Bears Offensive Line Is Built on Hope More Than Certainty

| July 28th, 2023

While it isn’t the dire situation we saw a year ago, the Chicago Bears have entered training camp with questions along their offensive line.

The Bears made two big investments in their offensive line, signing guard Nate Davis and drafting tackle Darnell Wright, but it’s still worth questioning if that is enough. The Bears will be relying on three unproven players as well as two veterans who need to step forward in 2023, and for this offensive line to compete against the best defensive lines on their schedule they’ll need quite a bit of luck to break their way.

The offensive tackle position could be problematic. The upside of both Wright and left tackle Braxton Jones is apparent — both have everything one could want from a physical standpoint. Wright played well at Tennessee last year and there’s no reason to second-guess the team for picking him. That said, it isn’t unusual for tackles to struggle as rookies.

Teams can usually live with rookie struggles, but Braxton Jones is hardly a proven commodity on the other side. He played well for a fifth-round pick last year, but still wasn’t playing at what most would consider a starting level. In 206 true pass sets — defined by Pro Football Focus as pass plays that exclude plays with fewer than four rushers, play action, screens, short drop backs and time to throw under two seconds — Jones allowed 30 pressures. That’s the 10th most in the league, despite having just 206 snaps in those situations. PFF graded Jones’ pass blocking efficiency in true pass sets 57th out of 60 players with at least 150 true pass sets. He wasn’t even as efficient as Larry Borom was as a rookie, though the upsides of both players aren’t close.

Going into camp without any competition for Jones is certainly a bet on upside and coaching. If it pays off, Ryan Poles and company will look like geniuses. If it doesn’t and Wright goes through typical rookie struggles, the Bears are going to have a major problem.

The concerns aren’t limited to the tackle position though.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,


Dannehy: Kyler Gordon Key to Defense

| June 29th, 2023

The first draft pick Ryan Poles made is going to be among the keys to the team having a successful 2023 season. There is no question Kyler Gordon’s rookie campaign got off to a horrendous start. He was injured for much of camp and, apparently, had a target on his back when he returned to the lineup. In the Bears’ first three games, nearly half of the passing yards the team gave up came with Gordon in coverage.

But he got better and better and there’s reason to think that improvement will continue.

After allowing 305 yards in coverage the first three games, Gordon allowed just 459 the rest of the season. In five of the next 11 games, he held the receivers he was covering to 25 yards or fewer, while intercepting three passes and allowing two touchdowns.

There are going to be two keys for the Bears to get the most out of Gordon this year and both should be easily obtainable.

The first is already a stated goal – to play him strictly in the slot. Most of Gordon’s rookie snaps came in the slot, where he lined up 431 times compared to 295 outside, according to Pro Football Focus. Gordon allowed 41 catches on 45 targets with two touchdowns and two interceptions as a slot defender. The passer rating (107.8) allowed still isn’t impressive, but passer ratings aren’t necessarily a good way to judge slot defenders. Of the 24 players who had 200 or more coverage snaps in the slot, 13 allowed passer ratings above 100. Indianapolis’ Kenny Moore allowed a rating of 121.1 last year.

Read More …

Tagged: ,


Dannehy: Pressure Is On Luke Getsy

| June 22nd, 2023

When the Chicago Bears hired Luke Getsy, there was fear that he would only be with the team for one year. While he had never been an NFL offensive coordinator, Getsy was a highly thought of assistant coach and interviewed to be the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Many thought he would get more looks with even moderate success in Chicago.

But that didn’t happen.

Getsy’s offense finished 31st in yardage, 28th in scoring and 25th in DVOA. They were first in rushing, but dead last — by a reasonable margin — in passing. While it’s debatable how much of that is Getsy’s fault, the reality is NFL general managers didn’t see enough to consider bringing the Bears offensive coordinator in for an interview.

Getsy did some really good things in his first year with the Bears. The team went through a fairly long streak of having a good offense until injuries piled up late. But Getsy also deserves blame for their slow start; it shouldn’t have taken until the “mini-bye” to change the offense to fit the skillset of the quarterback. They had 48 net passing yards in Week 2, 82 in Week 3; clearly their plan entering the season was inadequate.

There was a lack of talent, sure, but the team’s passing offense was historically bad. The Mitch Trubisky/Mike Glennon Bears had nearly 1,000 more passing yards in one fewer game with Kendall Wright as the leading wide receiver.

There may still be a question about Justin Fields, but the young quarterback showed promise early in his career. Say what you will about Matt Nagy’s Bears but the team adjusted and there was reason to be optimistic about the passing game going forward. After the embarrassing one net-passing yard display against Cleveland, the team didn’t have fewer than 100 the rest of the season. That was with a rookie version of Fields and a supporting cast that wasn’t all that different from what Getsy was given.

Read More …



Dannehy: Eberflus Defense Can Be Productive Without Pressure

| June 15th, 2023

Much of the current discussion regarding the 2023 Chicago Bears has been about the need to add another pass rusher. While that certainly would be nice, Eberflus has already shown us he doesn’t need a great pass rush to have a productive defense. Do the Bears certainly need to get after the quarterback better than they did in 2022, when they managed an abysmal 20 sacks and pressured quarterbacks on just 15.9 percent of drop backs, ranking 32nd and 31st in the league? Of course. But the truth is, Eberflus never had a great pass rush in Indianapolis and still managed to produce quality defenses every year.

In his four seasons as the Colts defensive coordinator, the team never ranked better than 18th in pressure percentage (per Pro Football Reference) or 12th in sacks and were never worse than 18th in scoring defense or 16th in yardage. The key to Eberflus’ defense is takeaways, something he has managed to do annually despite not getting pressure.

The Colts were top ten in takeaways every year Eberflus called their defense. In his final season in Indianapolis, they were second in takeaways, despite ranking 31st in pressure percentage and 25th in sacks. Even last year, the Bears did a good job taking the ball away, finishing 14th in the league, despite their inability to breath on opposing quarterbacks.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,


Dannehy: Trip Around the NFC North

| June 8th, 2023

The Chicago Bears shouldn’t be favored to win the NFC North, but they certainly have a shot to take what is now a weak division. The Lions are the favorites, and rightfully so, but Detroit missed a major opportunity to improve at key positions and further separate themselves from the rest of the division. The Minnesota Vikings are the defending champions, but their limp to the finish line brings up many questions. And the Packers, well, where do we start?

These are things Ryan Poles was surely looking at when he told The Athletic the team should contend for the NFC North. Here’s a quick snapshot at each of the teams and why the Bears could top them.

Detroit Lions

There’s a lot to like about the Detroit Lions but that can be found all over the internet. In short, the Lions had a top-five offense in 2022 and their defense allowed a hair over 20 points per game in the second half of the year. They finished 8-2 with convincing wins over the Vikings and Packers.

But there are issues with the Lions that are largely going ignored.

  • They need quarterback Jared Goff to continue playing at a level at which he has not previously played.
  • They need him to do this while being shorthanded at wide receiver. Losing DJ Chark wasn’t supposed to be significant because Jameson Williams was going to fill the void, stretching the field vertically, but Williams has been suspended for six games for gambling. Without Chark’s speed on the field — he missed six games — the powerful Lions offense averaged fewer than 20 points per game last year.
  • The team made considerable investments in the running back position, but was that really a weakness last year? Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift combined for more than 1,600 rushing yards, with an average of 4.45 per carry and had 22 rushing touchdowns. Swift caught 48 passes for 389 yards and three more touchdowns. If they upgraded, it’s hard to see them being more productive.
  • There’s also the matter of Ben Johnson. There’s no question that he is a bright offensive mind, but now teams will have a full season of work to study and figure out how to stop him.

We can comfortably assume Detroit’s defense will improve, after being bottom-five in both scoring and yardage last year. How much is a bit of a mystery, though. They made some improvements in the secondary but spent a first-round pick on an inside linebacker — a position that wasn’t a strength, but also not necessarily a weakness.

On paper, the Lions should be favored to win the NFC North. But it isn’t hard to see why that might not happen.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , ,


Dannehy: Winners and Losers of Off-Season, Bears Edition

| June 1st, 2023

As Chicago’s roster takes shape after what was thought to be a monumental offseason, it’s becoming clear who may or may not be key parts of the team going forward, despite what was previously believed. Here are three winners and three losers of the 2023 offseason.


Justin Fields

Fields has to make this list because the team announced with authority that Fields is The Guy.

Even after last season, it was fair to question if the Bears viewed Fields as the quarterback they wanted moving forward. (If we all acknowledge the moves Poles made this offseason show the team’s commitment to Fields, then we must also acknowledge that the moves Poles made last year showed uncertainty about the young quarterback.) The Bears did their homework on the quarterbacks in the draft — a decent group — and instead decided to stick with Fields, knowing they almost certainly wouldn’t be in position to draft a replacement next year.

Poles added a top-20 wide receiver and replaced the entire right side of the offensive line. He signed a free agent running back and drafted another; added a wide receiver in the draft and signed a tight end who has been a productive player in the NFL.

Fields is the guy, now he has to reward the faith.

Teven Jenkins

Jenkins might have to fight for his job but there’s no question he will enter training camp as the favorite to start at left guard. Many expected the Bears to spend a Day Two pick on either a center or a guard. Instead, the team didn’t draft a single interior offensive lineman. That means Jenkins is penciled in at left guard with Cody Whitehair shifting to center and Lucas Patrick backing both of them up.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,


Dannehy: Leonard Floyd Returning Best Answer to Pass Rush Problem

| May 25th, 2023

Leonard Floyd’s career was seen as a disappointment.

The GM who traded up to draft him with the ninth overall pick rescinded his fifth-year option and instead signed an older player, Robert Quinn. While Quinn had one great season with the Bears, that move looks like a clear mistake; Floyd picked up 29 sacks in three years with the Rams.

It isn’t just the sacks. Floyd had 22 quarterback hits last year, 18 the year before and 19 in 2020 — the three best totals of his career. A large part of the success has to do with Aaron Donald constantly destroying the pocket. Another part is just that the Rams let him rush the passer more; Floyd had 442 pass-rush snaps with the Bears in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus. He averaged 561 per season with the Rams.

Floyd would bring speed and bend off the edge that the Bears don’t currently have. He has also been durable, not missing a game since 2017. Will that continue? (He’ll turn 31 next season.)

Read More …



Dannehy: Good Off-Season Plan Should Have Bears in Division Mix

| May 18th, 2023

Criticism of Ryan Poles’ first year is arguably warranted. Not only did he construct the worst team in the league, but the Bears didn’t come away with a clear answer on if Justin Fields is the franchise quarterback. This offseason, however, should remedy both issues. The key will be two Poles evaluations: Fields and head Matt Eberflus. The good news is there’s reason for optimism in both cases.

From Weeks 4 to 16, Fields was 10th amongst quarterbacks in EPA per play. While that takes into account his rushing totals, why wouldn’t one take that into account? In that time span, Fields had a passer rating of 95, while putting up per game averages that would equate to more than 4,300 total yards and 33 touchdowns. It doesn’t really matter how he got the yards and touchdowns; it all counts the same.


Protection improvements, as well as the addition of DJ Moore, should help Fields as a passer. And while fans may have to accept that Fields is unlikely to ever become Patrick Mahomes from the pocket, he has shown enough to think he can be along the lines of Jalen Hurts.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,


Blues and Reds: The Final Chicago Bears Big Board 

| April 27th, 2023

When creating a big board for the Chicago Bears ahead of tonight’s NFL Draft, it’s important to consider separate categories.

Ryan Poles has spoken about “blue” and “red” players. Blue players are obviously the elite, reds are a step down. He hasn’t been consistent in how many blue players he sees in this draft, but he had indicated that he thinks the team can get one with the ninth pick. Though he previously said there were seven blue players, including quarterbacks, we can probably figure out which players he might target early.

But there is another option.

The Bears don’t want to make a pick at nine. They’d certainly like to move back and pick up an earlier second-round pick, giving them two in the top 50. That opens up many other options But if the Bears stay at nine, they have to take a blue player.

On Tuesday, Ian Cunningham said there are six-to-eight players the Bears were comfortable taking with the ninth overall pick. I’m betting the list includes the likes of Will Anderson and Tyree Wilson, who aren’t likely to be there. I’m also comfortable with assuming Devon Witherspoon will be gone. With that, I took a shot at guessing the players atop the Bears board.

Blue Players

1. Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio St.

If there is an offensive lineman worth taking with a top-10 pick this year, it’s Johnson.

Unlike Peter Skoronski, Johnson has the length to translate seamlessly to the NFL. And unlike Broderick Jones, Johnson is polished enough to play immediately.

Johnson will need to add strength and refine his technique, but he certainly has the upside to lock down the left tackle position for years. Johnson isn’t the best player on this list, but he would fill the biggest need.

Read More …

Tagged: ,


Dannehy: When it Comes to the Draft, Expect the Expected

| April 20th, 2023

One of the biggest misconceptions about Ryan Poles’ first NFL Draft is that he didn’t draft for need.

If the Bears didn’t have Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker starting at cornerback and safety last year, who would have been the starters at those positions? Both players were inserted into the starting lineup on their first day. While 2022 third-round pick Velus Jones Jr. never met expectations, there’s no question that wide receiver was also a need. So was the team’s fourth pick, offensive tackle Braxton Jones.

Ryan Poles can talk about taking the best player available all he wants but, looking back, it’s obvious the Bears saw clear needs and used the draft to attempt to fill them.

The confusion regarding those first two picks is a result of perception. Entering the 2022 draft, Bears fans were mostly excited about Thomas Graham Jr. at cornerback and the team had signed veteran slot corner Tavon Young. The team clearly saw it differently as neither Young nor Graham played a snap for the Poles/Matt Eberflus Bears.

So, what does that mean for this year? The Bears will draft for need, but it might not necessarily be the need we’re looking at. At least, not right away.

The public perception is that the team’s biggest need – offensive tackle – will fit nicely with the best players available when they’re picking. But we have no real way of knowing how the Bears view the offensive tackle class. It’s also possible that the Bears think the offensive line scouting talents of Poles and AGM Ian Cunningham will help them uncover some diamonds in the rough later, allowing them to focus on other positions early.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,