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The Positional Quick 3: Linebackers

| June 22nd, 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.


Linebackers

  • The Bears are deeper at inside linebacker than anywhere else on the roster. Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan will start. Kwik, Timu and Iggy will be right behind. They are young, deep and athletic at the team’s most historically-prolific position. (More on this group in a few moments.)
  • The Bears need two things to happen on the outside: Leonard Floyd has to become a sixteen-game star and they must find some production out of WHOEVER lines up opposite him. The guy I would spend significant time developing on the outside is Jonathan Anderson. But the Bears will inevitably keep sending Acho out there.
  • If I were Ryan Pace, I’d be trying to unload Trevathan now. He’s a terrific player but he was a Fox guy, he’s hurt all the time and he’s clearly not part of their long-term plans. Get something for him now before he’s cut next off-season. There’s got to be a team willing to unload a situational rusher or nickel corner or a fourth-round pick.

Monday: Secondary

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Who Could Be the 2018 Breakout Bears: Defense

| June 20th, 2018

When the Bears officially re-introduced defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, he kept telling reporters the most important thing the Bears need to do is get improvement from their returning players. This is something that certainly isn’t a given.

By nearly any measurement, the Bears had a top-15 overall defense last year. They were far from perfect — the inability to take the ball away still being a major issue. But they were more than good enough and are bringing back most of the roster.

Still, the team has some young players who could make a big impact in 2018. Here’s a look at five defenders who just could have breakout seasons like Kyle Fuller and Adrian Amos had for the team a year ago.


Deon Bush

It’s hard to expect a lot from a guy who played about 8% more snaps on defense than I did last year, but Bush still has some promise. Fangio singled him out during minicamp practices and there were reports of the young safety showing great range and getting his hands on the ball during those sessions. The reports were enough to reconsider Bush as a possible playmaker.

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Floyd Must Be The Solution to Bears Pass Rush Problem

| May 30th, 2018

Ryan Pace has taken a lot of heat for not adding another pass rusher to complement Leonard Floyd. But if Floyd is who Pace once thought, the Bears will be just fine. The Bears need the Georgia product to realize his potential. In two years Floyd has struggled to stay on the field and has just 11.5 sacks. The bigger problem? He hasn’t been able to get pressure consistently.

Amongst the Bears regular edge rushers, Floyd actually had the one of the worst rates at getting to the quarterback. According to the NFL’s official statistics (NFL GSIS), Floyd managed 12 hits on opposing quarterbacks, the third highest total on the team, but he played significantly more snaps than any of the other edge rushers.

  • Sam Acho was actually second on the team with 18 hits in 251 pass rush snaps (snap counts per Pro Football Focus).
  • Pernell McPhee hit opposing quarterbacks 11 times in 197 snaps.
  • Willie Young had four QB hits in 67 snaps.

Breaking it down further, Floyd hit the quarterback once every 23 snaps, while Acho did so every 14 snaps, Young did every 17 snaps and McPhee did every 18 snaps.

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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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Bisky Sour: Six Thoughts on Falling to 3-7

| November 20th, 2017


(1) Mitch Trubisky is starting to show signs that he’s going to be a very good quarterback in this league for a long time. Improving weekly. Learning from mistakes. Scrambling in key spots. Throwing receivers open. Leading. But I thought his comment post-game was so telling.

How many quarterbacks have to say something like “what coach Fox is allowing us to do on offense”? Get the feeling Trubisky won’t be heartbroken when Fox is let go.


(2) Connor Barth is terrible. He’s not shaky or inconsistent. He is legitimately the worst kicker in the league. And for a team with such a small margin for error to employ him is inexcusable. If he’s on the roster Tuesday, fans should boycott the team next weekend. Read More …

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Data Responds: Lions at Bears

| November 19th, 2017

Chicago’s offense had their best game of the year, but their defense played possibly their worst game of the year. All in all, that evened out, but the Bears ended up falling to 3-7 because their kicker is terrible.

Offense

  • Now that’s more like it. The offense was finally run like an NFL offense, mixing things up and keeping the defense off its feet, and unsurprisingly it led to good things happening. Chicago stayed run-heavy in the game, but mixed up how they were running instead of making it so predictable, and thus the run game really took off. As a result, the offense scored more than 17 points in regulation for the 1st time all year.
  • This also helped the passing game open up a bit as well, since the Bears didn’t routinely end up in 3rd and long. This was a nice change from how their offense has functioned most of the year.
  • Another nice wrinkle we saw on offense was a number of read-option looks for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. He kept it several times (though there was at least one more where he should have) and made Detroit’s defense pay for crashing down on the running backs.
  • After ignoring Tarik Cohen on offense for several weeks, the Bears made a point of getting him involved early and often. He had 8 carries and 3 pass targets in the 1st half alone after getting 8 total touches in the previous 3 games.
  • Another nice wrinkle was lining Jordan Howard up as a fullback, with Tarik Cohen at tailback. This set Howard up with a few nice runs as he could spring through the line quickly and the linebackers had to worry about Cohen.

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Data Responds: Bears at Saints

| October 29th, 2017

The Bears played pretty evenly with the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints on the road, but a series of missed opportunities (helped by one atrocious call by the officials) cost them the chance to enter the bye at 4-4.

Perhaps most important to Chicago going forward, the loss was a costly one for the Bears. Four starters left the game with injuries and did not return, including guard Kyle Long (hand), center Cody Whitehair (arm), cornerback Bryce Callahan (knee), and tight end Zach Miller (leg). We’ll wait to see how serious the injuries are, though I can say fairly confidently that Miller’s gruesome leg injury means his season (and likely his career) is finished.

Still, the best news to me from the game was that they kept fighting. When they went down 17-6 early in the 4th quarter, I expected them to roll over and quit, but from that point on the defense forced two turnovers, the offense scored a touchdown, and the special teams picked up a big return to keep Chicago in the game. The attitude on the team is changing, and the importance of that can’t be overstated.

Offense

  • The Bears were forced to ask for a bit more from rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky this week, and we saw some of both good and bad, as should be expected from a young quarterback. We saw the talent leading to some big plays, and we saw the rookie mistakes leading to missed opportunities and/or negative plays. The overall stat line (14/32, 164 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 46.9 rating) looks ugly, but his performance was not that bad. Notably, Trubisky threw 2 touchdowns, but one of them was taken away by a terrible officiating call and one of them was inexplicably dropped by a wide open Jordan Howard.

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Bears Win One of the Strangest Games Ever Played & a Championship Defense Emerged

| October 23rd, 2017

Here’s how Roger Ebert opened his review of Joe Versus the Volcano, the brilliantly odd 1990 film from John Shanley:

Gradually during the opening scenes of “Joe Versus the Volcano,” my heart began to quicken, until finally I realized a wondrous thing: I had not seen this movie before. Most movies, I have seen before. Most movies, you have seen before. Most movies are constructed out of bits and pieces of other movies, like little engines built from cinematic Erector sets. But not “Joe Versus the Volcano.”

I have never seen a football game like Sunday’s Bears/Panthers tilt. Never. Think about what took place.

  • The Bears attempted 7 passes, completing 4 and only 1 to a wide receiver. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears averaged 3.1 yards per carry, with a long of 11 yards. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears ran 19 plays in the second half (sans kneel downs) for a grand total of 28 yards. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears were outgained in total yardage 293 to 153. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears had the football for 17 minutes less than the Panthers. And won by 2 touchdowns.
  • The Bears got 15 less first downs than the Panthers. 15! And won by 2 touchdowns.

You could live to be a thousand years old and never see a game like this again. The iconic “They Are Who We Thought They Were” game from 2006 was not this lopsided statistically. Oddly enough, Trubisky’s four completions were matched that night by Rex Grossman’s four interceptions.


Sunday’s win over the Carolina Panthers was defined by one moment, one play. After Trubisky’s lunge for the end zone was deemed short, John Fox faced fourth-and-a-foot with about a minute remaining in the first half. If the Bears went and scored, they’d lead 21-3 and receive the ball to start the second half. If they went and failed, chances are the Panthers would have run the ball three times, forcing Chicago to burn their timeouts, but still giving the ball back to the Bears with enough time to score.

There was almost no reason NOT to go. John Fox did NOT hesitate. Field goal. 17-3.

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Data Responds: Bears vs. Panthers

| October 22nd, 2017

Well that was fun.

Chicago’s defense scored not one but two touchdowns and shut Carolina’s offense down, staking the Bears with an early lead that held up for the entire game. Even though the offense never really got anything going, this was the Bears’ easiest win in a long time.

Offense

  • The Bears were up 14 points before the offense was really asked to do anything. That shifted an already conservative game plan even farther to the safe side, making them even more predictable. As a result, they went three and out with regularity, picking up only 153 yards and 5 first downs on the game. This forced the defense to spend too much time on the field and get tired; credit them for holding up under those conditions.
  • Credit to the coaching staff for not sitting on a 14-3 lead with just over 3:00 left before halftime, like we all expected after watching their conservative approach this season. They came out and let Mitchell Trubisky throw deep to Tarik Cohen on 1st down, resulting in 70 yards and 1st and goal from the 5 yard line. They were unable to finish for the touchdown, but a field goal (plus a little rest for the defense) on that drive was key.
  • The second half offense was just plain offensive. Prior to the final drive that ran out the clock, the Bears had the ball 5 times, picked up 3 total yards, and went 3 and out five times. At least they didn’t turn the ball over, I guess, and they were able to run out the last 3:36 of clock with two 1st downs on the ground. Read More …

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Data Responds: Bears vs. Vikings

| October 10th, 2017

In rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s debut, the Bears got the ball to start, and marched right down the field. Trubisky looked sharp on several impressive throws, including one huge third down completion to Tre McBride that set Chicago up on Minnesota’s 9 yard line.

Except a holding penalty by center Cody Whitehair brought the Bears back to 3rd and 20 out of field goal range. One screen pass later, they punted, costing themselves at least three points.

That would lay the foundation for a frustrating first half of missed opportunities, when a long list of penalties (some more dubious than others) led to Chicago getting no offensive points despite passing midfield on four drives.

Unsurprisingly, those missed opportunities came back to haunt them in the second half, as a late Minnesota field goal led to a 20-17 win.

Coaching

  • They get their own section again, which usually means bad things. And we’re starting here, because it was terrible.
  • John Fox took too long to decide whether to go for it on 4th and 2 in the first quarter, which forced the Bears to call a time out. Out of the time out, they took too long to get the play in, resulting in a delay of game and punt. That was an ugly sequence that was 100% the fault of the coaches. Then in the 2nd half, they had to burn a time out when the Vikings had 1st and 19 due to confusion with defensive play calls.
  • The Bears were also incredibly sloppy early on, with several early penalties negating big plays and/or putting them behind the chains. Some of the calls didn’t seem particularly great by the officials, but overall they need to get out of their own way and stop beating themselves. That’s the mark of a poorly coached team.
  • Dowell Loggains also had a terrible game. He fell into predictable patterns we’ve seen through four games, with obvious runs on 1st down and too many horizontal passes. They ran out of heavy sets and threw out of shotgun, with not enough variability mixed into those sets. This routinely set the Bears up in 3rd and long situations, which is not where you want a rookie quarterback (or any offense, really) to be. To his credit, Loggains did have a beautiful play call on a game-tying 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter, but overall he had a rough night.

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