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Grading the Roster: Offense

| July 24th, 2024

Camp approaches, which means it’s time for me to grade the roster. Like I’ve done the last few years, I’ll grade on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the worst in the NFL, 10 being the best, and 5 being an average NFL unit. Let’s get right down to it.

Quarterback: 3

Key players: Caleb Williams, Tyson Bagent

Others: Austin Reed, Brett Rypien

Caleb Williams was the #1 pick in the draft and was widely viewed as one of the top QB prospects of the last 15 years, but rookie QBs usually struggle, so that should be the expectation until he proves otherwise. Tyson Bagent was a great story last year, earning the backup QB job as an undrafted rookie and going 2-2 in 4 starts, but he did not play well, averaging only 6.0 yards/attempt and throwing 6 INT to only 3 TD to post a 71.4 passer rating. He should be viewed as one of the worse backups in the NFL until proving otherwise. Rypien is a career practice squad guy, while Austin Reed was undrafted this year. They should compete for one practice squad spot as the emergency QB3. This grade has the potential to be much higher next year, as career projections for Williams should be quite optimistic, but there will likely be some bumps in the road in 2024.

Running Back: 6

Key players: D’Andre Swift, Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson

Others: Travis Homer, Ian Wheeler, Khari Blasingame (FB)

The Bears paid D’Andre Swift to be their clear-starter, and he has the ability to impact both the rush and pass game with 2700 rushing and 1400 receiving yards in his 4-year career. However, he is nothing special as a runner, as his best season last year still had quite unimpressive underlying metrics. Khalil Herbert is a really good runner who struggles mightily in the passing game, while Roschon Johnson was viewed as a quality all-around running back coming out of college before a mid-season concussion put a damper on his rookie season last year. Looking farther down the roster, Travis Homer and Ian Wheeler will compete for a roster spot based on special teams, and fullback Khari Blasingame will try to earn a roster spot even though new OC Shane Waldron never used a fullback in Seattle. Overall the group lacks a true superstar, but has good depth and should be fairly well-rounded overall.

Wide Receiver: 9

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Zooming in on the OL: Tackles

| July 23rd, 2024

The offseason is winding down as we are now firmly in training camp and shifting into preseason mode, but before the real games start I want to sneak one last series examining part of the roster to give us a better sense of what to expect in the 2024 season.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at the offense in the last few months, as we’ve learned together about new OC Shane Waldron, the WRs, the TEs, and expectations for rookies Caleb Williams and Rome Odunze. However, I’ve completely ignored the offensive line, and want to spend a little time this week focusing on the big boys up front who will be tasked with protecting the quarterback and opening lanes in the run game.

We already looked at the interior yesterday, and will shift gears to the tackles today.

Side note: If you read yesterday’s article, this one will follow the exact same format and have identical table setup, so hopefully the familiarity makes digesting all of the data a little easier. 

Pass Protection

Let’s start by examining pass protection, which is the most important part of an offensive lineman’s job. The Bears have two locked in starters in Darnell Wright, who are both back from 2023. The table below shows how they help up protecting the passer compared to 68 OTs (2.1/team, so roughly starters) around the NFL with 300+ pass blocking snaps. A few quick notes:

  • All data is from Pro Football Focus (PFF).
  • True pass sets are intended to remove plays designed to minimize the pass rush and make the OL’s job easier, such as screens, play action, and rollout.
  • Pass blocking efficiency measures overall pressure allowed, but weights sacks more heavily than other pressures. A higher number is better.
  • In a 68 player sample, 34th would be the middle rank, while cells highlighted in green indicate they ranked in the top 25% (top 17) and red indicates the bottom 25% (52nd or worse).
  • Two other players are also included, though they don’t have ranks indicated because they did not qualify with 300+ pass blocking snaps in 2023:
    • Larry Borom had 225 pass blocking snaps for the Bears last year, and will be competing to keep his role as the swing tackle in 2024.
    • Borom’s main competition is Matt Pryor, who didn’t play much in 2023 but had a combined 583 pass blocking snaps across 2021-22, which are included here.

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Zooming in on the OL: Interior

| July 22nd, 2024

The offseason is winding down as we are now firmly in training camp and shifting into preseason mode, but before the real games start I want to sneak one last series examining part of the roster to give us a better sense of what to expect in the 2024 season.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at the offense in the last few months, as we’ve learned together about new OC Shane Waldron, the WRs, the TEs, and expectations for rookies Caleb Williams and Rome Odunze. However, I’ve completely ignored the offensive line, and want to spend a little time this week focusing on the big boys up front who will be tasked with protecting the quarterback and opening lanes in the run game.

We’ll start today with the interior, and look at tackles tomorrow.

Guards

Pass Protection

Let’s start with guards, and then begin by examining pass protection, which is the most important part of an offensive lineman’s job. There were 62 guards (1.9/team) who had at least 300 pass blocking snaps in 2023, which is roughly starters. Chicago had three players in this sample: Teven Jenkins, Nate Davis, and Cody Whitehair. The table below shows how they help up protecting the passer compared their peers around the NFL. A few quick notes:

  • All data is from Pro Football Focus (PFF).
  • True pass sets are intended to remove plays designed to minimize the pass rush and make the OL’s job easier, such as screens, play action, and rollout.
  • Pass blocking efficiency measures overall pressure allowed, but weights sacks more heavily than other pressures. A higher number is better.
  • In a 62 player sample, 31st would be the middle rank, while cells highlighted in green indicate they ranked in the top 25% (top 16) and red indicates the bottom 25% (47th or worse).
  • Ryan Bates is also included, since he will be competing for a starting spot this year.
    • He didn’t play much in 2023, so his data is from 2022, and thus doesn’t have any ranks indicated.
    • The Bears plan to have him compete at center, but he’s only played 203 career snaps at C spread across 4 seasons, so that’s not much to go on. He played 821 snaps at guard in 2022, the only season where he’s had starting snaps, so that’s what we’ll evaluate.

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Two Days in Dallas: History, Discourse and the (Potential) Role of Sport

| July 19th, 2024


Our Uber driver from DFW to the Hotel ZaZa was named Alan, and he punctuated almost every sentence with a drawn out, eloquently drawled, “Yeahhhhhhhhhhhs.”

My uncle and I asked him what kind of weather we should expect in our two days in Dallas, and he was ready with his answer. “Boys, it’s going to be about 97, but don’t worry, it’s going to feel like a hundred seven. But, hey, that’s Dallas.” Then, a beat. “Yeahhhhhhhhhhhs.”

Strange though it may sound, it had been a dream of mine to see Dealey Plaza since I first saw Oliver Stone’s JFK in the fall of 1992 at ten years old. The film had remained a favorite of mine for thirty years but this fall, taking a course called Visual Historiographies, I reconnected with it, now academically. (If you’re interested in my thoughts on the film’s historical relevance, you can read my piece, Ask the Question_The Historiographic Project of JFK.) It turns out my uncle had also found himself down an “Oswald didn’t act alone” rabbit hole, and the trip materialized over some late-night Guinness on Memorial Day weekend.

It did not disappoint.

Before moving on to some broader thoughts, a few striking observations from the scene of the crime.

  • One need not be a conspiracy theorist to recognize that if Oswald were the lone gunman, it is illogical for him to pass on shooting Kennedy when the motorcade was directly in front of him on Houston Street, and instead waiting for the turn onto Elm and the FAR more difficult shot(s). As far as I’m concerned, the multiple shooters theory begins there.
  • Dealey Plaza is a remarkably condensed space; it is a small plot of land. The picket fence at the grassy knoll, where many believe the kill shot emanated from, is no more than 100 feet from where the president was killed. It is also ideally positioned for that shot.
  • We spent a few hours in the plaza on our first day and decided that evening to return for a few hours the second day. It was the right decision. There is an immense power to the place but it’s less an emotional power (Auschwitz, the Normandy beaches), than an intellectual one. Dealey Plaza makes your mind race. It makes you question everything.
  • If you’re planning to visit, skip the touring trolleys. Experience the Sixth Floor Museum at the Book Depository and map the remainder of your journey alone. Stand behind the picket fence and above the street on the overpass. Have a car drive you to Oswald’s boarding house, and then take the short walk to the site of the Tippit shooting. Then get a car to the Texas Theatre, where Oswald was arrested. Go inside. Have a drink at the bar. See the physical theater where Oswald was arrested. There’s more value to doing these things on your own because it allows you to properly discuss each stop.

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Training Camp Preview Pod: Offense

| July 18th, 2024

I joined forces with Bill Zimmerman over at Windy City Gridiron to preview the Bears’ Training Camp — if you’re looking for a primer on some of the offense’s upcoming camp stories, look no further!

Coming up, I hope to have a few in-depth training camp previews out on the site… but for now, we’re still in the final days of the offseason. We posted the defensive episode earlier this week, so today’s edition is the corresponding offensive episode.

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Training Camp Preview Pod: Defense

| July 16th, 2024

I joined forces with Bill Zimmerman over at Windy City Gridiron to preview the Bears’ Training Camp — if you’re looking for a primer on some of the defense’s upcoming camp stories, look no further!

Coming up, I hope to have a few in-depth training camp previews out on the site… but for now, we’re still in the final days of the offseason. Take in this defensive episode today and I’ll post the corresponding offensive episode soon after.

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