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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Data Responds: Bears at Vikings

| December 31st, 2017

Sorry for the break the last few weeks. I haven’t been able to watch games live due to various holiday scheduling hijinks. Darn that real life for getting in the way!

Before we get into today’s game specifically, reports are that John Fox will be fired today. I won’t miss you as Chicago’s head coach.

In general, this game looked very much like a disinterested team playing out the string on the road for a soon-to-be-fired coaching staff against a hungry opponent playing to lock up a first round bye.


  • The Bears got the ball to start and opened with a heavy set Jordan Howard run into a stacked box for no gain. On their 2nd drive, they followed that up with a Jordan Howard run into a stacked box for -4 yards. Shockingly, both drives ended in 3 and outs. Oh how I am not going to miss that.
  • On Chicago’s 3rd drive, they threw the ball on 1st down! You’ll be surprised to find out that not being incredibly predictable actually worked. Of course, the Bears followed that up with a FB dive into a 9 man box on 3rd and 1 (why is Michael Burton still a thing?), which lost yardage and forced a punt. Before they could get the punt off, the Bears took a delay of game penalty, because of course.
  • Rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky had a bad rookie moment that resulted in a safety. Under pressure, he kept backing up until he was in the end zone, which was the mistake. He then threw the ball away to pick up an intentional grounding penalty, which is a safety in the end zone. My complaint is not with the grounding, but with the fact that he backed up into the end zone first. He could have taken the sack at the 3 yard line, and needs to know the field position situation there.
  • Trubisky also had a terrible throw in the fourth quarter where he missed a wide-open Dontrelle Inman because his feet were not properly set. Despite a clean pocket, he did something weird where he torqued his upper body, which caused him to put the ball far too wide and out of bounds. Those mechanical issues, and the corresponding accuracy concerns, have been a repeated problem this offseason, and are the #1 thing Trubisky needs to work on this offseason.

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Data Responds: Bears at Bengals

| December 10th, 2017

Is this real life?

The Bears dominated on both sides of the ball, scored 30 points for the first time in over two years, and generally rolled over the dormant Cincinnati Bengals.

I know Cincinnati is bad and banged up, but so are the Bears, and this was a lot of fun. More importantly, this as led largely by young players for the Bears, which bodes well for the future. Let’s take a look at what happened.


  • The Bears came out and threw it on their first 2 plays! The first resulted in an awful Jordan Howard drop (drink), while the second was a beautiful play action rollout to Josh Bellamy for a 1st down. This unsurprisingly caught the Bengals’ defense off guard, and they backed off the defense into standard 7 man boxes instead of loading 8-9 up. As a result, the Bears ran it the next two plays for about 40 yards and a touchdown. That marked the first time this season that the offense scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game.
  • Before I get too down on Howard, how about giving it up for a great game from Chicago’s stud running back? He had his 12th 100 yard rushing game in 26 career starts and passed the 1,000 yard mark for the 2nd year in a row, making him the first running back in Chicago history to start his career that way. That’s pretty remarkable when you think of the great running backs who have played in Chicago.

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Data Responds: Bears vs. 49ers

| December 3rd, 2017

The Bears led for almost the entire game, but pretty much everybody watching the game knew what was coming when San Francisco got the ball back down 14-12 with just over 4 minutes to go. The 49ers methodically marched down the field and longtime Chicago kicker Robbie Gould drilled his 5th field goal of the day to send Chicago to their 5th straight loss.


  • Chicago’s offense came out on the first possession and ran the ball twice in a row out of heavy sets. Anybody who’s watched Chicago this year can already guess how that ended: with Chicago in 3rd and long. That led to a sack of QB Mitchell Trubisky for a nice quick three and out.
  • Speaking of running on first down, the Bears did it 11 times in 14 chances today. Only one of those runs went for more than 3 yards; most went for 0 or 1.
  • It looks like any confidence rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky earned from the coaching staff completely evaporated after a bad game last week. They finally opened things up two weeks ago, and the offense shockingly had their best game of the year. Now they’ve had back to back terrible weeks after reverting to horribly predictable play calling.

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Bears Must Move On From John Fox. Today.

| November 27th, 2017

Five years ago the Chicago Bears fired a head coach because they deemed 10 wins in 16 games that season were not enough. Through 30 games of his Bears tenure, John Fox has 12 wins.

On October 16th 2016 this space advocated for the firing of Fox for many valid reasons. But primary among them was the Bears seemed ready to move into a new era – with a new, young quarterback – and Fox was clearly not the man to usher the organization through that era. It wasn’t so much an indictment of Fox’s job performance as a recognition that he’d done his part to bring the Bears back to respectability post-Argonaut and the time had now come to transition from respectable to competitive.

That was 2016. This is 2017. And now it’s ENTIRELY about job performance. Because the Bears are a terrible football team.

Is it worth going through the litany of things wrong with John Fox’s approach to game day football? No. We’ve been talking about the lack of preparedness and penalties and awful mismanagement every day over the three years he’s run the show in Chicago. But the deal breaker for the organization has to be that for the first time Fox has young offensive talent to work with and develop and he, as well as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, are squandering that opportunity on a weekly basis.

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Data Responds: Bears at Eagles

| November 26th, 2017

Well that was ugly. This one felt like a few drubbings the 2014 Bears received after the Bears had quit on Marc Trestman. The John Fox era is officially over, though we almost certainly still have to endure 5 more games before it becomes official. Hopefully those games aren’t all this ugly.

The Bears were never going to win on the road against the best team in the NFL, but they looked completely unprepared in every possible way. They picked up penalties, had zero creativity or imagination anywhere, and were generally outschemed, outcoached, and out-executed.

I’m not going to focus much on coaching, because this staff is obviously finished, but one particular atrocity deserves special attention. Facing 3rd and 17 from their own 1 yard line, the Bears called time out to save half a yard from a delay of game penalty. That’s bad enough, but the worst is the offense had only 10 men on the field after an injury time out gave them more than 2 minutes to prepare. That’s a team with comically inept coaching.

I’m going to focus most of my specific observations on the first half, because quite honestly I didn’t pay as much attention after that. The 24-0 halftime deficit meant the game was over by then anyway (honestly, it was over well before halftime).


  • Mitchell Trubisky threw an early INT on an inaccurate throw, and it caused the coaching staff to turtle back into their worst habits. It was a long time before they let him throw past the line of scrimmage again, and even then that only came on 3rd and long. Instead, they chose to repeatedly run out of heavy sets into loaded boxes. You might be surprised to learn this was not an effective strategy.

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Across The Middle: Will the Real Dowell Loggains Please Stand Up?

| November 21st, 2017

Outside of maybe John Fox, the hottest seat in the city of Chicago belongs to that of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. But in reality, do we even know if he’s bad?

Whether he intended to or not, Mitch Trubisky dropped a bombshell after Sunday’s game, saying he knows Loggains trusts him, but that Fox limits what they’re allowed to do. That’s Fox’s job and I can hardly blame him. The Bears had Tanner Gentry and Tre McBride lined out wide with a rookie quarterback two games ago. The results were completing less than 50% of their passes and an insanely high sack rate.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we still don’t really know what the offensive coordinator can do.

Some reflections:

  • Two of Loggains former quarterbacks — Matt Hasselbeck and Jay Cutler — insist he’s a bright coach.
  • Cutler went as far as to say that he thinks Loggains is going to be a head coach one day.
  • Hasselbeck has appeared on the Waddle & Silvy Show several times and has been adamant that what you see on Sunday isn’t a reflection of the coordinator.
  • Mike Munchak vouched for Loggains, having employed him as his offensive coordinator once and selling him as the guy who was going to run his show should he get another head job.

That said, he’s never had an offense finish better than 19th in scoring or 15th in yardage. Last year, the Bears were 28th in points scored and they sit 27th so far this year. But, how much can we blame him for that?

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Midseason Marks: Special Teams

| November 2nd, 2017

The DBB team is evaluating the entire organization at this well-placed, exactly midseason bye week. The catch? Each of us is limited to ONE SENTENCE for each position group. Today we switch to special teams.

Connor Barth

Jeff: Yes, the cupboard is bare at wide receiver due to injury but it’s been at kicker (and Mike Glennon) where the Bears have displayed their most glaring evaluative weakness.

Andrew: Barth just isn’t getting the job done.

Data: Connor Barth is terrible, but that’s something we’ve known since before he signed with the Bears 15 months ago.

DBB Grade: D

Pat O’Donnell

Jeff: Yes, I spend way too much time thinking about and studying punters but POD has improved his directional kicking, hang time and placement in 2017.

Andrew: Pat O’Donnell just might be having the best year of his career.

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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.


  • 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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Five Thoughts on the 1943 Offense The Bears Ran Sunday

| October 23rd, 2017

Watching the Bears beat the Panthers a second time was not much more entertaining than watching them do it the first time. But I wanted to focus on the offensive snaps. Here’s what I thought:

  • Trubisky was hard on himself in the postgame presser but he only made three mistakes in the game: taking the sack before the Barth missed FG, overthrowing Zach Miller and the delay of game in the fourth quarter. Could he have taken a few shots when the pocket collapsed around him? Sure. But why would he in a game the defense was dominating.
  • I’m sure other franchises have done it but I’ve never seen a team so relentlessly run the ball into 8 and often 9-man fronts. The plays are only mildly successful (if that) because Jordan Howard is one of the toughest runners in the league. He gets every inch out of every carry.
  • Kendall Wright played 8 snaps Sunday. Reminder: he is the best wide receiver on the team by a wide margin.
  • Trubisky’s back shoulder fade to Cohen early was an absolutely perfect throw. It literally hit Cohen on his back shoulder. If Cohen catches the ball, he’s got a strong chance to take it to the house.
  • Is there a chance these conservative game plans were specifically designed for Baltimore and Carolina – two solid defenses? Is it possible these two games were early run calls setting up a more explosive approach in the weeks to come? Am I only dreaming?

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