Data Entry: Self-Scouting Chicago’s Offense

| November 6th, 2017

With the extra time over the bye, this is a good chance to take more of a big-picture look at how the Bears have done so far this year. Thus I’m going to be looking in-depth at both their offense and defense to see what lessons we can learn and areas for improvement in the second half.

Today we’re looking at the offense.

Chicago’s offense has generally been bad so far in 2017. They’re 29th out of 32 NFL teams in yards per game, 31st in passing yards per game, and 28th in points per game. The one area where they are not bad is running the ball, where they are 4th in yards per game and 8th in yards per attempt.

These basic stats are easy to look up, but there’s a lot of information that they don’t tell you. In order to break it down a little bit further, 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

Here’s the data for Chicago’s rushing attack in 2017. The line at the bottom is the line of scrimmage, runs are split into 7 zones, and attempts and yards per carry are listed for each zone, with ranks relative to the rest of the NFL in parentheses (all ranks through week 8 only). The height of the bar is proportional to yards per carry, and bars are colored green for top 10, red for bottom 10, and yellow for middle 12. Note expected yards per carry varies by region, so the colors are relative to their peers in that region.

Here we see a lot of green, which is good. Despite defenses loading up to stop them, Chicago’s rushing attack has still managed to mostly be pretty effective. Here’s a few more detailed thoughts (feel free to add yours in the comments below):

  • As was the case in 2016, the Bears really don’t like running up the middle. They continued their 2016 trend of ranking last in attempts there, despite being among the best in efficiency (albeit with a very small sample size). Maybe they might want to consider trying that more.
  • In 2016, they struggled running behind the guards on both sides of the field, and I speculated that was because both Kyle Long and Josh Sitton spent a good portion of the season hurt. It certainly appears that was the case, as the Bears have excelled running behind guard on both sides so far this year.
  • The left/right split is a bit alarming when we look at outside runs (off tackle or end). The Bears have done a great job to the left (continuing 2016 trends) but have been horrible to the right, which was not the case in 2016. The biggest difference are the runs off right end, which the Bears try a lot with very poor success. I don’t know if this is schematic, a result of changeover in wide receivers, or what, but Chicago either needs to stop running outside to the right or figure out how to do it more effectively.
  • Chicago seems to have figured this out a bit, as they have more runs to the left (134) than the right (91). That’s a good job of self-scouting, but they need to be careful their rushing attack doesn’t get too lopsided.

Passing Attack

Here’s the data for Chicago’s passing attack so far this year. Warning: it is not for the faint of heart. The number of plays, completion percentage, and yards per attempt are given for 6 zones. Each zone is colored according to the average of the yards per attempt and completion percentage (green = top 10, red = bottom 10, yellow = middle 12). 

Well that’s a whole lot of red, which is not really surprising considering the Bears rank in the bottom 5 in the NFL in both completion percentage and yards per attempt. Still, here’s a few more detailed thoughts; please feel free to add yours in the comments section below.

  • The balance is pretty good overall. They’ve thrown 74 passes to the left, 61 to the middle, and 86 to the right. I’m curious how those ratios might change for Mike Glennon vs. Mitchell Trubisky (who seems to prefer the right side), but unfortunately do not have that breakdown.
  • The Bears have been surprisingly effective to the middle of the field, and actually target those areas fairly frequently (relative to the rest of the NFL). The green box in the deep middle probably doesn’t mean much due to the small sample size, but their effectiveness in the short middle area is also better than to either side. I’ll be curious to see if that continues going forward.
  • I really don’t have much here outside of that. Their passing game has been awful due to a combination of bad play calling, bad WR play, and bad QB play.

Overall Takeaways

The overall conclusions here aren’t that surprising: the rushing attack is good and the passing attack is bad. Anybody who’s watched even a quarter of Bears football this year could have told you the same thing. The two main lessons I took out of this and will be watching for in the 2nd half of the season are the right vs. left splits (and attempts) on the ground and the Bears’ ability to work the middle of the field through the air.

What are your thoughts?

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