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All Gas No Brakes — Sharing The Most Recklessly Positive 2024 Chicago Bears Theories Possible

| June 13th, 2024

Traditionally, the Bear With Us podcast is a grounded, analysis-focused take on the Chicago Bears.

That’s great for the middle of the season, but right now it’s June. Theoretically we could always talk more about OTAs, or maybe talk about the Haason Reddick and Aaron Rodgers drama, but now that we’re into the dead of the offseason I had a better idea — for one week, Nick and I allowed ourselves to be as recklessly positive as we felt like. The episode that resulted is an absolute firecracker.

Tune into this week’s episode for:

  • My theory on how the Bears may be coincidentally positioned to catch the NFL in a 2-3 year downswing
  • Nick’s theory on Caleb Williams’ potential 2024 season results
  • A short discussion on whether Rome Odunze will end his career holding Chicago’s career WR yardage record… as well as whether he’ll be the first current Bear to claim it
  • And much, much more…

Your Turn: How are you feeling about the 2024 Chicago Bears?

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Zooming in on Chicago’s Pass Rush, Part 3: Defensive Tackles

| June 12th, 2024

This is the final installment of a 3-part series looking at Chicago’s 2023 pass rush.

  • In part one, we learned that the Bears had one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL, though it improved a bit after trading for Montez Sweat, especially when they were willing to blitz.
  • In part two, we saw that Montez Sweat is a good but not great pass rusher, while all of the other defensive ends on the roster are bad at rushing the passer.

Today, we’re going to end the series by exploring Chicago’s defensive tackles.

Overall Efficiency

We’ll start with a season-long look at how Chicago’s main defensive tackles performed when rushing the passer. The table below shows a variety of per-snap metrics, including how they ranked compared to the 98 DTs league-wide who had at least 200 pass rush snaps. A few quick notes:

  • All data comes from Pro Football Focus (PFF).
  • Win rate is the percentage of snaps where PFF determines that the rusher has beaten the blocker at any point in the snap. This is admittedly subjective, and thus should not be used on its own, but can be a helpful part of a larger picture.
  • Pass Rush Productivity is a unique PFF stat that accounts for all sacks, QB hits, and pressures on a per-snap basis, with an added weight given to sacks; a higher value is better.
  • True pass sets look only at plays that do not give offensive linemen a built in advantage: no play action, no screens, and the throw time has to be at least 2 seconds. This lets us see how effectively a player rushes the passer when they most likely know they are getting after the QB, and the offense knows they have to block for a while.
  • Values in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

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Zooming in on Chicago’s Pass Rush, Part 2: Defensive Ends

| June 11th, 2024

This is the 2nd installment of a 3-part series looking at Chicago’s pass rush from 2023. In part one, we learned that the overall team pass rush was among the worst in the NFL.

Today, we’ll be examining how effectively Chicago’s defensive ends rushed the passer last year.

Overall Efficiency

We’ll start with a season-long look at how Chicago’s main defensive ends performed when rushing the passer. The table below shows a variety of per-snap metrics, including how they ranked compared to the 95 edge rushers league-wide who had at least 200 pass rush snaps. A few quick notes:

  • All data comes from Pro Football Focus (PFF).
  • Data for Montez Sweat is only for the 9 games he played in Chicago.
  • Win rate is the percentage of snaps where PFF determines that the rusher has beaten the blocker at any point in the snap. This is admittedly subjective, and thus should not be used on its own, but can be a helpful part of a larger picture.
  • Pass Rush Productivity is a unique PFF stat that accounts for all sacks, QB hits, and pressures on a per-snap basis, with an added weight given to sacks; a higher value is better.
  • True pass sets look only at plays that do not give offensive linemen a built in advantage: no play action, no screens, and the throw time has to be at least 2 seconds. This lets us see how effectively a player rushes the passer when they most likely know they are getting after the QB, and the offense knows they have to block for a while.
  • Values in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

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Zooming in on Chicago’s Pass Rush, Part 1: Team Performance

| June 10th, 2024

This is the start of a 3-part series examining Chicago’s pass rush in 2023 and what expectations should be for 2024. The content covered in each part roughly breaks down as follows:

Part 1: Overall team pass rush, and the impact of trading for Montez Sweat.
Part 2: Defensive end individual pass rushing efficiency.
Part 3: Defensive tackle individual pass rushing efficiency, including rookie progression for Gervon Dexter Sr. and Zacch Pickens.

Let’s dive right in!

Overall results

We’ll start by examining Chicago’s overall team performance rushing the passer last year. The table below shows how the Bears ranked out of 32 NFL teams in generating sacks and pressures, as well as how often they blitzed. All values in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are in red. All data for this article, unless otherwise noted, is from Pro Football Reference.

Side note: sorry if the tables don’t show up well in the article. You can click on them to view in full on a separate page. 

A few thoughts:

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A deep dive into the TEs, part 4: 3rd down, red zone, slot

| May 31st, 2024

This is the final installment of a 4-part series looking at Chicago TEs Cole Kmet and Gerald Everett.

  • In part one, we explored how each player has been used in the past, and how this might match up with how offensive coordinator Shane Waldron has deployed his tight ends.
  • In part two, we examined how frequently and effectively Kmet and Everett were asked to block in both the run and pass games.
  • In part three, we saw how they fared as pass catchers in terms of overall efficiency, against man and zone coverage, and in different depths of the field.

Today we’ll wrap up the series by continuing to focus on their impact catching the football, especially on 3rd/4th down, in the red zone, and out of the slot.

3rd + 4th Down

Let’s start by looking at 3rd and 4th down, when stakes are high and players need to produce a first down to move the chains and avoid a punt. The table below shows how frequently and effectively Kmet and Everett were targeted in these high-leverage situations in 2023. Data is from Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder, ranks in parentheses are compared to the 26 NFL TEs with 50 or more targets, and ranks in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

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A deep dive into the TEs, part 3: efficiency, man vs. zone, target depth

| May 30th, 2024

This is part 3 of a 4-part series looking at Chicago TEs Cole Kmet and Gerald Everett.

  • In part one, we explored how each player has been used in the past, and how this might match up with how offensive coordinator Shane Waldron has deployed his tight ends.
  • In part two, we examined how frequently and effectively Kmet and Everett were asked to block in both the run and pass games.

Today, we’re going to switch gears to focus on the tight ends as pass catchers. We’ll look at overall efficiency, how they performed against zone and man coverage, and how frequently and effectively they were targeted at different depths of the field.

Basic Efficiency Stats

We saw in part 1 that Kmet and Everett both have starting TE volume in the passing game, but volume stats don’t tell you the whole story; we also need to look at how efficient players are with their targets. The table below shows that data for Chicago’s TEs, as well as their ranks compared to 26 TEs with at least 50 targets. Values in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are in red. NFL best, average, and worst values among those 26 players are also included to help contextualize the data. All data is pulled from Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder.

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A deep dive into the TEs, part 2: blocking

| May 29th, 2024

This is the 2nd installment of a 4-part series looking at Chicago TEs Cole Kmet and Gerald Everett. In part one, we explored how each player has been used in the past, and how this might match up with the way offensive coordinator Shane Waldron has deployed his tight ends. Today, we’re going to focus on blocking, which is an often overlooked part of a tight ends’ role.

Pass Blocking

Let’s start by looking at how frequently and effectively Chicago’s TEs pass blocked. The table below shows some basic pass blocking stats from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for Kmet and Everett in 2023, and their rank compared to 45 NFL TEs with at least 25 pass blocking snaps. Ranks in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

A brief explanation of some of the stats:

Side note: sorry if there are formatting issues for the tables. You can view them in full by clicking on them. 

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A deep dive into the TEs, part 1: usage

| May 28th, 2024

After handing Cole Kmet a big extension last offseason and signing Gerald Everett to a solid contract in free agency this year, the Bears have two starting-caliber tight ends on the roster. Both players were heavily utilized in the passing game in 2023, which can be seen in the table below showing their basic receiving production, with ranks compared to other NFL TEs in parentheses.

Kmet was among the top 10 TEs in every stat, while Everett generally ranked in the 15-25 range, which would put him as roughly an average to below average starter. Their pay checks also reflect the expectation that both players are expected to play starting-type roles, as they currently rank 9th (Kmet) and 21st (Everett) among TEs in average yearly salary. Since both players will be playing important roles in Chicago’s offense in 2024, this week’s series is going to take a detailed look at how each of them could be useful. We’ll split this into four parts:

  • Part 1:
    • How new OC Shane Waldron has utilized his TE in the past
    • How this compares to Kmet and Everett’s usage
  • Part 2:
    • How frequently and effectively they blocked
  • Part 3:
    • How efficient they were overall as pass catchers
    • How they performed against man and zone coverage
    • How frequently and efficiently they were targeted at different depths of the field
  • Part 4:
    • 3rd and 4th down production
    • Red zone usage
    • How frequently and efficiently they produced in the slot

Waldron TE Usage

Let’s start with a look at how new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron used his tight ends during his 3 seasons in Seattle. The table below shows information about how much his tight ends played, how frequently they were targeted in the passing game, and where they lined up. TE1-TE3 status for each season is based on total snap counts, and alignment information is pulled from Pro Football Focus (PFF).

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