Self-Scouting the 2018 Bears Offense

| May 13th, 2019

Chicago’s offense was generally mediocre in 2018. We all know this. They finished 21st in the NFL in yards per game, 9th in points scored (a number buoyed by a bunch of defensive touchdowns), and 20th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. 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 changes.

In an effort to do this, I used the NFL Game Statistics Information System and Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder 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.

Rushing Attack

Chicago’s ground game was not very good in 2018. Though they finished 11th in rushing yards and tied for 7th in rushing touchdowns, they were 27th in yards/carry, indicating those first two totals were more a product of volume than a true sign of success. Now let’s break it down by different areas of the field.

Here’s the data for Chicago’s rushing attack in 2018.

  • 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.
  • 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.

Of course, yards/attempt can be clouded by when you’re running in a specific direction. A 2 yard run on 1st and 10 is bad, but it’s a positive outcome on 3rd and 1. To account for that, I also looked at success rate, which takes down and distance into consideration and categorizes every play as either a success or failure based on how well it helps you stay ahead of the chains (full explanation here). The following chart was pulled from Sharp Football and looks at the Bears’ success rate by direction. The numbers on the bottom indicate how that compares to the NFL average.

A few thoughts:

  • The rushing attack was particularly bad between the tackles, but that’s where the Bears had most of their runs. 54% of their rush attempts were between the tackles, and they were consistently among the least efficient teams in the NFL at those carries in terms of yards/carry. I’m not sure if this is due to the offensive line or Jordan Howard. Howard had 170 of Chicago’s 240 carries between the tackles, and he averaged 3.3 yards/carry on those runs. Note that they were decent in success rate relative to their NFL peers, which indicates they ran it between the tackles a lot in short-yardage situations.

  • The outside runs were more effective, especially when you consider the ranks relative to their peers. Some of this might be buoyed by Mitchell Trubisky scrambles, who had 36 carries (at 8.2 yards/carry) outside. It’s also worth noting Tarik Cohen saw most of his work outside; 61 of his 99 carries were outside the tackles, and he averaged  4.7 yards/carry here. Howard had 73 carries outside the tackles and averaged 4.0 yards/carry.
  • I wrote last offseason that Andy Reid’s offense typically relied more on inside zone runs, but new coach Matt Nagy would be wise to shift to more of an outside zone-type attack like Philadelphia utilized under Reid protege Doug Pederson. Unfortunately, it appears Nagy disagreed, and it hampered Chicago’s offense. We’ll see if the move to swap Howard out for David Montgomery and Mike Davis – both of whom have been good between the tackles – changes that in 2019.

Passing Attack

Chicago’s 2018 aerial attack was almost the definition of average. They finished 14th in passer rating, 17th in yards/attempt, and 14th in touchdowns.

Here’s the data for Chicago’s passing attack in 2018. 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).

A few thoughts:

  • Again we see a whole lot of average. At least they were consistent in that regard.
  • One thing I do note is that Trubisky likes to attack deep outside. Those were the two areas where the Bears had the highest rate of passes relative to their peers. Unfortunately, he wasn’t particularly effective in those throws, as previously noted. Hopefully that can improve a bit going forward.
  • There’s been some talk the last few years about Trubisky being unable to throw left. While these numbers don’t really back that up, it is worth noting that he throws it right more frequently (mirroring the same trend we saw in 2017). The overall breakdown for him for the season was 146 throws (34%) to the left, 109 throws (26%) to the middle, and 172 throws (40%) to the right.

Tagged: ,