Checking the Tape: Bears vs Vikings

| October 18th, 2023

Watching the Bears’ tape is a mess — nothing meshes together. What Getsy wants to do isn’t what Fields wants to do, and the Bears can’t do anything that Fields wants to do well against blitzing teams.

You can tell Getsy’s answers to Minnesota’s blitzes were quick throws out wide, but Fields couldn’t execute some of them and Whitehair’s snaps ruined others.

Then, the Bears pivoted towards more max protect. Fields looked more comfortable, but the OL couldn’t ID blitzes properly and gave away bad matchups (like Foreman on Hunter/Foreman on a blitzer with runway) leading to more pressure, no throws downfield, and the QB taking more hits.

Some of the above is still on Getsy, because plenty of routes too WAY too long to resolve against the blitz — Mooney jukes the air in the red zone, Trent Taylor runs the longest whip route in existence, etc. Of course, neither is open in time to beat the pressure (and one leads to the INT).

It’s easy to make this out to be a QB-only problem, but it’s the same problem we’ve seen all season — when the Bears’ initial plan doesn’t work, Getsy and Fields’ philosophical disagreements result in awful football that can’t even compete with opposing defenses.

Of course, this magnifies every mistake that the OL makes — if CHI doesn’t get the exact look they want and perfect protection up front, the play might as well be over. It doesn’t feel like there’s much chemistry between the QB and his outlets when things go haywire.

But if all the above wasn’t bad enough, sometimes the Bears do get the exact look they want with perfect protection up front, like the play shown below (Yes, it’s the tweet that includes this very thread):

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , ,


A Closer Look at WRs, Part II: Depth, Downs, and Dimensions

| July 6th, 2023

In Part I, we saw that DJ Moore is a legitimate WR1 who should excel with better QB play, Darnell Mooney is a quality WR2 who is pretty well-rounded, and Chase Claypool can be a solid starter if he rebounds from a disastrous 2022 season. Today, we’re going to look at their involvement in the passing game through a number of other lenses.

Targets by Depth

Let’s start by looking at how frequently and effectively Chicago’s WRs were targeted at various depths of the field. The table below shows their stats compared to 80 NFL WRs with 50+ targets in 2022. Areas where they ranked in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while areas in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red. 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:

    • The first thing that stands out is that all three WRs saw a high percent of their targets deep down the field. This fully matches with where Justin Fields likes to throw, and should make for some fun football in 2023 as the Bears live out every Madden player’s fantasy and go bombs away.
      • Of course, the efficiency each WR posted on those downfield passes was not as stellar as the volume.
        • Moore was generally above average in the 20+ yard range after being around average in volume and effectiveness in 2020-21. It’s worth noting, however, that More has spent his last three years in Carolina catching passes from a poo-poo platter of QBs, and his overall deep efficiency has been much better than anybody else on the Panthers. It is reasonable to expect that he will be better on deep balls in 2023 catching passes from a better deep ball passer.
        • Mooney was generally below average on deep balls in 2022, which was disappointing considering how well Fields did overall throwing to that area. Mooney was much better on deep passes from Fields in 2021, which gives hope that he can rebound now that he is no longer the WR1 drawing the bulk of defensive attention.
        • Claypool really struggled on deep balls (and pretty much everything else) in 2022, but he was much better in 2020-21, when he saw an even higher 25% of his targets 20+ yards down the field and posted respectable catch rates (35%) and yards/target marks (12.6).
      • On the flip side, Moore and Mooney saw a very low rate of their targets on short passes 0-9 yards downfield, which is an area where Fields has really struggled so far in his career. All three players also struggled when they were targeted short. That may not mesh well with helping Fields grow and improve.
        • It is worth noting that the short game was a big change for Moore in 2022. In 2020-21, he saw 40% of his targets in this range, and posted a highly respectable 72% catch rate and 7.7 yards/target. This gives hope that Moore’s short struggles in 2022 were more due to the offense and QB play than any deficiency on Moore’s part.
        • Likewise, Claypool saw much different short target usage prior to 2022, seeing far fewer targets in this range (39%) but being much more effective with them (78% catch rate, 7.4 yards/target).
      • For the 2nd year in a row, Mooney saw a high rate of targets behind the line of scrimmage but posted poor efficiency on those targets. I’m sure coaches are thinking that getting him the ball on screens gives him a chance to use his blazing speed to pick up easy yards, but it doesn’t seem to be working well, so hopefully we see less of that in 2023.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , ,


A Closer Look at WRs, Part I: Total Usage, Man vs. Zone

| July 5th, 2023

All of a sudden, the Bears’ WR room looks fairly solid, as they return Darnell Mooney, their leading receiver over the last two years, added Chase Claypool in a midseason 2022 trade, and traded for DJ Moore from Carolina this offseason. As you can see in the table below, this gives Chicago three WRs who put up starting-caliber (top 96, or 3 per team) production in 2022.

Of course, volume isn’t everything.

It is also worth exploring how efficient a player was with the targets they received. The table below shows some basic efficiency stats for Moore, Mooney, and Claypool in 2022, as well as ranks relative to the 80 NFL WRs who saw at least 50 targets. The spread of outcomes for those 80 players is also shown to give more context overall. Any areas where a player ranked in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

A few thoughts:

  • At first glance, the efficiency for all three players looks pretty poor. Mooney was around average in all three metrics, while Moore had a low catch percentage but was otherwise fine and Claypool was bad across the board. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that all three were in bad passing offenses last year, largely due to poor quarterback play.
    • Moore spent his season catching passes from Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and PJ Walker. As a team, the Panthers finished 31st in completion percentage, 15th in yards/attempt, and 27th in passer rating.
    • Mooney spent 2022 in Chicago catching passes from Justin Fields, Trevor Siemian, Nathan Peterman, and Tim Boyle. The Bears were 30th in completion percentage, 21st in yards/attempt, and 26th in passer rating, so within that context producing average efficiency overall is a big win for Mooney. As we saw during Fields in Focus, Mooney was one of only two competent targets the Bears had last year, and there was definitely a clear split in efficiency throwing to Mooney/Kmet and everybody else.
    • Claypool split his season between Chicago and Pittsburgh, where he caught passes from Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett. The Steelers finished 19th in completion percentage, 28th in yards/attempt, and 30th in passer rating.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , ,


An Open Letter to the DBB Community

| June 28th, 2023

Dear DBB,

How else could I start

My term on this great website

But with a Haiku?

I’m still in shock that this is happening. For those that don’t know, my name is Robert Schmitz and my journey to writing this blog post began with me chattering so ceaselessly about Chicago’s professional football team in 2018 that my wife pushed me to start a podcast “so that you can find someone else to talk to about this”. That podcast became Bear With Me, and after recording 3 episodes and posting them to Windy City Gridiron’s Fanposts section, Lester Wiltfong Jr. brought me aboard and I joined a team of three podcasts that, within a month, became just one (mine).

I didn’t know anything about football at the time, but I thought I did! And as I covered the Bears for my first season in 2019, I slowly found out that my preseason Super Bowl predictions were nothing but a sham. Mitch wasn’t “the guy” and, as it turned out, neither was Matt Nagy. It was a heartbreaking season, like so many other bad Bears’ seasons we’ve endured since 2006, but worse was that I really thought I knew football well enough to have seen the bad news coming — I didn’t. And because of that, I had spent the entire offseason hyping up Bears fans just like my younger self about the dawning of a dominant Bears age that never came. Just like my younger self, those fans felt the door to a dynasty slam shut in their face. That’s a visceral feeling.

I took being that wrong personally. I still do (or, at least I try to). And now, through detailed study of everything from All-22 footage to the innerworkings of advanced NFL metrics, my aim is to scratch and claw every day in search of new Bears understandings, new Bears insights, and new ways to fall in love with the game we’re all so passionate about.

I don’t expect everything I write to be perfect, but I guarantee you I’m going to try my best to unearth new truths and new viewpoints about this great team while consistently showing you the work that led me to those answers. I’ll use videos, audio (podcasts), twitter posts, anything I can to help build the best blog posts possible for your discussion — that’s where you come in, because you and I are a team as we build this site together.

Every post will create discussion, and that discussion will create community. That community fosters intense camaraderie, something Bears fans can never get enough of — after all, we all remember who we commiserated with after the Double Doink. I want that camaraderie for every Bears fan that doesn’t yet realize that no matter who they are or where they are, there’s always a group of wonderful people they can discuss their team with only a few clicks away.

I don’t expect you to agree with me all the time, but frankly our discussions would be boring if you did. Let’s build something awesome together.

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: , , , ,


Fields in Focus (8/8): Final Takeaways and the Future Outlook

| May 12th, 2023

Today is the last of eight articles taking a closer look at Justin Fields’ 2022 season.

Lessons Learned

Let’s start with a brief recap of some of the main takeaways from the series so far:

  • Fields experienced moderate growth as a passer from his rookie season but did not make “the leap” that you typically see from great quarterbacks in year two.
  • Fields shows very clear strengths (throwing the ball deep, running) and weaknesses (short, quick passes and taking too many sacks). This leads to plenty of big plays but also far too many negative ones.
  • Evaluating Fields becomes difficult due to the poor supporting cast around him.
    • This especially showed up with the offensive line in the pressure data. Fields is always going to be a quarterback who holds the ball for a bit longer than most, meaning that he is particularly dependent on a quality offensive line to make that style work.
    • This showed up most clearly with the pass catchers when looking at how bad Chicago’s non-Mooney WRs were against man coverage. Nobody else was able to get open, and Chicago’s entire offense suffered as a result.

Year Three Growth

Now let’s look at how Fields compares to a trio of recent QBs who had year three breakouts: Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, and Josh Allen. The table below shows their statistics in year two vs. year three of their careers, and Justin Fields’ data for year two in 2022.

A few thoughts:

  • Looking at the other three QBs, I don’t think Tua Tagovailoa is a very good comparison. He doesn’t use his legs much and is generally a shorter passer with a high completion percentage. His year three breakout was driven by a new coach/offense and pushing the ball deeper (his average target depth increased from 7.0 yards to 9.6 yards), and none of that is related to Fields.
  • Hurts and Allen, on the other hand, are pretty similar stylistically to Fields in that they hold the ball longer and push the ball down the field, which generally results in a lower completion percentage. Their year two stats line up pretty well with Fields’, with the exception of Fields being sacked significantly more.
    • Improvement for both in year three coincided with them taking more of the easy stuff. According to PFF, Allen and Hurts both increased their rate of short throws (54% to 58% for Allen, 52% to 61% for Hurts) and decreased their deep shots (15% to 13% for Allen, 16% to 13% for Hurts). They didn’t completely change their play style but became a bit more willing to take the easy yards underneath, which helped them complete more passes, gain more yards per attempt, and avoid more interceptions. Fields had a similar year 2 passing profile (55% passes behind the line or short, 16% deep), and he should look to make those same changes in 2023.
    • Hurts and Allen both saw their rushing efficiency decrease in year three compared to year two, which is also a reasonable expectation for Fields after his rushing came close to setting NFL records last year. This study found that running QBs often see passing efficiency improve in year three, and that these QBs become less dependent on needing to use their legs as they become more effective through the air.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Fields in Focus (6/8): The Explosive Plays

| May 10th, 2023

Today is the sixth of eight articles taking a closer look at Justin Fields’ 2022 season.

All data comes from Pro Football Reference‘s Game Play Finder, unless otherwise noted.

Explosive Plays

I’ve been tracking explosive plays for several years because I found they have a strong correlation to total points scored by the offense. Therefore, they’re an important indicator of offensive success; by and large, good offenses produce more explosive plays.

The exact criteria I use for explosive plays are runs that gain 15 or more yards and passes that gain 20 or more yards. This is borrowed from ESPN Stats.

The table below shows how the Bears ranked in explosive runs, explosive passes, and total explosive plays compared to the other 31 NFL teams last year. Areas where they were in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

A few thoughts:

  • Fans might remember that Justin Fields missed two games with injury last year, and these numbers change ever so slightly if you look only at the 15 games Fields started and extrapolate those to a 17-game season. That would bring them to 73 total explosive plays, which would rank 16th.
    • Most of this series has been looking at Fields from week 5 on only, since there was such a noticeable change in his performance after a dismal first month. Focusing on those games would slightly bump the Bears up to 74 explosive plays (15th) when extrapolated to a full season.
  • These numbers are not different enough to change the general conclusions. The Bears had one of the most explosive rushing attacks in the NFL but were one of the least explosive passing games. This is probably not a surprise to any Bears fans who watched the games last year. Overall, that worked out being around average in total explosive plays.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,


Zooming in on the Blockers, Vol. 3: Center, TE, WR

| March 8th, 2023

Prior days explored the tackles and guards, and today will focus on center, with a bonus glance at tight end and wide receiver blocking.


Let’s start with center, the last position on the offensive line and an area that has been held down exclusively by Sam Mustipher for the last two seasons.

Pass Blocking

The table below shows how Mustipher held up in pass protection compared to the 39 centers around the NFL who had at least 200 pass blocking snaps. All data is from Pro Football Focus (PFF), and true pass sets are intended to remove plays designed to minimize the pass rush, such as screens, play action, and rollout. Cells highlighted in green indicate a rank in the top 25%, while red indicates the bottom 25%.

There’s really only one takeaway here: Sam Mustipher is awful in pass protection. Every column that’s not red just missed the cutoff. (Every Bears fan already knows this, so I don’t think we’re breaking any new ground.)

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,


Dannehy: Bears Should Prioritize Offensive Line

| January 26th, 2023

There is no foolproof method to build an NFL team, but as the Chicago Bears head into a crucial offseason, they should prioritize strengthening their offensive line.

As the debate about offensive line vs. wide receiver rages across the Twittersphere, it’s important to take a step back, look at what the Bears have on their roster and how they can best maximize that talent. That starts with quarterback Justin Fields, who has flaws as a passer, but has shown great touch on deep balls and is as electric a runner as there has been in the league, at any position.

Playing his first two seasons behind a subpar offensive line hasn’t allowed Fields to showcase his ability as a passer. At Ohio St., he did most of his damage from inside the pocket – his 4.4 speed was seen as a bonus. But there haven’t been clean pockets to work from in Chicago, which has made evaluating the quarterback that much more difficult.

When the Bears have kept the pocket clean, Fields has shown the ability to go through his progressions and make the right read. Furthermore, it allows the team to open up his greatest asset as a passer: the deep ball.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,