Checking the Tape: Bears @ Buccaneers

| September 19th, 2023

The short version: Fields struggled mightily on Sunday, though the Bears’ offensive line and offensive coordinator certainly made their fair share of mistakes. But we’ll talk more on that later this evening.

The slightly-less short version: Justin Fields is struggling to consistently get to his 3rd (sometimes 2nd) read without running into timing issues, and there’s no pair of plays where that was more evident than Fields’ 1st sack of the game, where he missed DJ Moore wide open on the play’s backside…

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Checking the Tape: Bears’ Offense vs Green Bag

| September 12th, 2023

All-22 Breakdown Stream:

If you’re into All-22 film breakdowns, I stream every Tuesday Night during the season to talk through the ups and downs of the game! Come check it out!

I watched the Packers-Bears All-22 tape so that you don’t have to — here were some of my notes:

Getsy Gets Ahead of Himself:

Luke Getsy and the Bears started this game off strong, but as the contest wore on Getsy displayed a strange habit of telling on himself with the Bears’ formation — below is a screenshot of the infamous D’Onta Foreman screen pass that lost 7 yards, and if you look at the personnel that Chicago split out wide you too will see the screen coming.

But that wasn’t the only moment where it seemed as if Green Bay read Luke Getsy’s mind — here’s another example of the Bears’ formation tipping a play and resulting in a massive start to the second half. With Blasingame (a fullback) out wide to the left side, the Packers send Devonte Wyatt straight upfield in anticipation of a Justin Fields bootleg that Blasingame would usually block for. Wyatt ends up on top of Fields before the quarterback fully turns around.

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Breaking Down Jordan Love, Who the Packers Have Set Up to Fail

| August 11th, 2023

This is not in bad faith. This is not a vain attempt at schadenfreude.

I dove into Jordan Love’s film over the last few months and came to a resounding conclusion: Jordan Love is better than some Bears fans want to believe, and he exhibits a lot of the hallmark traits of a good West Coast quarterback.

He’s got a great sense of timing as a dropback passer, hitting the back of his drop and delivering the ball well with a big arm that lets him attack deep out routes as well as the quick release needed to stay efficient on timing routes over the middle. His years on the bench shine through via quick decision-making, and he clearly trusts his offensive system enough to attack throwing windows that other young QBs simply won’t attack.

In effect, Jordan Love has the tools to be a solid NFL Quarterback, but he’s got a problem — the offensive pass-catchers Green Bay has put around him are so young that I struggle to imagine the Packers, a team that may have two first round picks in the QB-heavy 2024 draft, sticking with Love past the 2024 bridge extension he just signed.

Green Bay’s biggest issue is that they purged all of their offensive ‘glue guys’ at once this offseason:

  • Allen Lazard was a key run-blocker and the primary X-receiver within the Packers’ system
  • Robert Tonyan was a reliable weapon in late-down situations and one of the twin engines of the Packers 12-personnel looks
  • Marcedes Lewis was far and away the best run and pass blocking TE on the roster (and the other twin engine of 12-personnel)
  • And Randall Cobb, though only a role player, knew the Packers’ system well and connected with Rodgers constantly on key downs

These 4 veterans accounted for:

  • 44% of the Packers’ 2022 receiving yardage
  • 41.5% of their 2022 targets
  • 198 total games of Packers experience

And in their departure Matt LaFleur said goodbye to the final 4 skill players he had built the Packers’ offense with when he joined the team in 2019.

Replacing that production & experience wouldn’t be an easy feat for any organization, but the Packers chose to fill the vets’ shoes in as extreme a way as you could’ve imagined — they replaced all 4 players with rookies, and there’s no set of players more inconsistent in the NFL than 1st year starters.

I like a lot of the players Green Bay selected in their 2023 draft class, namely Michigan State WR Jayden Reed and South Dakota State University TE Tucker Kraft, but every young player is going to go through rookie growing pains within next year’s Packers offense and when the pass-catchers make mistakes I think Jordan Love will (unfairly) get handed the blame.

Did Reed run the wrong route? No, Jordan Love just didn’t throw an accurate ball.

Should that route have been run at 7 yards rather than the 5.5 yards Musgrave cut at? No, Jordan Love just missed him.

Every offensive failure will somehow bubble back to the 1st year starter replacing a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and at the end of the year Green Bay fans will ‘suddenly’ realize that packaging their 2024 first round picks together for a new rookie Quarterback makes more financial sense than waiting until the end of the 2024 season to either draft a new rookie QB or extend extending Love again.

I walk through all of this and more in the video below, complete with some of the best film-work I’ve ever done at this point in my career — if you’ve got a few minutes on this fine Friday, I highly recommend it! But if not, I’d love to hear your take all the same.

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On Darnell Wright, and the Unexpected Growth Path of NFL Offensive Tackles

| August 8th, 2023

Today I want to talk about Darnell Wright, but before we get started I want to show you a  clip from the 2021 preseason — specifically, pay attention to the Lions’ RT #58. Watch his hands, his feet, and his overall demeanor on this snap.


That’s now-Pro-Bowler Penei Sewell, who had one of the worst preseasons in recent memory immediately after getting drafted #7 overall in the 2021 draft. In this clip, you can see that his initial footwork is off (he false-steps badly at the snap), he misses his punch, and his feet get so tangled as he tries to recover that he can’t stop his EDGE rusher from easily turning the corner and hammering his QB.

Sewell’s entire preseason was U-G-L-Y. If you believe in PFF Grades, they marked him as a 38.6 overall grade & a 27.0 pass-block grade across the preseason (remember, 60 is their replacement-level benchmark), so it wasn’t an issue of a single bad rep. Sewell clearly wasn’t comfortable at Right Tackle early and, in a cruel NFL filled with professional football players that can’t afford to miss chances at production, that discomfort led to hesitancy and that hesitancy led to defeat all too often.

What did this mean for Sewell’s rookie season? Better yet, what has this meant for his career so far? In short, absolutely nothing — with that in mind, I want to caution Bears fans against overreacting to tenth overall pick Darnell Wright’s play this weekend, especially if he doesn’t immediately look like an All-Pro.

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Dissecting a Drive: Luke Getsy Versus the Minnesota Vikings

| July 21st, 2023

Happy Friday everybody!

Like most football fans, I’ve always been enthralled by the concept of play-calling — the idea that one man pulls the strings behind the actions of 11 superathletes and that, at least in the eyes of many, the very fate of each football game rests on his shoulders and his matchup with the play-caller across from him. Even typing that out gives me chills!

But as cool as the concept of play-calling is, the opaque nature of the role makes it equally frustrating for football fans: “Why can Andy Reid’s team spin around in the huddle and still score touchdowns at will but my team can’t even pick up a 3rd and 1?”

Questions like this are poison for fans of teams with bad offensive or defensive units (like the Broncos, Cardinals, and early-season Bears on offense, Browns, Las Vegas, and the Bears again on defense) and can make fans feel like the football gods are out to get them — for any Chicago fan that lived through the Nagy era, you know the horrible feeling I’m talking about.

So how do we evaluate the Bears’ play-callers in 2023? I aim to do just that with a video series I’ll be running throughout this upcoming season called Dissecting a Drive — once a week, we’ll take a look at a key offensive or defensive drive (some good drives, some bad ones) and go through the ins and outs of each play-call to try and parse out which parts of the offense are a credit to Luke Getsy and which parts of the offense are as simple as good (or bad) players making a good (or bad) play.

In an effort to practice with the new video format, I took a look at an old drive from Week 5’s Bears game against the Vikings — in it, we see:

  • A pair of really nice run designs that use pre-snap and at-snap motion to scheme leverage for Chicago’s blockers
  • How Justin Fields can make a “wrong” play-call “right” (as well as how he did the opposite)
  • A visual example of how important every yard gained or lost is within each 3-down series
  • And much, much more

Check it out and let me know what you think!

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Breaking Down how Justin Fields’ Mobility Creates Opportunities for his Teammates

| July 13th, 2023

There’s no need for a fancy intro paragraph today — Justin Fields did things with his feet last year that the NFL had never yet seen from a Quarterback and everyone on this site lived each moment more than once.

In doing so Fields put the league’s defenses on notice and, by the end of the season, so consistently drew extra attention that he opened up seams for his teammates to take advantage of.

Unfortunately for Fields, those teammates were Dante Pettis, Michael Schofield, Larry Borom, and plenty of others that simply didn’t have the talent to make the most of their opportunities. Even still, we saw early glimpses of how attempts to contain Fields might backfire in 2023 — that’s what we’ll go over today. Let’s dig in.

The Passing Game

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Previewing The Man in the Middle

| July 12th, 2023

We’re officially 2 weeks out from the start of Bears’ training camp, and that means we’re 14 days away from obsessively scrolling Twitter (and other social media platforms) for updates on Chicago Bears’ practices. With that in mind, let’s spend the next two weeks re-familiarizing ourselves with the Bears’ new additions so that, come camp time, we know the names to watch for.

To start, let’s look at…

Tremaine Edmunds

Backstory: Edmunds was the 16th overall pick of the 2018 draft and, ironically enough, was constantly compared to Roquan Smith pre-draft due their differences in style & perceived value. Edmunds had the size, length, and speed that made linebacking coaches salivate but whose instincts needed serious development whereas Roquan was seen as the ready-made modern WILL LB prototype despite being undersized.

It’s a bizarre twist of fate that the Bears effectively traded one standout first-round linebacker for another (while netting draft picks in the process) in their journey from Roquan to Edmunds, but based on Matt Eberflus’ penchant for size and length in his coverage linebackers I can’t help feeling like Edmunds will get featured within Chicago’s defense in ways that Alan Williams didn’t want to feature Smith.

I’m not normally one for paying Linebackers at the rate you could pay a formidable defensive lineman, but physical freaks like Edmunds  always command a hefty price tag — just watch him move in open space and you’ll see rare physical gifts on display. Suffice it to say, you can’t teach those traits — when pursuing a ball-carrier side-to-side, he’s a nightmare.

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The Curious Case of Jaylon Johnson’s Extension

| July 11th, 2023

It’s hard to believe that Bears’ CB Jaylon Johnson only turned 24 this April — if you’re like me, it feels like he’s been in the league too long to be that young.

And yet, it is. The 24-year-old former 2nd round pick just wrapped his 3rd season as a Chicago Bear & his 2nd as the team’s best cornerback, thus a question arises as he enters the final year of his rookie deal: Should Ryan Poles offer him a contract extension?

You’d think that extending a player like Johnson would be a no-brainer — he’s experienced as a CB1 and has already performed well in the role, he’s wildly young, and the Bears have so much cap space in 2024 and 2025 that to not extend a young player at a key position like Corner feels like irresponsible roster management. After all, the best way to combat the NFL’s Wide Receiver arms race is to stack talent at DB, right? Why create a roster hole you’d need to spend resources to fill when you’ve already got a CB1 in-house?

Like most things in this world, Johnson’s payday isn’t a question of talent — this is about money. Jaylon Johnson (who recently fired his agent) likely wants to be paid like a top-shelf CB1 (~$20M/Year), but unfortunately for Jaylon recent Corner contracts have not made his value a friendly figure to calculate. In fact, currently there are:

  • Only 5 total Corners making $19.4+ Million per year
  • Only 8 total Corners making $15M+ per year
  • Only 17 total Corners making $10M+ per year

(A snippet of the current CB market is pictured below — click to enlarge)

As such, it’s clear that the NFL recognizes a clear distinction between a “High End CB1”, a “Mid-Table CB1”, and “Everyone Else” (including players Rookies like Derek Stingley Jr, the 23rd highest paid CB in football, as well as CB2s, etc). Johnson currently belongs in that “Mid-Table CB1” category, but would he sign an extension of $12M-$15M per year if it was offered to him? Or would he bet on himself in 2023 by playing out his final year? Personally, I have no idea.

As Training Camp gets underway, I’m excited to find out.

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