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Audibles: Enthusiasm Grows, Cutler Stars, Gabriel Catches & More!

| July 13th, 2018

Three Thoughts on the Bears

  • Mentioned it on KFAN in Minnesota earlier in the week but I can’t remember this much enthusiasm and excitement around the Bears heading into a season. This might be the most I’ve seen since 2005 – the Year of the Blog – and that season’s optimism seemed to dwindle with Rex Grossman’s summer injury. (I wrote and produced my first play that year so it took me a month to get sad.) The Bears don’t believe they’re going to be 8-8 this season. They believe they’ll be playing football in January.
  • Had drinks with an NFL GM Monday afternoon and he summed up the Bears off-season perfectly: “They did everything right. But right in the spring isn’t always right in the fall.”
  • This is more anecdotal than anything else but the player other fans and media covering other teams keep bringing up to me is Anthony Miller. There’s a real buzz about him in league circles. I’d still keep expectations low for any rookie wide receiver entering a new offense with this many pass-catching options but many others are not, including Miller himself.

Jay Cutler: Television Star

What makes me laugh is that many of us knew Cutler’s personality was incredible. It just wasn’t a Peyton-Manning-endless-quarterback-cliches-that-talking-heads-love personality. He has no patience for morons and apparently this program is chock full of them. (I will never watch a single episode of it on TV. Ten second clips are just fine.)

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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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Audibles: Defensive Continuity, Campbell & the Trib, Gabriel Wants to Rollerblade…More!

| March 19th, 2018

We are calmly navigating Ryan Pace’s most important off-season. And while it’s impossible to know if any of these decisions are any good until September, it sure feels like he’s making the right calls.


Bears Defense Taking Final Step?

A few stats from 2017 regarding the Bears defense:

  • 10th in yardage
  • 9th in points
  • 7th against the pass
  • 11th against the run
  • Troy Aikman’s ranked them 10th in the league in his Efficiency Rating – a stat I tend to find accurate.

It would be hard to argue Vic Fangio’s unit was not one of the league’s ten best defenses last season. And now they are (a) returning all relevant members of their starting lineup, (b) returning the entire defensive coaching staff, with the exception of John Fox and (c) building an offense to relinquish pressure on this unit.

If the Bears find a way to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, they should be among the league’s best defenses. If the Bears develop a top pass rush, they could be the league’s best unit.


On the Trib’s Bears Coverage…

A few nights ago a fan on Twitter decided to ask Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune to be more like Adam Jahns and Adam Hoge. Well, asking one beat writer to be more like another beat writer is never going to be met with a wink and a smile.

Campbell works hard. I saw him slaving over his computer at the Billy Goat during the Tribune Sports Christmas party as Pro Bowl announcements were being made. And nobody with a brain cares about Pro Bowl announcements.

He also seems to be a genuinely good guy. We had a few on-line conversations when he first joined the beat, mostly about soccer, but those quickly evaporated for reasons I’ll never understand. (I assume David “Blue Moon” Haugh played a major role.) But if Campbell’s got any blood in his body, he’s competitive. He doesn’t want to be told he’s not as good as the primary competition at the Sun-Times.

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More Tweets From Free Agency, Week One

| March 16th, 2018

Here’s another compilation of Tweets, wrapping up the Bears’ flurry of free agency moves in the last four days and their press conference Thursday. I’ll have a full column Monday morning and Adam Jahns will join me on the podcast next week. 



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Tweets From the Legal Tampering Period

| March 14th, 2018

(Jake Roth – USA TODAY Sports)


The “legal tampering period” is another work of staggering genius by Roger Goodell. Instead of having an exciting start to the league year this afternoon, with six hours of team-changing moves, we now have this three-day, amorphous blob of leakage featuring the newest bullshit phrase “intend to”.

Nothing in the NFL improves under Uncle Rog but the television revenues. His contract extension proved nothing else matters to these owners.

Twitter is the place to be on days like yesterday, as the news comes flying in from every direction. (True story. I’m currently starting a theatre company and for some reason scheduled ALL my legal meetings for yesterday. Forgot to check the NFL calendar.) So here are the Tweets telling the story of the Bears newest signings.



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Data Entry: Projecting Contracts For Possible Receiver Targets

| February 27th, 2018

In the last two weeks, I’ve outlined both what the Bears need to add at WR this off-season and what players in free agency should fit that profile/the new offense. At the end of that work, I came up with the following two lists, suggesting that the Bears work to sign one player from each group.

Tier 1 (750+ yard receivers)

Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders (if cut)

Tier 2 (500+ yard receivers)

Albert Wilson, Kendall Wright, John Brown, Taylor Gabriel, Paul Richardson, Jaron Brown

Now I want to look at what types of contracts those players should expect in free agency to see how expensive these moves would likely be for the Bears. In order to do that, you need to compare the contracts signed by similar players (in both age and past production) who hit free agency in recent years. This gives you a general baseline for the ballpark a new contract should probably be in, though of course there are no guarantees this is exactly how it works out.

In an effort to be as accurate as possible, I also accounted for inflation, since the cap keeps going up every year. It’s jumped by about $10 million a year every year since 2015, and is expected to do the same again this year. Thus the comparable contracts were multiplied by the following scaling factors to get the predicted value, depending on when they were signed (some slight adjustments were made for greater/worse production):

  • 2015: 1.24
  • 2016: 1.15
  • 2017: 1.07

Let’s look through each target 1 by 1, with a few brief comments. Full data for production of targets and free agent contracts can be seen here. All contract information is from Spotrac.

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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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