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Data Entry: Self-Scouting Chicago’s 2017 Offense

| February 6th, 2018

Chicago’s offense was generally bad in 2017. We all know this. They finished 30th in the NFL in yards per game and 29th in points scored.

Those types of basic stats are easy for anybody to look up, and they can help paint an overall picture of how effective a unit performed. They do not. however, tell a complete tale. It can be useful to look deeper and see in what areas the Bears might have struggled, as well as where they might have done well. This can be useful to help identify specific areas of strength to build on going forward, as well as areas that need to be addressed through personnel and/or scheme improvements.

In an effort to do this, I used the NFL Game Statistics Information System to look at Chicago’s offensive stats in a bit more detail. I broke down rushing and passing attempts by areas of the field to see where they target the most and how successful they are. Let’s have a look.

Rushing Attack

Chicago’s overall run game was solid in 2017; they finished 16th in rushing yards, 11th in yards per carry, and 11th in touchdowns. Now let’s break it down by different areas of the field.

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Data Entry: Searching for Stats to Contextualize Trubisky’s Rookie Season

| January 30th, 2018

I recently looked at Trubisky’s rookie performance in “quarters” – four-game sets – and found that he showed continual growth in both usage and efficiency (in all areas but throwing touchdowns) as the season progressed.

Now I want to look at how that growth compares to other recent quarterbacks in their rookie seasons. Do quarterbacks who are going to be good show more growth during their rookie season? Do those who stay the same, or get worse, tend to bust?

The Set-Up

I looked at all QBs drafted in the 1st round who played at least twelve games of their rookie season within the last 10 years and tracked their progress in four-game samples. All data was compiled using the Pro Football Reference game play finder. Allow me a brief explanation of my 3 limits:

  • 1st Round Picks. I wanted players similar to Trubisky, who were drafted with the expectation of playing early. Later round picks often have to earn the job so I didn’t want to include them and skew the data.
  • In the Last 10 years. The NFL passing game continues to evolve, as does the college passing game that prepares them for the NFL. Comparing rookie QBs now to rookie QBs from 20 years ago just isn’t reasonable. Heck, even comparing now to 10 years ago isn’t great, but cutting it much shorter than that really limits the sample size, which is already pretty small.
  • Who Played Twelve Games as Rookies. I’m tracking growth in four-game samples, and two sets of data isn’t really enough, so twelve games gives some sort of growth trend through at least 3 sets.

These stipulations gave me a sample size of 16 quarterbacks: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Andrew Luck, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Carson Wentz, and Mitch Trubisky.

Before doing this study, it seemed fairly logical to me that most rookie QBs would naturally improve as the season wore on. After all, they’re brand new at this and facing a steep growth curve. And you usually get better at your job within the first few months, right?

Also, take into consideration that most of these quarterbacks were starters from day one of training camp, let alone the regular season. Trubisky faced the unique scenario of not seeing first-team reps until after the first quarter, as the Bears prepared to face what was then the league’s best defense.

Nevertheless, we look at the numbers.

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Week 17: NYE Bears at Vikings Game Preview

| December 28th, 2017

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. And I like them even more after seeing their young nucleus live. This week I’m peppering the preview with a couple of my favorite finales in musical theatre history. Why? Because I run things around here and realistically can do whatever the hell I want.


Poem

Enter twenty-eighteen.

Never has the calendar been more desperate for change.

Daylight approaches, I promise.


Fiddler

As great as Fiddler on the Roof is, and I think it’s the greatest musical ever written, it is never quite given enough credit for how bold it is in its storytelling. Fiddler is not a tragedy but it ends tragically, with the Jewish citizens of a Russian village forced to leave their home, Anatevka. The song is a funeral dirge, a self-deprecating requiem for a way of life these people know they’ll never find again. But there is optimism in this dour ballad, even if it’s difficult to find. Because these people are going to a new world, a new frontier, creating a new America.


Some Thoughts on the Actual Game

  • There is a scenario wherein the Vikings are not the second seed in the NFC playoffs. Far-fetched but it exists. And that should be enough to motivate them all week. And if they’re motivated, the game is over. At halftime Sunday the Bears led the Browns 6-3 in one of the more lifeless halves of football ever played. If the Bears play a similar half in Minneapolis they’ll be down two or three touchdowns because the Vikings are simply not the Browns. They’re quite good.

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Merry Christmas: Bears Win AFC North

| December 25th, 2017

All thoughts from inside the building. If you could see same thing on TV, well fine then. Some of this was shared on Twitter yesterday.

  • Mitch does something very weird. When the window is tight he sets his feet and throws darts. When he has time and an open man, he loses concentration a bit. Passes sail. Very fixable.
  • Biggest thing I saw: my god this team loves their quarterback. Every guy on the roster is clearly rooting for him. When he makes a good play, 20 guys wanna celebrate with him.
  • Two things on Akiem Hicks. First, I’ve never seen a larger ass. It’s got to be 3 feet wide. Second, he’s spent. There’s no way he should suit up next week against Minnesota.
  • Eddie Goldman is way faster in the building than he is on television. And hustles on every single play.
  • Kyle Fuller is playing with so much confidence right now. Kizer continually throwing at him was nonsensical. 
  • Before the start of the second half, the two things receiving the loudest in-building reaction were: (a) the announcement that halftime’s frisbee golf competition was canceled and (b) the playing of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer
  • Mitch got bailed out on his horrible screen pass/pick 6 but came back and executed the screen game to perfection after that play. Once again, he doesn’t run from his mistakes. He embraces them and improves.

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Week 15: Bears at Lions Game Preview

| December 14th, 2017

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. And yes, they may have fooled me last week. Again.


Poem

once more unto the breach, dear friends, he wrote

and so i do commit myself to battle

many know not to trust these capricious lads

many, like i, are merely cattle

so unto the breach i go, once more

believing, yes always believing

and surely you know, come saturday night

i shall, once again, be grieving


Five Thoughts on The Actual Game

  • Don’t look now but Jordan Howard is only 73 yards behind Le’Veon Bell in the race for the NFL rushing title. In their first meeting this season, Howard put 125 yards on the board and the Lions defense has actually gotten worse at stopping the run since. Just last week they allowed the Bucs, one of the league’s worst running teams, to average nearly 5 yards a carry. Could be a big Saturday afternoon for the unheralded Bears superstar.

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Now, Do It Again.

| December 12th, 2017

The Bears looked like a professional football team Sunday. Well-coached. Brilliantly quarterbacked. Dynamic. Passionate. Tough. Young! From the second Mitch Trubisky was drafted with the second overall pick, 2017 became about building optimism for 2018. That’s life with a rookie quarterback, especially when there are first and second-year players littered across the roster. For the first time this season the future looked beyond bright for this organization. It looked downright special. Because of the quarterback. Because of the kids.

Now they need to do it again.

Detroit is still playing for something. A lot of things, actually. They’re home. They are only a game out of the playoffs. They have a head coach they love, currently resting his tuchus on one of the league’s warmest seats. They need this game. And believe me, they’re going to play like it.

Historically, at least in the history of John Fox’s tenure in Chicago, Saturday afternoon in Detroit is where the Bears would lay an egg. As soon as the slightest bit of optimism creeps into the minds of fans and onto the pages of the daily newspapers, Fox’s Bears no-show. There are a lot of damning statistics when it comes to this head coach but none more damning than his 0-7 record when favored. That means every time Vegas has expected the Fox Bears to perform, they have failed to do so. Every. Time. That’s hard to do.

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Week 11: Lions at Bears Game Preview

| November 16th, 2017

He’s not quite a lion. But he is Bear the Cat. And on this album cover he represents how I feel about this Bears team right now.


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. And they can’t play as badly as last week, right?


An Original Limerick

I once bet a horse called Fox

Who slowly came out of the blocks

He’d pick up some speed

And get near the lead

But leave me with only my socks


Three Reasons The Bears Win

This section is now an exercise in futility since the Bears have shown little interest in studying their opponents and attacking their weaknesses.

  • Detroit Can’t Run the Ball. Only Miami, Arizona and Cincinnati get less on the ground weekly and those are three terrible offensive teams. The Bears defense looked bad a week ago but the primary reason is they were pushed around at the point of attack by Green Bay and delivered their worst performance against the run all season. Shouldn’t be an issue this week.
  • The Trubisky Development Train Keeps a’ Rollin. While the film of the 2017 season was taken over by director Lars von Trier Sunday, the future was not so bleak. Mitch Trubisky had his most prolific day throwing the football and Detroit’s secondary can be beaten through the air. (The Lions were the first secondary to make DeShone Kizer look like a professional quarterback.) Seeing Adam Shaheen and Dontrelle Inman develop a rapport with the young signal-caller, even with limited opportunities, should lead to some productive performances down the stretch and those performances should start Sunday at home.

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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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Three Thoughts on the Decision to Start Mitch Trubisky

| October 2nd, 2017

Mitch Trubisky will start against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, October 9th. And so begins the future of the Chicago Bears. Three thoughts:

(1) There was no other acceptable decision for the Bears organization at this time. Their Mike Glennon plan was a colossal failure and they could not turn the reigns over to a journeyman like Mark Sanchez. The locker room and fan base were at wit’s end. If they had any intention of making 2017 a season of value, Trubisky had to start Monday night.

(2) Offensive staff, especially Dowell Loggains, were fierce advocates for the move of late. It wasn’t entirely about Mike Glennon’s limitations, either. The injuries to both Cam Meredith and Kevin White required changes to the team’s offensive approach and those changes did not fit Glennon. This crop of receivers need time to win their one-on-one battles. Trubisky’s legs can give them that time.

(3) This will not be a smooth and easy twelve games for Trubisky. He will make mistakes, just like all rookie QBs do. But those mistakes now have value. Interceptions now have value. Losses now have value. And as Bears fans, we must not hope that come January we’ve seen enough from the kid to have excitement and anticipation for the 2018 campaign.

(3a) Thank the lord.

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