We Have A New Bear!

| March 5th, 2024

There’s a new Chicago Bear in town! As yesterday evening wound down, Ryan Poles sent a 5th round pick to Buffalo to get IOL Ryan Bates, the same Ryan Bates that Poles tried to sign to an RFA tender just two offseasons ago.

Bates brings with him athleticism (check RAS below) and experience at all three interior positions, most recently working at Center. Does that mean he’s Chicago’s future starting Center? Or is he a depth handcuff for Teven Jenkins (health) and Nate Davis (health & poor play)? We’ll find out next year, but either way I think the move works.

Cost wise, a 5th round pick isn’t nothing… but it’s not worth making a meal over either. The Bears’ latest 5th round pick (Noah Sewell) played a grand total of 27 defensive snaps as a rookie last year, a reminder of how hard it is for late-round rookies to contribute on the field quickly.

Assuming that Bates is slated for either the OL’s premiere backup role or a starting position at Center, this move suggests to me that Ryan Poles has prioritized the upcoming 2024 season — given Bates’ cheap 2-year contract, I can get behind that. Regardless of whether the front office rolls with the incumbent Justin Fields or a newly-drafted rookie QB, Chicago has lost the privilege of betting the health of their line’s interior on an inconsistent right-guard, an oft-injured left guard, and what is currently a gaping hole in the line’s center.

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Reviewing The Combine’s Best Potential Chicago Bears

| March 4th, 2024

The latest episode of Bear With Us is out — give it a listen below!

In it, we talk through:

  • Standout performances from throughout the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine
  • Which players do (and don’t) fit the Bears? Why?
  • Robert’s reasoning for why either Rome Odunze or Malik Nabers will be available at #9 Overall
  • Thoughts on Caleb Williams’ medical info decision, general impressions from the weekend
  • And much, much more

Check it out and let me know what you think!

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Bears Must Look to Their Own History and Prioritize the Center Position

| March 1st, 2024

Here’s what I don’t want to hear/read as the Bears prepare for training camp this summer: “Player X is a natural guard but the Bears are planning to use him at center.” No. No more. Enough.

The Chicago Bears have had two periods of play at or near the top of the sport in the Super Bowl era: one under Mike Ditka and one under Lovie Smith. What did those two periods have in common? From 1985 to 1991, the Bears had a Pro Bowl center in Jay Hilgenberg. In 2006, the last time the Chicago Bears made the Super Bowl, their center, Olin Kreutz, was voted first-team All-Pro. These are not coincidental facts. Centers are the anchor of the offensive line, and the offensive line is the most important “unit” within a professional football operation. Offensive lines don’t need to be collections of top talent. It helps, but it’s not necessary. Offensive linemen need to be resilient and versatile. Offensive lines need to play with cohesion. That resiliency emanates from the center position. Cohesion derives from the leadership in the middle.

The Bears are building something impressive up front, despite what the Justin Fields devotees want you to believe. They will more than likely enter the 2024 season with Braxton Jones (25 this season) at left tackle, Teven Jenkins (26) at left guard, Nate Davis (28) at right guard and Darnell Wright (23) at right tackle. Those are four solid options up front, especially if Davis rebounds from a complicated 2023. (Folks who think Davis suddenly can’t play ignore the myriad of personal complications that drowned his campaign.) Can they perhaps upgrade at a spot or two? Potentially, but none of those four players need to be actively replaced this off-season. None of that matters, however, when the center position is consistently occupied by veteran turnstiles on their last legs in the league, all of whom seem to be incapable of executing a shotgun snap.

It seems to have been an organization mandate to de-prioritize the center position. And there are options available to buck the trend.

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How Does the NFL’s Increased Salary Cap Affect Chicago? Plus, NFL Scouting Combine Rumors

| February 29th, 2024

The latest episode of Bear With Us is out — give it a listen below!

In it, we talk through:

  • The effects of the 2024 NFL Salary Cap’s ~$13 Million rise over expectations
  • What the NFL Scouting Combine’s rumor mill does (and doesn’t) mean for the Bears
  • Takeaways from Ryan Poles’ Combine press conference
  • Comparing & contrasting Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Justin Fields, and the rest of the Bears’ QB options
  • Which defenders we’re most excited to see run, jump, and drill in this weekend’s events
  • And much, much more

Your Turn: Who are you excited to watch in this weekend’s drills?

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Rumor Roundup: Things Are Heating Up At The Combine

| February 28th, 2024

Jeff had some takeaways after today’s press conferences from Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus:

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Reviewing The Tape: Drake Maye & Caleb Williams

| February 27th, 2024

A few months ago I walked through Caleb Williams’ Notre Dame game & Drake Maye’s Georgia Tech game — it’s a great stream if you’re looking for a review of the presumed top 2 QBs in the 2024 NFL Draft Class.

I’m working on a few draft breakdowns this week, so we’ll be back with more content tomorrow. In the meantime, check this out if you missed it.

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All Kinds of Time: Caleb Williams, Justin Fields, and the Importance of Time To Throw

| February 26th, 2024

I’m happy to host this piece by Kyle Morris, a football statistician and a personal friend of mine, as he explores the differences between Caleb Williams, Justin Fields, Drake Maye, and how Time To Throw affects each Quarterback’s play on the football field.

If you’re a football fan who loves data, this is the article for you. If you aren’t a football fan who loves data, this article is still well worth your time — the insights held within it are core in discussing the ever-raging Bears’ QB debate, and Kyle does a great job numerically illustrating what I think the tape shows about each QB mentioned.

Kyle also has a podcast, which I’ll link right here. Enjoy the article, and let me know what you think in the comments below.

For the last six years I have attempted to determine how to best evaluate and project college quarterbacks to the NFL using advanced analytics.

For decades most NFL evaluators have adopted a fairly dismissive attitude toward college statistics, and for understandable reasons. Tim Tebow’s sparkling 66% college completion rate hid what became one of the NFL’s least accurate passers in recent memory. Josh Allen’s pedestrian numbers made him an enemy of most box score scouts, but actual scouts crowed about Allen’s physical tools. Even then, Josh is an outlier — he is a rare example of the NFL’s coaches improving a poor college passer, and the graveyard of prospects like Jake Locker and Kyle Boller demonstrate just how rare a story like that can be.

Ignoring a prospect’s college production carries as much (or more) risk as box score scouting. I’ve therefore spent a great deal of time trying to compile as many statistics as I can on every available college QB prospect, comparing them to each other, comparing them to their historical peers, figuring out what metrics might actually predict NFL success or failure, and which ones are just noise. Each year I look at what I got right or wrong, and I peel the layers back even further, trying to find out what I might have missed.

This leads me to today’s topic: Justin Fields, Caleb Williams, and the importance of Time To Throw.

If you’re unfamiliar with Time to Throw as a statistic, it’s pretty basic: it’s how much time after the snap a quarterback takes, on average, to throw the football. As basic this sounds, the factors that actually go into time to throw can be somewhat complicated — is a guy taking forever because he can’t read the defense and process information quickly? Is he getting rid of the ball too quickly, passing up options down the field and checking down immediately to avoid getting hit, thus passing up big plays in the process? Or is he doing the opposite of that and passing up wide open outlet throws (thus taking an extra second) to try and force an ill-advised throw downfield?

Given all this, how do we determine what factors into each individual quarterback’s time to throw?

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For Sanity’s Sake, Here’s Hoping this is My Last Justin Fields Column

| February 23rd, 2024

When the Bears drafted Cade McNown in 1999, I didn’t care.

But do you remember the first game of the 2000 season? Against a very good Vikings team, McNown opened 27-41-290-2 and 10 carries, 81 yards and a TD on the ground. From my lounger at the now defunct ESPN Zone in Times Square, I got excited.

When the Bears drafted Rex Grossman in 2003, I didn’t care.

Reverend Dave and I watched that selection, thoroughly intoxicated with some British Browns fans, at a sports pub in Piccadilly Circus. It was a surreal and hysterical experience, but nobody celebrated anything. Yet by early in the 2006 season, there were few doubting Rex could be a top player at the professional level. 

When the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky in 2017, I didn’t care.

Well, I cared a little, as this was the first real scoop I had been given and was able to break on Twitter. I also won quite a bit of cash off the skeptical patrons of Mother Hubbard’s. (That ripped us off that night and I never returned.) I picked the Bears to go to the Super Bowl in 2019 specifically because of Mitch’s final drive against the Eagles in the Cody Parkey game; a drive I watched in the building. 

When the Bears drafted Justin Fields in 2021, I didn’t care.

While the Robert Mays’s of the world got giddy on their podcasts (why is he always so damn giggly), I hadn’t been impressed by the two college games I’d seen Fields play and saw no reason for ecstasy. But there were clearly moments in his tenure I found genuinely thrilling, most of which were documented on this site. Fields is not a bad quarterback. He’s a limited one. 

When the Bears take their next starting quarterback in April, I won’t care.

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