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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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Audibles From the Long Snapper: The Post-Free Agency (First Wave) Edition

| March 22nd, 2024


NOTE: Robert and I intended to start doing our weekly Spaces sessions on Twitter a few weeks back, but I have been battling one of the worst bronchial infections of my life. I’m finally returning to normal existence, and we’ll be live this Saturday (3/23) at 1 PM ET. A lot to talk about. 

Thoughts on what has transpired in the early days of free agency, starting in Chicago.

  • Do I believe Ryan Poles had second or third-round offers on the table for Justin Fields? No, I do not. If you have followed my commentary on the Fields trade market, you know that I’ve been consistent in my reporting: there has been no Fields market. If a second-round pick had been on the table, Poles would have absolutely jumped at the opportunity. This revisionist take on the market, created by the Fields camp, is an attempt to save face, to pretend his journey to Pittsburgh was self-directed. Atlanta didn’t want him. Sean Payton doesn’t think he’s very good. Minnesota preferred Sam Darnold. As we close the book on the Justin Fields era in Chicago, it’s time to be honest. He was an underwhelming performer and the league recognized that.
  • The Keenan Allen acquisition should have no influence on Poles’ draft strategy. Allen is going to be 32 years old this season. And while he is coming off his best year, the Bears can’t expect more than 2-3 seasons from him at a top-line performer. If these three wide receiving prospects – Harrison, Nabers, Odunze – are as good as many believe, the Bears shouldn’t hesitate to stand pat at number nine and bring one of them to Chicago. Always. Be. Adding. Weapons.
  • The center position is still intriguing as we look ahead to 2024. Ryan Bates is a $4 million player. That’s not backup money, especially on the interior of the offensive line. It’ll be surprising if Bates is not one of the five starting linemen in September, and I think that position is going to be center.

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6-Time Pro Bowler Keenan Allen is Now a Chicago Bear

| March 15th, 2024

Late last night, the Chicago Bears acquired Chargers all-star WR Keenan Allen for their 4th round pick (#110) in the 2024 NFL Draft. I’ve got some quick thoughts on the move:

  • Turns out that hole in the Bears’ cap created from Jaylon Johnson & D’Andre Swift’s deals had a purpose
  • Obviously this is a move focused on 2024, but I don’t mind the emphasis on next season. 2024 is a massive year for the entire Bears’ organization — in all likelihood, they’ll attempt to develop a rookie QB while competing for a playoff spot. If, therefore, the biggest critique of this move is that Chicago paid too much draft capital & 2024 salary dollars for an offensive leader that should spur the rookie’s development, I think we’ll all survive. Frankly, I think it’s refreshing to see the Bears over-address the young QB’s supporting cast for once.
  • Regardless of which Quarterback ultimately starts for the Bears next year, Keenan Allen should be a stabilizing force in the Bears’ down-to-down passing offense. He specializes in option routes, short-yardage routes, and playing within structure — all of which Caleb Williams and Justin Fields struggle with, meaning Allen could provide a strong guiding hand.
    • If we’re splitting hairs, I think timing routes will likely remain an issue for Justin Fields whereas Caleb Williams’ college tape shows signs of inconsistency more than an outright inability to play within structure, but this isn’t a Caleb Williams breakdown. Regardless of starter, Keenan should help sharpen a short-passing blade that was quite dull throughout 2023.

My overall grade? I like it. The fun factor is ~10/10. I’ve also already assumed that Matt Eberflus begged Poles to let him draft a 1st round defender anyways, so if this move is Poles’ way of making sure Chicago has weapons for a key 2024 season? I dig it.

This does make me wonder what the Bears’ plan is at WR going forward, but we can cross that bridge later. I’d love to draft a 2nd or 3rd round WR to develop throughout the year (Keon Coleman, Roman Wilson, Ricky Pearsall, etc), but I don’t know that the Bears will prioritize that. Also, is Keenan getting extended past 2024? I could see it, but he’ll be 33 next season. We’ll have to wait and see.

For now… Chicago added a 6-time Pro Bowler that’s a god amongst chain-moving WRs. He pairs perfectly with DJ Moore’s ability to threaten all levels of the field as well — those two should be monsters in 12-personnel.

I’m excited to see how this plays out — what an exciting time to be a Bears fan! What will Poles do from here? We’re just going to have to wait and see,

Bonus: Breaking Down Keenan Allen’s Route Running

Below I threw in some of my favorite clips from a light film study last night — check it out and let me know what you think.

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FrontRowTickets.com Game Preview: Bears Travel to San Diego (For Probably the Last Time Ever)

| November 6th, 2015

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THE GAME POEM

Near the sea of La Jolla, lived a fella called Strand.

He loved to watch the surfers, cup of coffee in his hand.

He dreamed of The Day when he’d own his own board.

And ride off with The Girl in a ’67 Ford.

The Day never came.

The Girl never went.

And the years of his life were nothing, but spent.

FOUR QUICK THOUGHTS ON SAN DIEGO

  • Loss of Keenan Allen for can not be understated. Allen is one of the best receivers in the game and has been the third most targeted. Chargers still have weapons but their passing attack might look similar to Chicago’s without Jeffery for the remainder of the season.
  • Eric Weddle is supposedly returning to the starting lineup after missing a few games with a groin injury. I’ve always thought Weddle overrated but he HAS been San Diego’s best defender for half a decade. His 2015 has been all-but wasted, to the point of his being mentioned as trade bait at the non-existent deadline. Can Weddle have a major impact Monday night?
  • Melvin Gordon has been a disappointment – which is a shock, I know, for a running back from Wisconsin. (Why is it that none of these guys translate to the professional game?) San Diego is one of the worst rushing teams in the game and when you watch Gordon on tape, there’s nothing there. He’s just a guy. And he certainly doesn’t look like he warranted first-round selection. His offensive coordinator believes he needs to “dig deep”.
  • Danny Woodhead’s total touches through 8 games: 16, 13, 8, 12, 9, 12, 16, 5. He’s got four touchdowns. And with Allen injured, expect the Chargers to be reliant on Woodhead’s screen presence as they get settled into the passing game.

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