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Why Are We So Hard on Kevin White?

| August 13th, 2018

Kevin White did nothing to you. He didn’t beat up your mother. He didn’t steal your birthright. He didn’t tape over your Warren Zevon: Live at the Capitol Theater bootleg. All he did was get selected seventh overall by the Chicago Bears because he was one of the most supremely gifted athletes in the 2015 NFL Draft.

And yet his failure to stay healthy during his short Bears tenure seems to have personally offended many of this team’s faithful fans. The one question I have been trying to wrap my head around is…why? Why do fans fixate on White in ways they don’t fixate on other players? Why do I receive unsolicited texts from folks inside Halas Hall with White status updates, like I’m waiting on news of a baby’s birth? Why is so much attention paid to a player at a position the Bears just invested millions of dollars and a high draft pick to upgrade?


White’s not that important. The Bears know that. Why don’t their fans?


A lot of this circles back to the insane attention paid to the draft itself, specifically the first round. We know so much about these kids by the time their names are called it’s borderline absurd. Months upon months of college tape study, classroom breakdowns, pro days, three-cones, four-cones, eleven-cones…etc. Every fan has an opinion of every selection. And every fan believes their opinion is correct. (This goes for basically everything in life, by the way.) Many will go to absurd lengths over a player’s career to support that initial opinion.

Kevin White was taken seventh. Eddie Goldman was taken 39th that same year. If those picks were reversed, nobody would give White a second thought because Goldman has had a first-rounder’s career. I understood fixating on first-round selections before the rookie wage scale because those picks could cripple a team financially for years if they busted. But now? Of course you want the first-round picks to be successful since that’s where a high percentage of the league’s best players are found. But outside of quarterback, which requires a multi-year commitment from the entire franchise, missing on a pick or two in this round just isn’t a big deal anymore. Especially if you have success later in the draft.

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Five Bears Thoughts for Your Weekend Pleasure

| August 11th, 2018

As we get deeper into August, here’s what is happening in and around the Bears.

  • Kevin White’s performance against Cincinnati wasn’t an isolated performance. I’m told by heavily reliable folks that White has struggled mightily in the practices not open to the public and the coaching staff is beginning to lose some patience with him. (They’ve also been very impressed with the work ethic and determination of Javon Wims.) Does that mean he won’t be on the roster come September? I still think he’ll be there. But I was far more certain in that assessment a few weeks back.
  • Interesting tidbit. A well-respected, accomplished NFL coach – who employs a friend of mine – has a collection of what he calls “preseason plays”. These are plays that don’t appear in the regular season playbook but are merely meant to provide players the opportunity to win one-on-one battles. I asked if that’s commonplace around the league and the sense I got is that yes, it is. So while you can’t evaluate any particular unit in the preseason due to a lack of game-planning,  you can evaluate performances on an individual, one-on-one level. Especially later in these games.
  • The one position I believe can be evaluated in the preseason is back-up and third-string QBs. And if this preseason has been any indication, Mitch Trubisky better stay healthy. Chase Daniel looks comfortable in the offense, specifically to his first read. But he throws about half of his passes directly to defenders. (Maybe half is unfair but it sure as shit feels like that.) As for Tyler Bray, what can you say? If Tyler Bray is playing in an NFL football game this season, the team he’s playing for is going to lose.
  • Various outlets have predicted Leonard Floyd to have a breakout season for the Bears and the talent is certainly there. But in this league, it is not difficult to scheme against an elite pass rusher when there’s no complementary weapon the other side. Lynch is never healthy. Acho ain’t the guy. Fitts hasn’t even looked like a pro football player to this point. As much as this has been an area of focus for fans, we should all come to terms with a basic fact: Ryan Pace isn’t going to be able to fix this issue until 2019.
  • The Bears have the opportunity to sport one of the deepest and most versatile collections of tight ends in the league. They’re fully expecting Trey Burton to be a star. Adam Shaheen is a match-up nightmare in the red zone. Dion Sims has been a source of consternation for fans but he’ll be far better utilized in 2018. The guy who could be a real player in this league if given that chance is Daniel Brown. Brown feels like he’s been around forever but he’s only 26 years old. He’s one of this club’s best depth pieces.

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ATM: White and Miller Could Make Bears Attack Very Different

| August 1st, 2018

Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy have tried to build the 2018 Chicago Bears offense to be like those Nagy’s mentor Andy Reid had success with in the past. But they may have stumbled into something very different and entirely more fascinating. If Kevin White and Anthony Miller are both able to continue to play at the level they have in the early days of training camp, the Bears won’t have a choice but to put both on the field. That could change the entire offense.

While generally thought of as an offense that spreads the ball around, that hasn’t really been the case. In five years, Reid’s Chiefs have averaged:

  • 19.6% of their targets to the top receiver
  • 18% to the pass-catching tight end
  • 16.9% to running backs

Those numbers mostly held up with Doug Pederson in Philadelphia. His Eagles averaged:

  • 20.5% of their targets to the top receiver
  • 18.6% to the pass-catching tight end
  • 15% to running backs

Where it gets interesting, however, is when you look at the other positions. There you will find very little consistency.

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Who Could Be The 2018 Breakout Bears: Offense

| June 27th, 2018

The revamped and retooled Chicago Bears offense certainly has a fair amount of buzz surrounding it, but some of the “breakout” players just may be guys who were already on the roster. Yes, the team spent a lot of money and some prime draft assets on the offensive side of the ball and those players are largely expected to carry the load. But an entire offense can’t be built in one off-season. They’ll need some of last year’s players to step up. There certainly aren’t a lot of options to pick from, but the players and coaches the Bears added could help some of the returning talent take the next step.


Charles Leno Jr.

The hiring of Harry Hiestand created a lot of hype around a few different players, but the young left tackle may benefit more than anyone. Leno has already become a good starting tackle, steadily improving each year, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue and even be accelerated under the tutelage of one of the sport’s best OL minds.

While he was a late round pick, Leno is a very talented player and less than a year older then Cody Whitehair. The superior coaching he is going to get from here on really could make him one of the ten best left tackles in the league. If that happens, you can expect the Bears to have one of the best offensive lines in the league.


Kevin White

I know, I know, you’re sick of Kevin White. But what if Ryan Pace was right when he made White the seventh overall pick in 2015?

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The Positional Quick 3: Wide Receivers

| June 11th, 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.


Wide Receivers

  • When I speak to people around the Bears about this position group, the player they keep talking up is Taylor Gabriel. The Bears do not believe Gabriel was properly utilized in Atlanta and believe the Nagy/Helfrich offense suits him to perfection. If he didn’t have a chip on his shoulder going into 2018, PFF seems to have clearly put one there.
  • The comp that makes my heart sing when it comes to Anthony Miller is Steve Smith. But fans should remember it took Smith three seasons to become a big-time NFL player and five before he found the consistency required to be a star. Yes, he was drafted when the rules were different but the the jump from Memphis to the NFL is not one that should be taken lightly.
  • Robinson. Gabriel. Miller. Fowler. Can Kevin White make this team without contributing on special teams? And would the Bears even want to risk a chronically-fragile player on those plays? White needs a big summer.

Tomorrow: Tight Ends

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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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