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A deep dive into the TEs, part 2: blocking

| May 29th, 2024

This is the 2nd installment of a 4-part series looking at Chicago TEs Cole Kmet and Gerald Everett. In part one, we explored how each player has been used in the past, and how this might match up with the way offensive coordinator Shane Waldron has deployed his tight ends. Today, we’re going to focus on blocking, which is an often overlooked part of a tight ends’ role.

Pass Blocking

Let’s start by looking at how frequently and effectively Chicago’s TEs pass blocked. The table below shows some basic pass blocking stats from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for Kmet and Everett in 2023, and their rank compared to 45 NFL TEs with at least 25 pass blocking snaps. Ranks in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

A brief explanation of some of the stats:

Side note: sorry if there are formatting issues for the tables. You can view them in full by clicking on them. 

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A deep dive into the TEs, part 1: usage

| May 28th, 2024

After handing Cole Kmet a big extension last offseason and signing Gerald Everett to a solid contract in free agency this year, the Bears have two starting-caliber tight ends on the roster. Both players were heavily utilized in the passing game in 2023, which can be seen in the table below showing their basic receiving production, with ranks compared to other NFL TEs in parentheses.

Kmet was among the top 10 TEs in every stat, while Everett generally ranked in the 15-25 range, which would put him as roughly an average to below average starter. Their pay checks also reflect the expectation that both players are expected to play starting-type roles, as they currently rank 9th (Kmet) and 21st (Everett) among TEs in average yearly salary. Since both players will be playing important roles in Chicago’s offense in 2024, this week’s series is going to take a detailed look at how each of them could be useful. We’ll split this into four parts:

  • Part 1:
    • How new OC Shane Waldron has utilized his TE in the past
    • How this compares to Kmet and Everett’s usage
  • Part 2:
    • How frequently and effectively they blocked
  • Part 3:
    • How efficient they were overall as pass catchers
    • How they performed against man and zone coverage
    • How frequently and efficiently they were targeted at different depths of the field
  • Part 4:
    • 3rd and 4th down production
    • Red zone usage
    • How frequently and efficiently they produced in the slot

Waldron TE Usage

Let’s start with a look at how new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron used his tight ends during his 3 seasons in Seattle. The table below shows information about how much his tight ends played, how frequently they were targeted in the passing game, and where they lined up. TE1-TE3 status for each season is based on total snap counts, and alignment information is pulled from Pro Football Focus (PFF).

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A Closer Look at New OC Shane Waldron: Personnel and Formation

| May 7th, 2024

In addition to adding 5 new starters on offense this offseason, the Bears fired offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and replaced him with Shane Waldron, who spent the previous 3 years holding the same position in Seattle.

In order to better understand what Chicago’s offense might look like in 2024, I’ve been digging into data about Waldron’s offenses at his last stop. I looked at down and distance play calling tendencies yesterday, and today want to explore personnel and formation trends.

Today’s data comes from Sumer Sports, which only has information for 2022 and 2023, so nothing from Waldron’s 1st season in Seattle will be included.

Personnel Groupings

Let’s start by looking at common personnel groupings, which looks solely at the listed position of players on the field and not where they are lined up. These groupings are commonly listed by 2 numbers, where the 1st is the number of running backs and the 2nd is the number of tight ends. Since teams play 5 skill position players at a time, the number of wide receivers is then implied. The 2 most common groupings are 11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) and 12 (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR).

The table below shows how frequently the Seahawks and Bears used and passed out of each grouping on 1st-2nd down in 2023, along with their ranks compared to the rest of the NFL. Values in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are red. Seattle’s data from 2022 is included as well for comparison.

(side note: if the table gets cut off, click on it to view the full table in a new screen)

A few thoughts:

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A Closer Look at New OC Shane Waldron: Trends Based On Down & Distance

| May 6th, 2024

The Bears have seen a massive changeover in offensive personnel this offseason. QB Justin Fields, RB D’Onta Foreman, WR Darnell Mooney, WR Equanimeous St. Brown, TE Robert Tonyan, IOL Cody Whitehair, and IOL Lucas Patrick, who combined to account for over 4100 offensive snaps in 2023, are no longer on the roster.

The Bears have replaced those players with QB Caleb Williams, RB D’Andre Swift, WR Keenan Allen, WR Rome Odunze, TE Gerald Everett, IOL Ryan Bates, and IOL Coleman Shelton. It’s safe to say these players are a significant net upgrade, and the Bears invested heavily (draft picks 1, 9, and 144 and $45M in salary cap spending on the veterans) to make sure that would be the case.

In addition to changing over the players, the Bears brought in a new offensive coaching staff, and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron will be tasked with turning this talent into a cohesive and effective unit. Since Waldron spent three years as the play caller in Seattle, this week I want to dig into his data to see what we can learn that might translate to Chicago. I am going to focus mostly on what his play calling tendencies were and less on how effective the offense was, because effectiveness will depend significantly on personnel and will be entirely different in Chicago.

We’ll start today by looking at Waldron’s down and distance trends, and will examine personnel groupings tomorrow.

1st down

Let’s start with examining what Waldron liked to do on 1st down. The table below shows how often Seattle called a passing play vs. a running play, how many of their passes went deep down the field (15+ yards past the line of scrimmage in the air), and how many of their runs were inside the tackles. A few quick notes:

  • To remove game situation as much as possible, I only looked at plays between the 20s in the first three quarters. This is a look at what Waldron liked to do in fairly neutral situations. These same criteria will apply to all data in this article.
  • I looked at Seattle for 2021, 2022, and 2023 so we could see what trends were consistent from year to year and what ones changed. This might give hints as to what Waldron will likely keep vs. what might shift depending on personnel.
  • I also showed what Chicago looked like in 2023, so we can get a general idea of how things might change compared to what we saw last year.
  • To put all these numbers in context, I provided the high, average, and low values for all 32 NFL teams in 2023, and where the 2023 Bears and Seahawks ranked in each category. Values in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.
  • All data comes from Pro Football Reference’s game play finder.

A few thoughts:

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Shane Waldron’s Offense Is A Fun One

| February 15th, 2024

If Luke Getsy’s offense was like a finely-tuned orchestra, with every aspect of each play meticulously planned & each game script dependent on all 11 offensive players consistently doing their jobs, Shane Waldron’s offense is more like a jazz band.

“Here’s a general idea of what you’re doing, but at the end of the day go be a football player.”

It’s a fun pivot towards an offensive coordinator who empowers his best players to be field-tilters & difference-makers, but don’t let the idea of simplicity fool you — Waldron uses concepts like motion & formation shifts to his players’ advantage well. Below I walk you through a nice example of Waldron baiting out Cincinnati’s 3-by-1 defensive check before then motioning out of that 3-by-1 and forcing plenty of defensive communication, which both allows the Seahawks to identify a key Bengals’ check early in the game while still exploiting the defense and picking up a first down.

It’s a pretty design. Give it a look.

https://twitter.com/robertkschmitz/status/1757886362097754301

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