Understanding the Role of Newly-Acquired Free Agents in 2019: Defense

| March 21st, 2019

The Bears have made a number of moves in free agency, and I want to use some advanced statistics to weigh in on their likely role on the roster and value to the team. We looked at the offense yesterday, and now will move to the defense, where the Bears will be replacing two starters.

Buster Skrine

Nickelback Bryce Callahan followed Vic Fangio to the Broncos, and the Bears replaced him with Buster Skrine, who was a bit cheaper ($5.5 million/year vs. $7 million/year) and has been a bit healthier (5 games missed vs. 12 games missed in last 3 years). According to The Quant Edge, both players have spent the majority of their time over the last three years at nickel, though Skrine has spent a bit more (roughly 30%, compared to 15%) playing outside.

The table below uses data from The Quant Edge to show how effective each player has been in coverage. In order to increase sample sizes, I looked at Skrine and Callahan cumulatively from 2016-18 (I’ll note this actually helped Callahan and hurt Skrine, lest I be accused of trying to skew the numbers in the Bears’ favor), and for context compared them to averaged 2018 stats from five other nickelbacks who are widely viewed as being quality players: Chris Harris, Aaron Colvin, Tavon Young, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Justin Coleman.

Based on this data, it is pretty clear to see that Skrine is a downgrade from Callahan, but that is not to say he’s a bad player. Skrine gets targeted more frequently than other nickel CBs, but holds up to the targeting quite well. The only thing that really jumps out poorly there is the TD:INT ratio. Like Callahan, Skrine doesn’t really get many interceptions, and he has given up more scores than you would like to see.

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ATM: Safety Swap Should Help Keep Bears On Top

| March 19th, 2019

When the Bears signed HaHa Clinton-Dix for roughly a third of what the Packers paid Adrian Amos, it was a great example of how teams on top stay on top.

Amos’ biggest fans have been the folks at Pro Football Focus. Through their various platforms, PFF raved about the Packers signing Amos and making him one of the ten highest-paid safeties in the league. But even they would have to admit there isn’t a very big difference between Amos and Clinton-Dix. The latter finished eighth in their silly ranking system last year and was their third-highest-ranked safety available in free agency.

While it’s safe to say nobody likes Amos more than PFF, it’s also safe to say they also quite like HHCD.

PFF doesn’t actually know how to grade safety play — or any other position, for that matter —  so those grades are worthless. But, if they — the group that likes Amos more than anyone — think paying $9 million per year for him was a great move, what do they think of the Bears paying a player who is only slightly weaker $3.5 million?

We’d know, but PFF has been oddly quiet about the HHCD signing.

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