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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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Five Thoughts on 2018’s Final Game From Inside the Building

| January 7th, 2019

Sunday’s loss to the Eagles is going to be discussed for a long time and Cody Parkey will remain the centerpiece of that conversation. But here are five (I think) unique observations from inside the building.

  • The crowd wanted to be the loudest and most intense crowd at Soldier Field in thirty years. But oddly, the defense deflated them constantly. The Eagles converted way too many third downs, and converted them with relative ease, with Foles throwing to wide open receivers under little pressure. Third down is when the lakefront faithful reached fever pitch. Building back up to that level, on a cold windy night, was not easy.
  • There was a distinct change in Mitch Trubisky after completing the 3rd-and-11 late. His confidence seemed shaken. His receivers were not winning on the outside. He wasn’t able to create with his legs because he was clearly nursing an injury. But after he completed that pass, he took control of the game. He was brilliant down the stretch and would have been the story of the game if…well, you know.
  • When the Bears spread the Eagles out, the Eagles had no answer. I wrote last week this was not a game the Bears should plan to win on the ground. That’s a great Eagles front. When Nagy spread them out, Trubisky had open receivers everywhere. Why didn’t the Bears change their approach in the second half? Why didn’t they recognize those mismatches? This was not a banner day for the coaching staff on either side of the ball.

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When Needed Most, Leonard Floyd Has Been Missing in Action. But There’s Still Time.

| October 23rd, 2018

If ever there was a time the Bears needed Leonard Floyd to prove he was worth the ninth overall pick in the 2016 draft, it is right now.

With yet another ghosting Sunday, Floyd is working his way to becoming the worst draft pick of Ryan Pace’s relatively short career (Kevin White got hurt, we can’t blame Pace for that). Floyd has shown plenty of flashes in his career, but injuries – he was hurt a lot in college so we can blame Pace for that – and otherwise subpar play has landed Floyd’s career at a crossroads.

There’s no other way to say it: through six games, Floyd has been downright bad.

The Georgia product has zero sacks this season and has managed to hit an opposing quarterback just once, according to NFLGSIS. The third-year pass rusher has been excused because of the way Vic Fangio uses him, but that’s mostly bull. According to Pro Football Focus, Floyd has had 134 chances to chase opposing quarterbacks. Aaron Lynch has had 90 pass-rush opportunities and has managed seven quarterback hits — including two sacks.

Lynch is a $5 million journeyman. Floyd is a top-10 pick.

It isn’t just a lack of pass rush either. His defenders like to say Floyd is great in coverage, but the Bears don’t ever ask their linebackers to do much beyond defending the flat. Sunday, Floyd was beaten soundly in that area.

There’s no question that the hand injury has hurt Floyd’s production. But plenty of players have been able to have an impact with casts. Floyd hasn’t done anything. If he was going to be this ineffective while one-handed, why play him at all?

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Bears at the Bye: Looking at the Defense Position-By-Position

| October 10th, 2018

Secondary

I’m not going to look at safeties much because there hasn’t really been any rotation there and there aren’t many stats to quantify safety play (though I will say I feel good about my preseason pick of Eddie Jackson as the defense’s breakout star). Let’s jump right to the CBs then and take a detailed look at their performance using stats from The Quant Edge.

The first thing I want to note is that Chicago’s corners don’t move. Kyle Fuller has played exclusively on the right side (from the offense’s perspective) and Prince Amukamara has been exclusively on the left. Kevin Toliver II basically took Prince’s spot on the left post-injury, though he did play a few snaps in the slot. Nickel CB Bryce Callahan, meanwhile, played a few snaps outside after Prince got hurt but otherwise has been exclusively in the slot.

Next I want to look at how effective each CB has been in coverage, as well as how much man, zone, and press coverage they’ve played.

A few thoughts:

  • At first glance it might seem like Kyle Fuller has been the worst CB on the roster, but look beyond the passer rating. That takes a big hit because he’s given up 2 passing TDs and none of the throws targeted at him have resulted in interceptions yet. He’s been very good at keeping the completion percentage down, and the yards per target on throws aimed at him are much lower than anybody else. Make no mistake: he is the best CB on Chicago’s roster, and he is very good.
  • Fuller is actually the only CB credited with giving up a TD so far this year. He gave up two, which means the other 5 passing TDs the Bears have allowed are blamed on non-CBs. Meanwhile, five passes targeted at CBs have ended up intercepted. That’s a great ratio.
  • I find the press splits interesting. Toliver has never played press, and Fuller only does it about half as much as Prince and Callahan. That’s perfectly fine; each player has their own style that is obviously working well for them so far.

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Bears at the Bye: The Best Defense in Football? Sure Seems That Way…

| October 10th, 2018

Chicago’s defense has been awesome in the first month of the season. They’re among the best in the league in nearly every category that matters, and are ranked first overall in DVOA. Now I want to look a little more closely at how well they’re performing against both the run and pass in different areas of the field.


Defending The Run

Chicago’s run defense was solid in 2017, but it has been fantastic so far in 2018. They have shut opposing run games down, and they’ve done it pretty much across the board, as we can see below.

Here’s the data for Chicago’s rushing defense by zone, courtesy of the NFL Game Statistics and Information System. The line at the bottom is the line of scrimmage, runs are split into 7 zones, and attempts and yards per carry are listed for each zone, with ranks relative to the rest of the NFL in parentheses. The height of the bar is proportional to yards per carry, and bars are colored green for top 10, red for bottom 10, and yellow for middle 12. Note expected yards per carry varies by region, so the colors are relative to their peers in that region.

A few thoughts:

  • That’s a whole lot of green. Awesome. Last year’s version featured a lot more yellow and red. This is a good time to remind you that Khalil Mack is an elite run defender in addition to being one of the best pass rushers in the league.
  • Speaking of Khalil Mack, he and Akiem Hicks usually line up opposite the RG and RT. Notice where defenses are running towards? There are 38 runs to the left side – away from Mack and Hicks -compared to 21 towards them on the right.

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ATM: The Bears Don’t Suck

| September 25th, 2018

It’s dangerous to make any grand proclamations three weeks into a season. But the Bears win over the Cardinals was a great indicator that, at the very least, they don’t suck.

Whether they’re actually good or not is still to be decided. While it was widely regarded as a game the Bears should win, winning in the NFL is difficult, especially for a young team flying nearly across the country on a short week. Travel difficulties are very real in the NFL. We see even the best teams struggle with them. This was a schedule test, one the Bears passed.

The offense is horrendous.

There’s no arguing that.

But the defense is incredible.

Khalil Mack isn’t just great, he’s a generational talent. The other big addition, Roquan Smith, flies around and finishes with a boom. They’re fast, they’re physical and, for the first time since Lovie left town, they attack the ball.

Obviously, for the Bears to graduate from a team that merely doesn’t suck to one that is actually good, the offense needs to be better. They do deserve credit for three scoring drives in the second half. And, really, they should’ve had two in the first half, but Cody Parkey missed what should’ve been an easy field goal.

Still, good teams score touchdowns and that’s the next goal for the Bears.

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It Don’t Have To Be Pretty: Bears in First Place After Three Weeks (Rapid Fire)

| September 24th, 2018

The Bears have played three games. So have the Packers, Vikings and Lions. After those three games, the Bears have the best record in the NFC North.

  • Style points don’t matter. The first two months of the season are about accruing wins and positioning yourself for a potential postseason run. The Bears won a football game on a road. This fan base isn’t allowed to use the word “but”. A win is a win is a win.
  • Several times during this game I turned to my buddy Maciej and said, “Why do we have Khalil Mack?” It’s all I can think about during these games. He is a force. The Cardinals were using 2-3 players on him per play and he still ended up with two sacks and a crucial forced fumble. Without Mack, the Bears are 0-3 right now.
  • Sherrick McManis. Bryce Callahan. Bilal Nichols. The Bears aren’t just good on defense. They’re deep.
  • Matt Nagy was lost Sunday. There’s no other way to say it. As a play caller, he had zero feel for the flow of the game and Wilks/Holcomb had the better of him all day long. The Bears have been incoherent on offense through three weeks. There is no discernible system/strategy. The play calls feel random.
  • Trubisky has to be better. It’s hard to evaluate his play without access to the game tape but he seems indecisive and uncomfortable. That’s a lethal combination.
  • Why do all the team’s deep shots have zero chance? Are these being called? Does Trubisky have the option not to throw them? Very difficult to analyze without that information.
  • And stop telling me the Bears are running the Chiefs offense. I watched Chiefs/49ers yesterday. The Chiefs have wide open receivers all over the field. Patrick Mahomes rarely throws a ball into congestion. The Bears never seem to have anyone open. And they never complete a pass to a receiver moving up the field. The receiver’s back is always to the defense, limiting any YAC possibility.
  • Enough with the bubble screens! Seriously! Enough! This isn’t the Pac-12. Those plays might work against Kevin Sumlin’s Arizona but they’re not working against a professional defense.

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The Deal For Khalil: History Shows Pace’s Bold Move Could Change Bears for a Generation

| September 21st, 2018


Reggie White joined the Green Bay Packers as a free agent in 1993, signing a much-ballyhooed 5-year, $17 million contract. (These days that might buy you a blocking tight end. Might.) Prior to his signing, the franchise to the north had only been to the playoffs twice since 1967 and recorded only two winning seasons out of their previous ten. After he signed, the Pack went to the postseason six consecutive years. They won a Super Bowl in 1996. Their next losing season wouldn’t be until 2005. They’ve only had three sub-8 win campaigns since he put his name on that paper.

White did even more than that for the Packers. From a Robert Klemko piece for Sports Illustrated:

“Among players, Green Bay was depicted as some Russian place where you go and no one ever hears from you,” says former NFL tight end Keith Jackson, a first-round draft pick of the Eagles in 1988 who would go on to play for the Dolphins and the Packers.

Then something unprecedented happened. Upon becoming an unrestricted free agent in 1993, a player who had been named to six consecutive All-Pro teams in Philadelphia made a shock decision that would change the course of a franchise and the tenor of a town.

“Before that decision guys would say, ‘If Green Bay drafts me, I don’t want to go.’ It was Siberia,” says Jackson. “But Reggie White saw something different about it.”

Reggie White put Green Bay back on the NFL map.


Drew Brees joined the New Orleans Saints as a free agent in 2006. Over the previous thirteen seasons, the franchise had two winning ones, winning one playoff game in that period. Since Brees signed that contract, the Saints have never won less than seven games in a season. They’ve been to the postseason in six of twelve attempts. They won the Super Bowl in 2009.

And no NFL player is more emblematic of the city he plays for than Brees, who became a civic hero by leading NOLA’s emotional revival in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Here’s a wonderful passage from Jillian Eugenios at CNN:

He moved to the city a decade ago, when it was still reeling from Hurricane Katrina. It was six months after the storm, and he describes it as a ghost town. There were boats in the middle of the road, and cars upside down in people’s living rooms.

It wasn’t just the city that had to make a comeback.

“A lot of guys came here in 2006, including myself, as somewhat of castaways,” he said. “Many of us did not have many other options.”

Brees had been let go by the San Diego Chargers due to a shoulder injury. The Miami Dolphins had been interested in bringing him on, but were counseled against it because of his shoulder.

The New Orleans Saints was the team to put an offer on the table.

“We chose New Orleans because we felt like we could do something special down here,” he said. He moved to New Orleans with his wife Brittany, and he soon developed a close tie to the city.

“We leaned on each other in so many cases,” he said of his fellow New Orleanians. “As people are trying to rebuild their homes, rebuild their lives, they’re still coming to games to cheer on the Saints because it just gives them so much energy and enthusiasm … just this feeling that we’re all in this together.”

Brees is more than the Saints. He is every bit as New Orleans as the fried shrimp po’ boy from Verti Marte on Royal, washed down with an ice cold bottle of Abita Amber.


The Bears don’t need to sell the City of Chicago to free agents or 21 year-old Auburn cornerbacks. Ten minutes of the late night set at The Green Mill or a few pops with an aging scribe at the Old Town Alehouse will get that accomplished. The greatest cities on earth don’t need a tagline.

And hopefully the town won’t have to recover from any natural disasters in the near future. The city has plenty of unnatural disasters – the Tribune is no longer in Tribune Tower for Christ sake – but it seems to be surviving just fine.

What the Bears have needed more than anything is a franchise-altering presence on the field and it seems, through just two games of this season, he hath been delivered. Khalil Mack was traded to the Chicago Bears by Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, September 1st 2018 and it’s starting to feel like a move that has commenced a new era of Chicago Bears football.

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