Dissecting a Drive: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Chicago’s Offense

| September 13th, 2023

Originally I was planning on dissecting one of the many defensive drives, but while prepping for last night’s stream I found a drive that perfectly encapsulated the Bears’ issues against Green Bay — with that in mind, I broke down all 8 plays from Chicago’s 2nd offensive series in the latest episode of Dissecting a Drive.

In the video we discuss:

  • Where did Justin Fields improve from 2022? Where did he struggle on Sunday?
  • How did Getsy set up his offense for success? What could he improve?
  • Route spacing issues, bad snaps, and other execution errors
  • Much, much more

Check it out and let me know what you think!

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Reviewing Titans @ Bears: Let’s talk Offense

| August 15th, 2023

Today we pick up where we left off yesterday as we break down Saturday’s offensive standouts. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Editor’s Note: Check back with this article throughout the day — as I produce more All-22 cutups, I’ll update this article to include more analysis 

Carter Cruises:

  • On a day where Justin Fields didn’t throw an incomplete pass and DJ Moore scored his first touchdown in Chicago, who would’ve guessed that the man wearing #69 would’ve been one of the brightest stars on the offense? Ja’Tyre Carter showed off great footwork in both the run and pass game, great hand usage as a pass-protector, and an extra helping of violence as a combo blocker that led to a few destructive finishes.
    • Nothing dismantles an NFL offense like injuries on the offensive line, so a depth lineman like Carter playing well is the best possible thing that could’ve happened over the weekend. Time will tell if his positive play was a product of legitimate growth as a player (rather than a product of playing the Titans 2nd & 3rd string), but his game against Tennessee was a drastic step up from his late-year showing and that’s exactly what you want to see out of a second-year player.

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Self-Scouting Luke Getsy’s 2022 Play Calling

| August 2nd, 2023

The Bears’ offense was one of the worst in the NFL in 2022 for a variety of reasons. I have already highlighted issues with personnel on the offensive line, running back, and wide receiver, and looked in depth at some of the ways quarterback Justin Fields struggled in his sophomore campaign.

Today I want to take a closer look at play caller Luke Getsy to see what we can learn about how he masked and/or contributed to Chicago’s struggles. With that in mind, I looked at how Chicago’s play calling compared to the rest of the NFL at difference down and distance scenarios. All statistics are from Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder.

Two quick important notes:

  • In order to keep game situation from skewing the data, I only looked at the first three quarters.
  • I also explored data only between the 20s to avoid field position impacting the play calls and how defenses played.

1st Down

Let’s start with a look at 1st down, which is about the most neutral situation an offense can be in. The table below shows how frequently and effectively the Bears ran and passed the ball compared to their NFL peers. Chicago’s rank is shown, and any values in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

A few thoughts:

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Dissecting a Drive: Justin Fields’ Offense Evolves Versus Buffalo Bills

| July 31st, 2023

Happy Monday everyone! Get set for another week of Bears’ camp with extensive Saturday notes written by our own Johnathan Wood here:

Our first episode of Dissecting a Drive covered a drive so early in the year that the Bears offense (& Justin Fields’ play within it) felt juvenile compared to where they finished the 2022 season — so much changed schematically after their win over the Patriots that to claim that Chicago’s 2023 offense will look anything like it did early in 2022 feels foolish.

With that in mind, I charted the evolution of Chicago’s offense by taking a look at the Bears’ 9-play opening drive against Buffalo late in the year to continue prepping for what Luke Getsy may do with the 2023 Bears — in this drive, we see:

  • How the threat of Justin Fields’ legs dictated Sean McDermott’s initial defensive calls
  • The space Luke Getsy was able to open up by using those adjustments against Buffalo
  • How Luke Getsy used Fields to gain blocking advantages in the running game
  • A few nice examples of the Bears’ comprehensive Boot rolodex
  • And much, much more

Check it out and let me know what you think!

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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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Friday Funday: Luke Getsy Design Wrinkle

| July 14th, 2023

I’m in the process of working up a Braxton Jones video that I hope to have ready by Monday — in the meantime, here’s a breakdown I threw together yesterday about a funky formation wrinkle Luke Getsy used to catch the Lions’ linebackers flat-footed on subsequent plays.

Formation gimmicks are fun, hopefully we see Getsy use offensive design to press the advantage more often in 2023.

Extra Media

As we get closer to training camp, something tells me we’re going to hear the terms “1-Technique” and “3-Technique” thrown around a lot when discussing Gervon Dexter Sr and Zacch Pickens — in case you don’t know what those terms mean, I’ve got just the video for you! And if you do know what they mean, here’s a nice ~10 minute reel of defensive lineman dominating.

Check it out!

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Dannehy: Pressure Is On Luke Getsy

| June 22nd, 2023

When the Chicago Bears hired Luke Getsy, there was fear that he would only be with the team for one year. While he had never been an NFL offensive coordinator, Getsy was a highly thought of assistant coach and interviewed to be the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Many thought he would get more looks with even moderate success in Chicago.

But that didn’t happen.

Getsy’s offense finished 31st in yardage, 28th in scoring and 25th in DVOA. They were first in rushing, but dead last — by a reasonable margin — in passing. While it’s debatable how much of that is Getsy’s fault, the reality is NFL general managers didn’t see enough to consider bringing the Bears offensive coordinator in for an interview.

Getsy did some really good things in his first year with the Bears. The team went through a fairly long streak of having a good offense until injuries piled up late. But Getsy also deserves blame for their slow start; it shouldn’t have taken until the “mini-bye” to change the offense to fit the skillset of the quarterback. They had 48 net passing yards in Week 2, 82 in Week 3; clearly their plan entering the season was inadequate.

There was a lack of talent, sure, but the team’s passing offense was historically bad. The Mitch Trubisky/Mike Glennon Bears had nearly 1,000 more passing yards in one fewer game with Kendall Wright as the leading wide receiver.

There may still be a question about Justin Fields, but the young quarterback showed promise early in his career. Say what you will about Matt Nagy’s Bears but the team adjusted and there was reason to be optimistic about the passing game going forward. After the embarrassing one net-passing yard display against Cleveland, the team didn’t have fewer than 100 the rest of the season. That was with a rookie version of Fields and a supporting cast that wasn’t all that different from what Getsy was given.

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A Tight Look at the 2023 Tight Ends, Part I: Total Usage & Man v. Zone

| June 12th, 2023

All of a sudden, the Bears’ TE room looks fairly stacked, as they return Cole Kmet – who led the team in receiving in 2022 – and added veteran Robert Tonyan as their TE2. As you can see in the table below, this gives Chicago two TEs who put up starting-caliber volume 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 Kmet and Tonyan in 2022, as well as ranks relative to the 29 NFL tight ends who saw at least 50 targets. The spread of outcomes for those 29 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. The table also includes Kmet’s stats from 2020 and 2021 to see how his efficiency has changed throughout his career.

A few thoughts:

  • Kmet saw his volume drop from 93 to 69 targets in 2022, but his efficiency skyrocketed. This shows both Kmet’s growth as a player and a new offensive scheme that aligns with his skill set.
    • As we saw when looking at Jusin Fields earlier this offseason, the Bears used play action far more in 2022 than they did in 2021, and that deception was able to help free Kmet and mask his athletic deficiencies as a route runner. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to stats on play action for receivers, but this film study with Kmet shows a number of his big plays from 2022 coming when he was uncovered due to play action.
    • With the addition of DJ Moore this offseason, plus the return to health of Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney, it’s reasonable to assume Kmet will be farther down the receiving order in 2023. He might see a decrease in total targets for a 2nd year in a row, but an efficient secondary weapon in the passing game can be extremely valuable.

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Fields in Focus (1/8): General Overview and Progress Report

| May 3rd, 2023

Justin Fields has finished his 2nd NFL season, and the Bears have clearly committed to him as their quarterback for at least 2023. With that in mind, let’s take stock of how Fields grew (and didn’t grow) from his rookie season, where his strengths and weaknesses lie, and what he needs to improve to take the next step.

Like I did with Fields in Focus last offseason, this will be an in-depth series exploring several different aspects of Fields’ performance in 2022. The overall breakdown will look like this:

  • Part 1: Comparison to rookie season and growth throughout 2022
  • Part 2: Where and how effectively Fields threw the ball.
  • Part 3: How Fields did on different types of plays (play action, quick vs. slow developing).
  • Part 4: How often Fields was under pressure, and who was to blame.
  • Part 5: How Fields performed under pressure.
  • Part 6: How efficiently Fields produced explosive plays.
  • Part 7: How Fields did against man and zone.
  • Part 8: Fields’ future outlook.

Rookie Comparison

Let’s start today by taking a brief look at Fields’ basic statistics and how they compared to his rookie year. The table below shows how the two seasons stack up, as well as the NFL average for 2022 (calculated by team for any volume stats).

A few thoughts:

  • The first thing that stands out is that Fields threw the ball less often in year two than year one. On the surface, this seems surprising, as usually teams will ask a QB to throw more often as he matures.
    • I was tempted to chalk this up to Fields taking more sacks and scrambling more frequently in 2022, but that hypothesis didn’t pan out. Fields was sacked 3.6 times/game as a rookie and 3.7 times/game in 2022, and Pro Football Focus (PFF) charted Fields with 4.5 scrambles/game in his rookie season compared to 4.7 scrambles/game in year two. Adding in sacks and scrambles, Fields dropped back to pass 35 times/game as a rookie and 29 times/game in year two.
    • The difference, then, comes from the new offensive scheme, which was intentionally more run heavy. In 2021, the Bears ran it on 44% of offensive plays, but that increased to 56% in 2022.
  • Taking more sacks is worrying. Ideally you would like to see that rate go down as Fields gets more familiar with the speed of NFL defenses, as happened throughout the course of his rookie season. We’ll look at sacks and pressure in more detail later in this series, but this is definitely something that needs to improve. An optimist could say this is largely due to the talent the Bears lost on offense after 2021 more than anything Fields did, as Allen Robinson, Jason Peters, and James Daniels all left in free agency and there were essentially no resources invested in replacing them.

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Dannehy: “Special, Special, Special, Special Special” Justin Fields.

| November 9th, 2022

It should not be possible for a quarterback to run toward the line of scrimmage, leave his feet for a pump fake, come back to the ground, and then outrace the defense for a 61-yard touchdown.

But that’s what Justin Fields did on Sunday and such plays are becoming a weekly occurrence.

What makes Fields special isn’t just what he’s doing, it’s that so often the defense appears to be in position to make a play and they don’t because he is too good. Perhaps most telling are the comments from opponents. 

Melvin Ingram has been around the block, he said Fields is special five times. Jaelan Phillips called him a monster, Mike McDaniel said Fields is “as dynamic with the ball in his hands as any player in the league really.”

Luke Getsy deserves credit for checking his ego and installing an offense that works for his quarterback. It’s fair to question why it took so long to do that, but that’s old history. The true challenge for Getsy will be coming up with a counter when opponents are able to adjust.

That said, the Bears offense is taking off because of the quarterback.

Did Poles Mess Up?

Imagine if this offense was paired with a top fifteen defense? It isn’t that crazy because that’s exactly what the Bears had prior to the trades of Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith.

When the Bears entered the season, the common thought was that the defense would be good, and the offense would be only as good as Justin Fields. That proved true through the first seven weeks as the team struggled to score points. The defense was still pretty good.

Now they have an offense that looks like an absolute machine, but they’re still not likely to win many more games simply because their defense cannot get a stop.

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