A Deep Dive into the WRs, Part II: Depth, Downs, and Red Zone

| May 21st, 2024

This is the 2nd part of a 2-part series exploring Chicago’s top trio of WRs, which includes accomplished NFL veterans DJ Moore and Keenan Allen to go with top 10 pick Rome Odunze.

In part one, we examined overall efficiency, production from the slot, and impact against man and zone coverage. Today, we will explore target depth, 3rd/4th down production, and usage in the red zone. Like in part one, data presented is for the NFL only, so Odunze will not be in tables, but I will try to provide context for his performance in these areas when possible.

Targets by Depth

Let’s start by examining how frequently and effectively Moore and Allen were targeted at different depths of the field. The table below shows this data split into four depths: behind the line of scrimmage, 0-9 yards downfield, 10-19 yards downfield, and 20+ yards downfield. A variety of production metrics are given in each depth, along with Moore and Allen’s ranks compared to the 54 WRs with 75+ total targets in 2023. Ranks in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red, and the high, average, and low values of the 54-player sample are shown for context. All data is from Pro Football Focus (PFF).

(Side note: sorry if the formatting is poor for the graph. You can click on it to see it in a new window in full if it’s not showing up right for you.)

A few thoughts:

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A Deep Dive into the WRs, part I: Total Usage + Man vs. Zone

| May 20th, 2024

After lacking talent at the wide receiver position for the better part of the last decade, the Bears have completely revamped the room in the last two offseasons with the additions of DJ Moore, Keenan Allen, and Rome Odunze, and they now boast what might be the best WR trio in the NFL.

This week I want to dive into the WRs, with an in-depth look at:

  • How efficient they were
  • How frequently and efficiently they played in the slot
  • How they performed against man and zone coverage
  • How frequently and efficiently they were targeted at different depths of the field
  • 3rd and 4th down production
  • Red zone usage

We’ll examine the first three areas today, with a follow-up piece tomorrow looking at the latter half of the list.

I want to note that the analysis will mostly focus on Moore and Allen, since they have NFL production that is easier to analyze and contextualize. I’ll provide some Odunze stats when relevant, but it’s hard to say for sure how college production and/or usage will translate to the NFL.

Overall Stats

Let’s start with a basic look at overall production in 2023. The table below shows how Moore and Allen ranked compared to all NFL wide receivers in the basic receiving stats.

At first glance, it is easy to see that both players were among the most productive in the NFL in 2023, and that wasn’t a one-year fluke either. Moore is currently averaging over 1000 yards per season in his career, and Allen is as well if you don’t count the season when he only played one game.

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Recapping Rookie Minicamp

| May 13th, 2024

The Bears held their annual Rookie Minicamp over the weekend, and if you’re like me the festivities of Mother’s Day Weekend meant that today is a catch-up day for minicamp news. Here’s what you missed:

Rookie OT Kiran Amegadjie Will Not Participate In Chicago’s Offseason Program

Head Coach Matt Eberflus revealed that Amegadjie’s quad injury will keep him out of the entire offseason program. The news isn’t totally unexpected, but a bummer nevertheless — here’s wishing Kiran a swift recovery.

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A Closer Look at New OC Shane Waldron: Personnel and Formation

| May 7th, 2024

In addition to adding 5 new starters on offense this offseason, the Bears fired offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and replaced him with Shane Waldron, who spent the previous 3 years holding the same position in Seattle.

In order to better understand what Chicago’s offense might look like in 2024, I’ve been digging into data about Waldron’s offenses at his last stop. I looked at down and distance play calling tendencies yesterday, and today want to explore personnel and formation trends.

Today’s data comes from Sumer Sports, which only has information for 2022 and 2023, so nothing from Waldron’s 1st season in Seattle will be included.

Personnel Groupings

Let’s start by looking at common personnel groupings, which looks solely at the listed position of players on the field and not where they are lined up. These groupings are commonly listed by 2 numbers, where the 1st is the number of running backs and the 2nd is the number of tight ends. Since teams play 5 skill position players at a time, the number of wide receivers is then implied. The 2 most common groupings are 11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) and 12 (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR).

The table below shows how frequently the Seahawks and Bears used and passed out of each grouping on 1st-2nd down in 2023, along with their ranks compared to the rest of the NFL. Values in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are red. Seattle’s data from 2022 is included as well for comparison.

(side note: if the table gets cut off, click on it to view the full table in a new screen)

A few thoughts:

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A Closer Look at New OC Shane Waldron: Trends Based On Down & Distance

| May 6th, 2024

The Bears have seen a massive changeover in offensive personnel this offseason. QB Justin Fields, RB D’Onta Foreman, WR Darnell Mooney, WR Equanimeous St. Brown, TE Robert Tonyan, IOL Cody Whitehair, and IOL Lucas Patrick, who combined to account for over 4100 offensive snaps in 2023, are no longer on the roster.

The Bears have replaced those players with QB Caleb Williams, RB D’Andre Swift, WR Keenan Allen, WR Rome Odunze, TE Gerald Everett, IOL Ryan Bates, and IOL Coleman Shelton. It’s safe to say these players are a significant net upgrade, and the Bears invested heavily (draft picks 1, 9, and 144 and $45M in salary cap spending on the veterans) to make sure that would be the case.

In addition to changing over the players, the Bears brought in a new offensive coaching staff, and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron will be tasked with turning this talent into a cohesive and effective unit. Since Waldron spent three years as the play caller in Seattle, this week I want to dig into his data to see what we can learn that might translate to Chicago. I am going to focus mostly on what his play calling tendencies were and less on how effective the offense was, because effectiveness will depend significantly on personnel and will be entirely different in Chicago.

We’ll start today by looking at Waldron’s down and distance trends, and will examine personnel groupings tomorrow.

1st down

Let’s start with examining what Waldron liked to do on 1st down. The table below shows how often Seattle called a passing play vs. a running play, how many of their passes went deep down the field (15+ yards past the line of scrimmage in the air), and how many of their runs were inside the tackles. A few quick notes:

  • To remove game situation as much as possible, I only looked at plays between the 20s in the first three quarters. This is a look at what Waldron liked to do in fairly neutral situations. These same criteria will apply to all data in this article.
  • I looked at Seattle for 2021, 2022, and 2023 so we could see what trends were consistent from year to year and what ones changed. This might give hints as to what Waldron will likely keep vs. what might shift depending on personnel.
  • I also showed what Chicago looked like in 2023, so we can get a general idea of how things might change compared to what we saw last year.
  • To put all these numbers in context, I provided the high, average, and low values for all 32 NFL teams in 2023, and where the 2023 Bears and Seahawks ranked in each category. Values in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.
  • All data comes from Pro Football Reference’s game play finder.

A few thoughts:

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What’s Going On With Chicago’s Stadium?

| May 2nd, 2024

Following Kevin Warren and the Bears releasing renderings of a new Chicago lakefront stadium last week, Governer Pritzker’s office responded with a statement yesterday that called the Bears’ proposal a “non starter for the state”. Full quote in the tweet below:

How will the Bears’ stadium project proceed? What are they going to do with their purchased Arlington Heights lot? We’ll have to wait and see.

Your Turn: What do you think about the Bears’ Stadium debacle?

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Caleb Williams Is Already Hard At Work This Offseason

| May 1st, 2024

This quote from a 670 The Score interview with Will Hewlett struck me yesterday — seems as if the Bears used the assurance that came from the #1 overall pick to give Chicago’s signal-caller a head start compared to most rookies.

Given that he’ll need to be a leader in offensive meetings as soon as possible, I love hearing that the Bears are doing everything they can to help him hit the ground running. That extra time with the offense’s basics should make initial installs that much more effective.

Also, early reports from Bears’ throwing sessions are that Caleb Williams is throwing with anticipation during early work with his receivers. DJ Moore expands below:

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Monday Morning Draft Grades — Reviewing Day 1’s Haul In-Depth

| April 29th, 2024

Quick Disclaimer: I hate Draft Grades.

These flimsy ‘grades’ are built far too quickly and rely entirely on the grader’s (my) priors, ultimately boiling down to questions like these:

  • Did I like the players Ryan Poles drafted before we entered draft week?
  • Do I agree with Poles’ teambuilding philosophy or do I want to hold it against him?
  • Do I think Poles ‘over-drafted’ any of the players he selected? Or did he ‘steal’ a few of his players instead?

These questions leave far too much room for subjectivity and ask the grader to make too many judgement calls, often resulting in guesses and good vibes that include some context while leaving out others. Take for instance the grades handed out to Ryan Pace’s 2019 Draft, arguably the worst Bears draft in recent memory — would it surprise you that a draft without a 1st or 2nd round pick still received multiple ‘A’s and quite a few ‘B’s? What does any of that mean?

Maybe it’s my engineering background, but I want to measure Ryan Poles’ latest draft against something a bit more firm — I want to assess the ‘value’ he got out of the 2024 draft, and I believe that requires a new set of questions to measure Poles against:

  • Do Ryan Poles’ 2024 selections make sense within the Bears’ current contention timeframe?
  • Which positions did Ryan Poles target? How difficult is replacing/upgrading each selection’s position outside of the draft?
  • Does each chosen player fill a role within Chicago’s big picture? If so, how important is that role?
  • How much success does each chosen player need to achieve to justify their selection?
  • Finally, what do I think of the player?

With our criteria set, I think we can properly assess Poles’ 2024 Draft Class. Let’s dive right in with…

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