevin White

| May 2nd, 2018

Understandably, fans don’t want to hear about how good Kevin White can be or how big an impact he can have. Not when he’s had so much trouble simply staying on the field. But while I don’t think anybody is still projecting White to be a star, it would be foolish to rule him out. The Bears clearly have a plan for White and how much of an impact he makes in 2018 will be up to him…and his fragile body.

Ryan Pace invested quite a bit in Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and second-round pick Anthony Miller. They are going to play. That doesn’t mean White isn’t. Matt Nagy’s offense has four wide receiver positions: X, Y, Z and Zebra.

Nagy has said Gabriel will be the Zebra and Miller will be the Z (playing in the slot). With every offense being slightly different, Robinson will either be the X or the Y. That leaves a “starting” position in this offense for White to earn in Bourbonnais.

And by all accounts, White looked exceptionally fast at the team’s minicamp two weeks ago. He showed deep speed last year as well, but they had Mike Glennon at quarterback so it didn’t really matter. If you watch the All-22 footage, you can see White regularly out-racing corners and threatening Atlanta’s defense deep. That’s exactly what the Bears are going to ask him to do, playing the same role Chris Conley did for Kansas City.

It is not unprecedented for Kansas City’s style of offense to use all four receiver positions. In 2016, the Chiefs had four guys on the outside get at least 50 targets and likely would’ve gotten close to that again in 2017 if Conley hadn’t gotten injured in the team’s fifth game. The opportunities will be there for White, if he earns them.

Of course, the Bears aren’t handing anything to White either.

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Data Entry: Establishing Ryan Pace’s draft profile, day 1

| April 3rd, 2018

 

Now that Ryan Pace has been here for a while, we can start to look at his past drafts to see what lessons we can learn from his approach. This can help us cautiously look ahead to the 2018 draft to see what he might be thinking.

With that goal in mind, I’m going to spend the next three weeks looking at how Pace has approached the three days of the draft, and then applying that approach to 2018 to see what players are likely being considered for the Bears this year. We’re starting today at the top of the draft. Let’s look first at the history, and then we’ll examine lessons learned.

Draft History

2015: Kevin White, WR, 7th overall

2016: Leonard Floyd, OLB, 9th overall (trade up from 11)

2017: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, 2nd overall (trade up from 3)

Trend 1: Go get your guy

The first thing we should observe is that Ryan Pace is not shy about trading up in round 1 to get the player he has identified as his main target. So keep that in mind as we look at mock drafts with players who might be good fits for the Bears but are projected to go higher than #8.

It’s worth noting that these have all been relatively minor trades just moving up a few spots, which keeps the cost down. Despite reportedly exploring moving up to the top of the draft for Marcus Mariota in 2015, Pace has not been willing to give up multiple high picks in these moves.

Trading up becomes a bit more difficult this year because the Bears are already without a third round pick due to trading up for Trubisky last year, but they do have an extra fourth round pick they could use.

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Audibles: Fuller Transitioned, Draft Thoughts, Kevin White, Q Brothers, Links!

| March 8th, 2018

A lot seemingly going on in the land of the Bears. Let’s take a look at some of it.


Kyle Fuller, Transitioned

There was much debate this off-season about the best approach to Fuller, a player with one of the most tumultuously bizarre starts to an NFL career many can remember. He’s been at turns terrific and terrible, including missing an entire season for injury reasons the organization did not believe were valid.

Ryan Pace had to answer a simple question: did Fuller’s 2017 performance convince him the corner was worthy of top corner money? Applying the transition tag answers that question with a definitive NO. The Bears like Fuller. But if they valued him as a top corner, there were plenty of deals struck at the position last off-season to set the market.

The Bears will now see how the marketplace values Fuller. And they’ll know that if they want him on their 2018 roster, it is fully in their control.


Three Thoughts on the Draft

The official email account of DBB receives more action in the lead-up to the draft than at any other time. And thankfully there are now people like Data and Andrew writing here because my god do I find the whole draft process to be a colossal bore. Here are three general thoughts.

(1) Unless a team has designs on one specific player (Bears with Trubisky, Falcons with Julio…etc.) they almost ALWAYS want to trade back. GMs and scouting departments live for this shit. The more times they can get on the clock, the more opportunities they have to pad their resumes. (So stop emailing me and asking me if the Bears want to trade back.)

(2) Ryan Pace has made three first-round picks. Kevin White, a freak athlete who can’t stay on the field. Leonard Floyd, a freak athlete who struggles to stay on the field. Mitch Trubisky, quarterback of the future. But there’s more pressure on this off-season for Pace than any previous one. Don’t be surprised if his approach veers more conservative on draft weekend.

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Data Entry: Building a WR Profile for Chicago’s New Offense

| February 20th, 2018

The Combine approaches in a few weeks in Indianapolis, and with it an obsession over everything that can be measured. Height. Weight. Hand size. Three-cone. Jumping ability. Speed. Everybody will soon be discussing 40 times like they make the difference between a good and bad football player.

Before we get a bunch of data from the Combine, let’s take a look at which measurables might matter, specifically at wide receiver.

New head coach Matt Nagy comes from the Andy Reid offense in Kansas City, so I took a look at the Combine stats of WRs the Chiefs invested in  -either in the draft or free agency  -since Reid came to Kansas City in 2012. Basically, I wanted to find a physical profile for well-performing wide receivers in that offense that the Bears might look to follow this year. This can help us identify what wide receivers at the Combine might make sense as targets for the Bears in the draft.


Building the Profile

There were 8 Chiefs WRs identified that were drafted by them, signed to a substantial deal in free agency or earned a meaningful role with the team as an undrafted free agent since Reid took over in 2012. These players were Tyreek Hill, Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, Jehu Chesson, Demarcus Robinson, Da’Ron Brown, and De’Anthony Thomas. I used Mock Draftable to look up their Combine data (or found data from their pro day when the Combine was not available) in every category I could find, and compared it to the average WR mark in each of these categories that Mock Draftable has compiled. Full data can be seen here.

Many of the measurables didn’t show any clear pattern, but I identified three where players consistently scored well: 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump.

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Data Entry: What Passing Targets do the Bears Need?

| February 13th, 2018

There has been and will continue to be a great deal of talk about how the Bears need to add at least one stud wide receiver to their roster this off-season. Everybody wants a Julio Jones or Antonio Brown, with good reason, and the Bears are in desperate need of an upgrade in talent at the position after a season in which they finished last in the NFL in both passing yards and touchdowns, 25th in yards per attempt, and 26th in passer rating.

The Bears are going to add more talent at WR. But what exactly do they need? Should they look for one great player, two good players, or three plus capable players?

In an attempt to answer this question, I looked at how top passing offenses split their production among targets in recent years. After all, that’s the ultimate goal for the Bears, right? They want to become one of the top passing offenses in the NFL.

Accordingly, I looked at top 10 passing teams according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA for each of 2015, 2016, and 2017 and tracked how many receiving yards each of their top 5 leaders in that category had for the season. While this DVOA stat is not a perfect metric, it is an attempt to measure the efficiency of a passing attack instead of volume, which you would get from just looking at passing yards. The full list can be seen here.


No Clear Pattern

The first thing that jumps out is that there is no single defined way to have a top 10 passing offense. Some teams did it with one clear stud and a bunch of secondary weapons. Others had two dominant targets. Some had no clear dominant target at all.

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Across The Middle: The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

| September 13th, 2017

If the Chicago Bears want to sell their fans on the current regime leading the team back to glory, they better start making progress. Because last Sunday was decisively not progress. It was more of the same.

With their top two receivers out and the decision to play a terrible quarterback made, the defense has to be the center of John Fox’s sales pitch to stay in the job. What I saw last Sunday was pretty much the same thing we’ve been seeing for the last two years.

  • They can’t get turnovers.
  • They can’t get off the field on third down.
  • They start slowly.

The third bullet point is the most frustrating.

We are now 33 games into the Fox/Fangio defense. Some facts:

  • 21 times they’ve given up scores on the first two possessions.
  • 16 of those have been touchdowns!
  • In 14 of those games, they gave up scores on the first possession itself.
  • 11 of those were touchdowns!

Those rates are absolutely insane. For two defensive minds as accomplished as Fox and Fangio, how is it possible that their teams are never prepared to start games? Here’s the kicker: in games they managed to fight off their opponents until the third offensive possession, the Bears are 6-6. That’s six of the nine wins of the Fox regime.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: The Long Snapper Is Down, I Repeat…

| August 28th, 2017

Last Thoughts on Glennon

Many have spent countless Twitter hours arguing I am wrong to be rooting against Mike Glennon. I am not rooting against Mike Glennon. I hope he wins every start of his Chicago Bears career. I simply believe Mitch Trubisky – even right this very second – gives the Bears the best chance to win football games.

And the Bears should be all-in on winning football games in 2017. They have a good defense, great running attack and solid specials. If they get production from their passing attack they are going to have an opportunity to play in the postseason.

With Glennon, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains needs to be perfect. Because if the play breaks down, the play is dead. With Trubisky, the play breaking down is simply an opportunity for a great talent to showcase his ability.

I’m just hoping the Glennon-led Bears don’t put the 2017 team in too big of a hole.

Adam Jahns does a far better just illustrating this point in the Sun-Times. Read his column by CLICKING HERE.

Long Snapper For Long Snapper

And if you want to see the most boring workout video in the history of man, look no further!

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More Camp Thoughts For a Thursday…

| August 3rd, 2017

Yesterday was an exceedingly positive day coming out of camp. But all that really matters is how many times the cart comes out.

  • Adam Jahns does a nice job breaking down the drama surrounding Kevin White in these early days of Bourbonnais. For my money, WR coach Zach Azzanni made a major mistake here. Why is a position coach calling out a player, insinuating he’s lost confidence, on the second day of padded practice? Why is John Fox allowing a first-year position coach to create a storyline that doesn’t actually exist? It’ll be surprising if Azzanni is so forthcoming moving forward.
  • Of course, Adam Hoge makes the exact opposite argument for WGN. With White being Wednesday’s star, Hoge believes Azzanni may be “pushing the right buttons.”
  • Amazing how hung-up on the quarterback pecking order fans seem to be. Let me clear something up. Mark Sanchez can’t play any more. If he’s on this roster in September – and he shouldn’t be – it’ll be in a break-glass-for-emergency/mentor role. Why wouldn’t Sanchez make my final 53? Because if you need him in October, he’ll be there, sitting at a bus station in Naperville, checking his cell phone repeatedly.

More practice today!

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Trubisky And Other Impressions From A Day At Practice

| August 2nd, 2017

“Wow! Who threw that?” Is the question my wife asked in our first real exposure to Mitch Trubisky at Saturday’s training camp practice.

It was a day in which everyone wanted to talk about the fumbled snaps but even a football novice like my wife could see that there was a definite difference in what Trubisky had to offer versus that of Mike Glennon and Mark Sanchez.

I don’t mean to minimize the snap issue. If a team can’t complete the snap, they can’t run a play. But there hasn’t been a quarterback in the history of the league who hasn’t figured out how to take a snap from the center. Let’s repeat that. There hasn’t been a quarterback in the history of the league who hasn’t figured out how to take a snap from the center.

The rest of that practice should have Bears fans excited.

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Three Thoughts For a Practice-Less Day in Bourbonnais

| August 1st, 2017

Kevin White, Struggling?

Adam Hoge is not an alarmist. So when he opens a column with Kevin White’s early “struggles” there is reason to pay attention.

“He’s not where I want him to be or where we need him to be,” Bears wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni admitted Monday. “He’s a work in progress. He’s had a good three days. Good first day, OK second day, much better today.”

Azzanni was just referring to the three days since pads went on and Sunday’s quiet practice prompted the wide receivers coach to pull out some of White’s tape from West Virginia.

“He forgets about (West Virginia) sometimes because of the battle he’s had the last two years,” Azzanni said. “I wanted him to see how he used to go up and just grab that ball out of the air and he’s starting to do that again. I know he had a drop in one-on-ones the other day. The other thing is, he’s a prideful kid and he lets that beat him up and you cannot do that.”

White needs two things: (a) sustained game action and (b) success. And I’m a believer that achieving a will directly lead to be b. But tentativity from a player like White is understandable when he must be thinking that every cut in the middle of the field could be the one that ends his season. White’s not going to be confident and explosive on Day 3 in Bourbonnais. The Bears need to hope he is both of those things come Week 8 in New Orleans.

The One Throw Column

There’s a new trend developing with camp coverage across the league. Because media is limited to both what they’re allowed to see and what they’re allowed to cover – Pat Finley has resorted to drawing plays on what seems to be napkins – writers are turning in copy wherein they draw major conclusions from minor moments. Rich Campbell did so yesterday in the Trib, writing about singular moments from Glennon and Trubisky.

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