Checking the Tape: Bears Offense in the Superdome

| November 7th, 2023

It’s a short week for us fans as the Bears get set to play what may just be the biggest remaining game on their schedule — whether you’re a fan cheering for Bears draft position or simply a fan cheering for the Bears, Chicago has a chance to all but lock in a Top 2 Pick in the 2024 NFL Draft with a win over a bad Carolina Panthers team that plays nothing but tough teams (and Green Bay) down the stretch.

But we’ll get to Thursday soon — first, let’s take a look back at what the tape said about Sunday’s offensive showing. My observations (along with associated cut-ups) are listed below:

Sections today are:

  • Discussion of each of the 5 major Offensive Linemen
  • Talking through some of the ‘gross’ within the Bears’ offense
  • Where Bagent won, where Bagent lost, what I’d like to see from Bagent on Thursday
  • A quick Cole Kmet mention

Teven Jenkins played phenomenally

Nobody in a Bears uniform plays with the natural nastiness that Teven Jenkins does, especially when run-blocking. #76 finished run after run against New Orleans and looked like a down-in and down-out leader as he did.

He had a great day in pass protection as well. If he can stay healthy for the rest of the year, I’d hope Ryan Poles explores an offseason extension.

Here’s another look at Teven mauling open a run lane later in the game…

And here’s a flash of Teven’s athleticism when charging out into open space. The DB puts on such heavy breaks he pancakes himself in an effort to get out of Jenkins’ way.

Most of the Offensive Line played well… but not all

Cody Whitehair played a decent game in pass protection, but he’s struggling as a run blocker. One play may not tell a fair story, but plays like this clip below are all too common — when Cody takes on DL (as opposed to combo-releasing up to a linebacker), scenes like this are all too common.

Lucas Patrick was, yet again, a boat anchor in the run game and did very little well. Inconsistency from your is a killer in a run game that’s grinding out 4-6 yards per carry, and to say that Patrick was inconsistent is to put his play on Sunday lightly.

Between horrid snaps earlier in the season and consistently poor play in the run game, it’s a wonder the Bears saw him as the standalone center in 2022. If this was the player they envisioned… they need to dream bigger. (Big thank you to @ButkusStats for aggregating the footage for these next few mentions)

We need to talk about Darnell Wright

There’s little that inspires me more than a player gritting out an injury, but as the league slowly realizes that Darnell Wright is playing through a severe left shoulder issue we’re seeing more EDGE rushers target Wright with inside moves. The moves are working. That bums me out.

Wright can barely run-block to his left side, and any pass-blocking power he’s summoning to stop inside moves comes more from his lower body than it does his left arm. I’m impressed Wright is able to play as serviceably as he is — most NFL Offensive Tackles struggle to stop Cameron Jordan & Maxx Crosby with two arms, let alone with one — but I hope he’s not at risk of further hurting himself as he clearly plays through an injury. Keep an eye on #58.

Also, I wanted to have some glowing write-up of Braxton Jones today but in my opinion he didn’t really do much on Sunday. He struggled kicking out EDGE rushers in the run game and held up in the pass game well, but none of his pass-blocks were particularly exemplary.

I like Braxton & expect him to improve in the run game as he gets healthier over time, but Sunday’s performance was a relatively forgettable one from #70. Nothing wrong with forgettable at Offensive Line.

The Bears’ offense still makes silly mistakes

Receivers run wrong routes, lineman don’t know which cadence the quarterback is using (Braxton’s false start), passing plays commonly see two pass-catchers run to the same spot on the field, and on Sunday a meshing route combination ended in disaster as Darnell Mooney & DJ Moore collided in the middle of the field. Thank goodness for Bagent’s mobility.

Moments like this are much, much too common within Luke Getsy’s offense and have been throughout Matt Eberflus’ entire tenure. Even worse, these mistakes come from established NFL veterans with track records of success — when it’s DJ Moore and Darnell Mooney making silly mistakes in your offense’s second drive, you have to wonder if there are coaching issues at play.

Not Pictured: On Bagent’s 2nd INT (the throw to Mooney), Tyson first looks at Velus Jones Jr. and I’m nearly certain Velus runs the wrong route. Tyson seems to expect a Curl route, but Velus runs a Go route and gets blanketed. The miscommunication makes Tyson late on his throw to Mooney, which gives the New Orleans Safety enough time to cut the throw off. Little mistakes continue to cost the Bears, and at some point the coaching staff has to own the results of these problems.

It doesn’t help anything that occasionally Chicago will call plays that feature the strangest names on the roster — with Chicago down 17-24, they called back-to-back screens on subsequent drives that featured their RB3 (Darrynton Evans) and their WR6 (Velus Jones). Shockingly, neither play worked.

I know I’m just a football writer on the internet, but if you’re going to call a screen late in the game (totally acceptable call) I’d love to see the ball go to one of Chicago’s 3 best offensive weapons. That is, after all, why they went through the trouble of acquiring those weapons… right?

The Tyson Bagent Section

Talking about Tyson Bagent in Chicago right now takes too many words — he’s a UDFA Rookie QB in his 3rd start, but some talk about him as if he’s a 5th year starter with everything to lose while others talk about him as if he can do no wrong under center. As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle

There are plenty of impressive traits Bagent has shown off during his tenure as the Bears’ starting quarterback, including:

  • Exceptional pocket management that has led to fewer sacks. Steps up in the pocket to avoid pressure well.
  • A knack for getting rid of the football when in danger, even when a quick throw requires a funky arm-angle.
  • A quick release that helps his throws reach short-yardage targets on-time even when he’s a hair slow through his reads.

But you obviously can’t expect success when you’re consistently turning the ball over, and right now Bagent needs to find a way to cut some of the turnovers down. Thankfully, I expect he will.

Bagent is clearly in the midst of learning which windows he can fit throws into in the NFL, and in the first half on Sunday I think that made him a bit gun-shy downfield — in the first clip below, Bagent’s first read on this 3rd & 12 Hi-Low concept is a wide open DJ Moore (who’s running a Sail/Flag route that’s perfect against the Saints’ Cover 2/Cover 4 defense), but Bagent doesn’t seem to feel comfortable with the throw and instead chooses to scramble.

Thankfully Bagent gets the first down yardage with his legs and ultimately finishes the drive with a touchdown, but we’d love to see the rookie attempt this throw downfield when it’s open — hitting your open shots downfield keeps defenses honest, which might’ve made passing easier for Bagent in the 4th quarter. But let’s not over-analyze one play — let’s move on to the next one.

Bagent’s mix of inexperience & nerves creates another gun-shy moment on 3rd & 14 later in the 1st half — Chicago gets the perfect counter route for the Saints’ Tampa 2 defense (a Cole Kmet seam up the middle) but Bagent looks at Kmet and decides not to throw it. This ball to Kmet would’ve had a low chance of being completed (and would’ve required a tough catch out of Kmet), but I imagine most QB coaches would want to see Bagent attempt the throw all the same on such a long down & distance — after all, with the ILB’s back turned, what’s the worst thing that could happen? An incompletion leading to a FG attempt?

Bagent uses his legs to stay alive & create a lane to throw the ball away, so he certainly deserves credit for protect the FG attempt once nothing seemed open to him downfield. Still, you’d love to see Tyson challenge NFL windows and give his playmakers a chance to make plays.

Thankfully, in the 3rd clip (the 2nd embedded in this thread), that’s exactly what Tyson did early in the 2nd half — on this 3rd & 7, DJ Moore’s corner route gave Bagent a chance to fit a throw between the DBs & the sideline and Bagent took his shot without hesitation. Delivered a solid ball too — if DJ Moore didn’t catch that, nobody was going to.

DJ Moore didn’t come down with what would’ve been a wild TD catch, but you have to be excited about Tyson’s process on a play like this — plenty of UDFA/Rookie/Young QBs won’t even attempt that throw, but Tyson’s ball gave Moore a chance at a score and any coach will take a throw like that on 3rd & 7.

In showing that he was willing to test tight NFL windows, I think Tyson offered hope that he can be more than just a Checkdown Charlie backup QB. And speaking of taking the checkdowns…

…the Bears offense did a nice job of keeping most throws within the first 3 quarters well within Tyson’s current wheelhouse — the 3rd down conversion shown below is a perfect example of a 3rd down play that gave Tyson two clear options:

  1. Deep out route to Tyler Scott
  2. Middle-of-field crossing route to Darnell Mooney

Tyson didn’t like the leverage of the DB on the outside, so he quickly adjusted to Mooney and fired a strike to #11, who separated wonderfully when needed. Getsy’s issues and all, it’s fun watching this offense grow together — the film of easy-breezy plays like this always gets me excited.

Now, as you know, Tyson’s Sunday story ultimately ended with a few more lessons about how tight 4th quarter NFL passing windows can be — he was a hitch late on the slant throw to Mooney (2nd INT shown below) and threw behind Tyler Scott over the middle (3rd INT), but Bagent targeted the proper receiver on both throws and made mechanical mistakes moreso than mental mistakes.

Can Bagent iron out his accuracy on throws like the tight dig route to Scott? I certainly hope so. If he does, that’d only serve to open up more 3rd down passing concepts for Getsy to use on 3rd downs.

Personally, I think Tyson Bagent is a lot of fun to watch, turnovers and all. Bagent’s production clearly suggests that the kid has skill — in a league where two NFL ‘backups’ threw for 58 yards (Clayton Tune) and 130 yards (Brett Rypien), Bagent has led multiple touchdown drives by empowering his teammates, distributing the ball, and finding ways to convert 3rd downs when needed.

I think we all know that no QB will last long giving the ball away 8 times in 4 games, but Bagent is a rookie UDFA QB starting for a team that’s currently headed nowhere fast — the kid deserves plenty of grace, especially when you remember that he likely spent all Training Camp facing 3rd string defenses that played at a different speed than the defensive starters he’s now facing every week.

Bagent’s shown plenty of flash — now, on Thursday, I hope to see him progress towards consistency. And if this is his final start in Chicago this season, I simply hope he enjoys every minute of it and soaks in the primetime atmosphere.

Cole Kmet is a Dude

The young TE balled out. Hope to see more from him soon.

Your Turn: What stuck out to you within the offense on Sunday? What do you think can change by Thursday?

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