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Bears Must Address Imbalanced Roster Construction

| November 20th, 2020


Yet again in 2020, we see that the Bears have one of the best defenses in the NF,L coupled with one of the worst offenses. This combines to give them a team that is not good enough. It’s Groundhog Day all over again, a continuation of 2018-19, all of the Lovie years, and the 1980s after Jim McMahon got hurt.

Normally I’d use the bye week to do an in-depth look at the numbers for Chicago’s offense and defense, but honestly I don’t see the point. Their defense is really good, their offense is really bad, and you don’t need advanced stats to tell you more than that. I’m sure I’ll still do some of that analysis in the offseason but for right now I want to focus on a bigger question: WHY is the defense so much better than their offense?

The answer here is really not that surprising: the Bears are investing more in the defense. The table below shows how much money they have invested in the defense compared to the offense, as measured in 3 ways:

  • 2020 cap dollars. How much current money is being spent.
  • Average yearly salary. This accounts for the fact that contracts don’t have even distribution of cap hits every year. For instance, Robert Quinn has an average salary of $14M per year in his contract, but only has a 2020 cap hit of $6M. This will give a better picture of true spending.
  • % of salary. This looks at how much of your total spending is focused on one side of the ball, based on the average annual salary of players. It’s a good measure of how lopsided your investment is on offense vs. defense.

The table below shows the Bears’ values for offense and defense in each category, as well as the NFL average and where the Bears rank. All data is from Spotrac.

A few thoughts:

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FOCO Week 10 Game Preview: Vikings at Bears, Volume II

| November 16th, 2020


FOCO is giving away the product above (full description available HERE) to the winner of tonight’s contest. It’s going to be a super cold winter across the country and having a hoodie that doubles as a mask will help.

So what is tonight’s contest? Guess the total yards COMBINED for Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Darnell Mooney receiving. (Receiving only.) For context, their totals over the last three games are 183, 229 and 130. So a wide range is possible.

As always the rules:

  • Guess must be made in the comments section below.
  • Guess must be made in an isolated comment.
    • Do not make the guess in the body of a longer comment. Do not make the guess in the thread of another discussion. I’m not going searching for your guess.
  • Pay attention! Once someone guesses 169, 169 is dead. If you repeat 169, you’re guess is void.

Good luck! On to the remainder of the game preview!


On Matt Nagy Giving Up Play-Calling

As was broken in the comments section last week, Matt Nagy won’t be calling the plays tonight. It was the only move for him to make and it’s overdue.

Will this move fix the offense? Of course not. But when your offense is performing at a level this low, you have to empty the trunk and bring out the gimp. No move is too dramatic. If changing the play-caller means even two or three extra first downs a game, you do it.

Nagy didn’t want to . I get it. “I love it” he said repeatedly about calling plays. We take this game so seriously sometimes that we forget it’s a game and it’s supposed to be fun for EVERYBODY involved. Nagy just relinquished the part of the game he loves most. That ain’t easy.

And as much as I fell this move was belated, it should still be applauded. A mature head coach is benching his stubborn offensive coordinator.


Haiku

Calling plays no more,

Nagy paces the sideline.

His headset, on mute.


Bears on the Hot Seat

Offense. Allen Robinson. There’s no doubting that Robinson is this club’s number one receiver but he is looking for Michael Thomas money. Is it too much to ask for him to win 50/50 balls? Is it too much to ask for him dominate an inferior opponent? The Bears don’t need 4-for-70 from ARob tonight. They need 11-for-140. And they need that production to occur while the game is still being contested, not in garbage time. You can blame the quarterback play all you want but great receivers elevate mediocre quarterbacks. Is Robinson a great receiver?

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ATM: Don’t Let the Defense Off the Hook for Monday Night Debacle

| October 28th, 2020

Last week began with comparisons between the 2020 and 2018 Chicago Bears defenses. This week begins with us finding there is no comparison.

There are two simple truths about Monday night’s beat down:

One. The Bears couldn’t realistically expect to win by scoring just three offensive points.

Two. The Bears couldn’t realistically expect to win by allowing 24 points.

Only one offense this season has scored more than 24 points against the Rams. That came in a weird Week Three game as the then-red hot Buffalo Bills took a huge lead early. Since then, the Rams have allowed 10 or fewer points in three of four — Monday night included. (As you read that, keep in mind that the Bears haven’t held a single opponent to 10 or fewer points yet this season.)

To win on Monday night, the Bears needed the game to be a low-scoring slugfest. Their offense looked only slightly worse than we should’ve expected going against a top-five defense. The Bears defense, however, couldn’t get off the field in the first three quarters allowing drives that either resulted in scores or flipped the field, leaving the offense in an inopportune position. Five of the Bears first six drives began inside their own 20. For the game, they had eight drives start inside their own 20 and five inside the 10. Imagine how fun that is for Nick Foles when the team is asking Rashaad Coward to block Aaron Donald.

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5 Reasons to Be Overly Excited About the 5-1 Start

| October 22nd, 2020

We’ve spent the last two days focused on where the Bears need to improve. Today, I come to celebrate these first six weeks.


The Pass Rush

Defensive success in 2020 is predicated upon rushing the passer with the front four and Football Outsiders ranks the Bears as the second best pass defense in the league, predominantly because of the success they’re finding in the pressure department. Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks have been as expected, and the Bears are getting pass rush contribution from unlikely sources like Mario Edwards Jr, James Vaughters and even Brent Urban.

What’s the most exciting thing about the pass rush? Robert Quinn is still being worked into the lineup and every time he gets on the field he makes an impact. When Quinn reaches 100% health, and sees his snap count tick up, the Bears will be the most feared front in the league.


The New Kyle Fuller

No one is surprised that Fuller is the team’s best cover corner, and one of the best cover corners in the league.

But did anyone see Fuller becoming the reincarnation of Ronnie Lott, delivering a crushing hit almost every week. Did anyone see Fuller making the kind of tackle he made on Teddy Bridgewater Sunday, keeping the Panthers’ quarterback out of the end zone and changing the course of the game?

Fuller, through six weeks, is in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. (I’m just not sure Aaron Donald will ever lose that award again.)


The Quarterback Change

Has Nick Foles been great since taking over at quarterback? No.

Has there been a discernible change when it comes to leadership? Absolutely.

Let’s take a look at what Foles has done since taking over.

  • He led the comeback against Atlanta, throwing three touchdown passes.
  • He made the crucial read on the crucial drive – highlighted here by Emmanuel Acho – to beat Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs. (The kind of read his predecessor never made.)
  • He delivered a stirring press conference following the victory over Carolina that firmly established him as the team’s most vocal leader in years. This is what you expect from the quarterback position.

Foles will always be limited physically. He’s frequently going to take the quick, efficient option over the “shot”. But as the season progresses, and he becomes more comfortable with his receivers, the passing game should improve.

A tweet from Allen Robinson’s agent seems to sum up how important it was for the Bears to make this move WHILE ALSO winning.

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Bears at the Mini-Bye Volume III: Defense & Playoff Odds

| October 15th, 2020

I already looked at a variety of statistics for the offense, including QB performance, run game woes, and explosive plays, and explored how Chicago has deployed their skill position players. Today I want to look at advanced defensive statistics from Pro Football Reference and think about Chicago’s playoff odds.


Missed Tackles

I highlighted missed tackles as a concern in the secondary heading into the season. As a team, the Bears are actually doing quite well with missed tackles right now; they rank 7th in the NFL with 22 through 5 weeks. The table below shows missed tackle stats (from Pro Football Reference) for all players with at least 10 tackle attempts, as well as cumulative totals for each position group.

For context, here’s how the positional averages compare to NFL peers over the last 2 years:

  • The median starting NFL DB misses right around 11% of their tackles, so Chicago’s secondary is about average here so far. That’s actually pretty good for them given the tackling concerns heading into the season with Kyle Fuller, Buster Skrine, and Eddie Jackson. Fuller in particular has struggled so far this year, but everybody else has been ok.

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Practice Notebook: A Different Summer, A Different World (8/31/20)

| August 31st, 2020

Saturday would have been the third preseason game; the final opportunity for those trying to grab the 2-3 spots at the bottom of the roster. Instead Saturday was just another Saturday, and the last time any laymen would have an opportunity to look at the 2020 Chicago Bears before their season opener.


How Different This Summer Has Been

Writing about an NFL team has a seasonal rhythm to it. After the dead period of May and June, July begins a slow, deliberate crescendo to the nervously thrilling first whistle of opening day. In my case, there’s always a boozy, beachy Labor Day weekend that serves as a calm before the season’s storm. Then that Tuesday it’s all day, every day, until the season ends. Not this year, except for the boozy bit.

No fans at training camp has meant no leaked video or secretive email reports. These usually start flooding my email box on the first day of camp and don’t stop. And honestly, they’re pretty helpful. Last year, while many were excited about the prospect of Riley Ridley making a rookie impact, I was getting word early on that the kid was completely overwhelmed by the professional game. Turned out to be the truth.

The media isn’t shown anything of worth anymore and now can’t say much about what they are shown. So we’re left with scraps of reports.

No joint practices or preseason games means there’s nothing to which we can tangibly react, which has predictably taken all the dramatic steam out of the quarterback competition. This summer, for the first time since I started doing this, I was excited for the preseason because it was going to determine the starting quarterback.

Instead the season will just…start. Sunday September 13th will come. We will all wake up, have our breakfast, settle into our routines, and the game will begin. And fans across the league will be surprised by what they see.


Statement from Chicago Bears Players

Like many in the sports world, the Bears took a pause on Thursday to meet and discuss the racial issues facing our country. Their statement:

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The NFL Season Begins in Two Weeks. (What Don’t We Know About the Chicago Bears?)

| August 28th, 2020


It’s remarkable to think the NFL is going to kickoff the 2020 season in Kansas City two weeks from yesterday. But barring a Covid tsunami or another testing lab debacle in New Jersey or the players mounting an NBA-style walkout, the show will seemingly go on. So with so little time remaining before they start keeping score, what don’t we know about the 2020 Chicago Bears?


How Will the Backfield Look?

In the wake of David Montgomery’s injury, the Bears could use Cordarrelle Patterson and Tarik Cohen to piece together their backfield. Or they could elevate the status of undrafted free agent Artavis Pierce. And why not? We see “scrap heap” type backs emerge around the league every year. If Juan Castillo gets them blocking up front, Pierce could become as a key component of the offense. Why not give the kid a shot to carry the load? He’s got talent.


Who is the Quarterback?

A tale of two tweets.

Tweet 1.

Tweet 2.

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The Addition of Robert Quinn Gives the Bears 2020’s Most Fearsome Pass Rushing Duo

| March 17th, 2020


A source, a trusted source for many years, sent me a text.

“Quinn. Big money. Floyd cut.”

The lack of words was jarring but I knew what it meant. This was happening quickly. To Twitter I went!



Within minutes, Ian Rapoport broke the news of Robert Quinn signing a massive deal with the Bears. Within minutes of that, Adam Schefter broke the news of the Bears cutting Leonard Floyd.

Unless you’re one of those folks who obsesses over the salary cap, there’s simply no way to criticize the Quinn signing. He is one of the best pure pass rushers in the sport and solidifies one of the best front sevens in the game. This was an ideal free agency move for Ryan Pace because pass rush prospects – even mediocre ones – go early in the NFL Draft. Teams happily leverage future draft picks to acquire them. The Bears were unlikely to find ten sacks in the second round (or later). Now they don’t have to.

As for Floyd, for years he has frustrated many inside the walls of Halas Hall. He is a superior athlete and that athleticism has allowed him to develop into one of the best edge coverage guys in the league. But playing on the edge in NFL requires more than covering backs and tight ends. You must get to the quarterback. You must disrupt the passing game. And Floyd doesn’t do that. He’s a sloppy pass rusher, often out of control when he manages to evade blockers. In 2019, with Khalil Mack struggling through injuries for most of the season, Chuck Pagano implored Floyd to anchor the team’s rush. He could not.

The Bears still have major questions on the offensive side of the ball, and many of them will be answered in the next month or so. But the moves they made yesterday fortified their organizational strength. The 2020 vintage of the Bears will be led by their defense, led by their pass rush. Because Quinn and Mack will be the most feared duo in the NFL.

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