Checking the Tape: Bears Offense in the Superdome

| November 7th, 2023

It’s a short week for us fans as the Bears get set to play what may just be the biggest remaining game on their schedule — whether you’re a fan cheering for Bears draft position or simply a fan cheering for the Bears, Chicago has a chance to all but lock in a Top 2 Pick in the 2024 NFL Draft with a win over a bad Carolina Panthers team that plays nothing but tough teams (and Green Bay) down the stretch.

But we’ll get to Thursday soon — first, let’s take a look back at what the tape said about Sunday’s offensive showing. My observations (along with associated cut-ups) are listed below:

Sections today are:

  • Discussion of each of the 5 major Offensive Linemen
  • Talking through some of the ‘gross’ within the Bears’ offense
  • Where Bagent won, where Bagent lost, what I’d like to see from Bagent on Thursday
  • A quick Cole Kmet mention

Teven Jenkins played phenomenally

Nobody in a Bears uniform plays with the natural nastiness that Teven Jenkins does, especially when run-blocking. #76 finished run after run against New Orleans and looked like a down-in and down-out leader as he did.

He had a great day in pass protection as well. If he can stay healthy for the rest of the year, I’d hope Ryan Poles explores an offseason extension.

Here’s another look at Teven mauling open a run lane later in the game…

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Checking the Tape: Bears @ Colts

| August 21st, 2023

For the first time in the Matt Eberflus era, Bears fans were forced to swallow the bitter pill of preseason defeat as Chicago fell to Indianapolis 17-24 over the weekend. The tilt saw both teams rest nearly all of their starters and many of their reserves, but a loss is a loss — with something like that hanging over fans’ heads, it’s a miracle that anyone loyal to the team made it into work today.

But setting aside the sting of defeat, what did we learn about the roster this weekend? I dove into the game’s All-22 tape and went spelunking — here’s what I found:

Guarding our Hearts:

Ja’Tyre Carter picked a great weekend to have another great weekend — with reports that Tevin Jenkins has suffered a leg injury that may shelve him for up to 6 weeks, quality OL depth looks more valuable than ever.

Carter’s form looks great in pass protection, but he’s making his hay as a run blocker and looks forceful as he does — below is a great example of Carter’s handiwork, and as Lucas Patrick continues to miss time in Training Camp I’m curious to see which young lineman the Bears turn to as the next LG.

Dropping Anchor:

Zacch Pickens took a healthy step forward in his second NFL exhibition, but he did so in a way I didn’t see coming — I expected to see him utilize his length & first step to pressure the passer and knife into run gaps, but instead he dropped anchor twice on the goal line and stood up Colts double-teams on both sides of the defensive line. As the primary backup for Andrew Billings, Pickens couldn’tve shown off a more encouraging skill.

Click the clip below to see his 2nd rep in the replies — it’s impressive stuff from a rookie known to struggle doing exactly this in college. I’d like to see him win a few more reps in run defense this weekend before making any sweeping declarations, but in the meantime it’s nice to see the Bears helping their rookies hone key skills.

Breaking Down Bagent:

Tyson Bagent will be the subject for tomorrow’s (tonight’s) Dissecting a Drive, so I won’t go into too much detail here.

That said, I put together a quick breakdown on one of my favorite of Bagent’s throws — a simple quick screen that, upon further inspection, I think Tyson audibled into. Turn your sound on for this one:

Also, given that the Bears’ QB2 looked like this on Saturday Night, Tyson’s calm demeanor couldn’tve been a more welcome sight. He’s a very fun young player to watch.

I’ll update this article throughout the day, so stay tuned!

Your Turn: What stuck out to you during Saturday Night’s game?

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Bears Offensive Line Is Built on Hope More Than Certainty

| July 28th, 2023

While it isn’t the dire situation we saw a year ago, the Chicago Bears have entered training camp with questions along their offensive line.

The Bears made two big investments in their offensive line, signing guard Nate Davis and drafting tackle Darnell Wright, but it’s still worth questioning if that is enough. The Bears will be relying on three unproven players as well as two veterans who need to step forward in 2023, and for this offensive line to compete against the best defensive lines on their schedule they’ll need quite a bit of luck to break their way.

The offensive tackle position could be problematic. The upside of both Wright and left tackle Braxton Jones is apparent — both have everything one could want from a physical standpoint. Wright played well at Tennessee last year and there’s no reason to second-guess the team for picking him. That said, it isn’t unusual for tackles to struggle as rookies.

Teams can usually live with rookie struggles, but Braxton Jones is hardly a proven commodity on the other side. He played well for a fifth-round pick last year, but still wasn’t playing at what most would consider a starting level. In 206 true pass sets — defined by Pro Football Focus as pass plays that exclude plays with fewer than four rushers, play action, screens, short drop backs and time to throw under two seconds — Jones allowed 30 pressures. That’s the 10th most in the league, despite having just 206 snaps in those situations. PFF graded Jones’ pass blocking efficiency in true pass sets 57th out of 60 players with at least 150 true pass sets. He wasn’t even as efficient as Larry Borom was as a rookie, though the upsides of both players aren’t close.

Going into camp without any competition for Jones is certainly a bet on upside and coaching. If it pays off, Ryan Poles and company will look like geniuses. If it doesn’t and Wright goes through typical rookie struggles, the Bears are going to have a major problem.

The concerns aren’t limited to the tackle position though.

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Zooming in on the Blockers, Vol. 2: Guards

| March 7th, 2023

Yesterday, we explored the tackles, where Braxton Jones looks like a solid starter. Today, we will look at the guards.

Pass Blocking

The Bears had four guards play meaningful snaps last year, and the table below shows how they held up in pass protection compared to the 77 guards around the NFL who had at least 200 pass blocking snaps (Lucas Patrick did not have enough snaps to qualify, so his ranks are where he would have fit if he did). All data is from Pro Football Focus (PFF), and true pass sets are intended to remove plays designed to minimize the pass rush, such as screens, play action, and rollout. Cells highlighted in green indicate they ranked in the top 25%, while red indicates the bottom 25%.

A few thoughts:

  • Like we saw with the tackles, the Bears minimized the amount of true pass sets in order to protect an offensive line that they didn’t trust to hold up in protection. And like we saw with tackles, they generally had good reason not to trust the line, as there’s a whole lot of red and not a lot of green in this chart.
  • Looking at individual players, the top three aren’t too bad. Nobody really stands out as being all that good, but they’re mostly around average to maybe a bit below average.
  • Lucas Patrick, on the other hand, was horrible. I know he struggled through injuries last year, but he was legitimately one of the worst guards in the NFL.

Teven Jenkins got a lot of hype from Bears fans last year, but he seemed to struggle a bit as a pass protector, especially in true pass sets. Of course, it was his first season as a starter, so it’s possible that he improved as the season went on, like we saw from Braxton Jones yesterday. The table below looks at his performance when splitting the season into four-game intervals. Jenkins got hurt during the season in 2022, so he only played five games from Week 9 on, and those are all put into one sample.

Here you can see that some improvement was made as a pass protector, at least based on PFF’s grades. This is especially evident in the true pass sets, which is where Jenkins most struggled. Hopefully that progress can continue going forward.

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Tuesday Lynx Package [8.30.22]

| August 30th, 2022

From the final whistle of the last preseason game to kickoff of the opener is a weirdly dead time in the NFL. Teams are full week one install and shrouded in secrecy. Nothing gets out of any building. DBB season previews, predictions, etc. will all be posted next week. This week, we slowly waltz into Labor Day weekend and the de facto end of the summer. Today, some links.

  • Rosters will be cut down to 53 players by this afternoon and Courtney Cronin has her predictions here. There is very little drama at Halas Hall, as any young player with potential is going to be kept around, i.e., Jack Sanborn. The cut who felt like the “bubble boy” was Dazz Newsome and the Bears made that decision a week ago.
  • If you’re not finished digesting the final preseason game, Kevin Fishbain’s game story for The Athletic was the best out there. (Outside of my own, of course.)
  • I pride myself on knowing the names of local newspapers for every market in the country. But I had no idea there was such a thing as The Canton Repository. Here is a nice story from that publication on their hometown boy, Dominique Robinson, a player that has had a terrific summer for the Bears and will be part of their future plans. (His injury suffered Saturday could have an impact on the structure of that future.)
  • If the Jets were trying to trade Denzel Mims, showcasing him Sunday against the Giants was a smart move. His 7-102-1 performance captured some attention and Mims is saying all the right things about his future. This is a player the Chicago Bears should certainly be considering, but only at an extremely low cost.
  • ACTUAL BEAR NEWS: Sometimes clickbait demands to be clicked. “Vermont Woman Has Dog’s ‘Ninja Moves’ to Thank for Helping Save Her from Bear Attack” is one of those stories.
  • Josh Schrock of NBC Sports discusses the emergence of Elijah Hicks this summer. From the piece: “I really like his movement skills,” head coach Matt Eberflus said. “Elijah’s really doing a good job. You’re focused on that in the open field and also in man-to-man coverage. Can he mirror and stay with guys and then also be stout? Because it’s a physical game when you’re playing man-to-man, and he can do that. Can he anchor and stay attached to the tight ends or backs or whoever he’s covering? But yeah, I’ve been impressed.”

And a special shoutout to Brandon Thorn for isolating some of Teven Jenkins’ work on Saturday night.

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Three Tweets to Close Camp

| August 22nd, 2022

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A Desperately Useless Affair: Rapid Fire Recap of the Second Practice Game

| August 19th, 2022

As is the want of DBB, we’ll approach this practice game quarter-by-quarter. And hopefully I will be able to stay awake for all four. (That is highly doubtful. With both teams sitting 20+ players, this is a more useless preseason game than most.)

Quarter One.

  • Velus Jones looks like he’s going to be the return man. Showed a remarkable burst on the opening kickoff (before fumbling) and had a long punt return later. When you have that kind of speed on your roster, you have to use it, and the return game is a good way to start.
  • First offensive drive, the Bears surrendered a lot of pressure. But Fields was genuinely quick to recognize it and get the football out of his hands. Remember, this is all vanilla game planning. Nothing the Bears ran against Seattle had anything to do with Seattle.
  • Never overreact to the preseason. But Cole Kmet looks like he’s going to be a central part of this passing game.
  • Just an eye test thing, but I think the Bears need to move Trestan Ebner ahead of Khalil Herbert on their depth chart. He’s got a better burst and he’s tougher to bring down. Herbert is useful but Ebner looks better as a runner.
    • Ebner didn’t make it through the first half healthy. Something to monitor.
  • This game kicked off at 8:13 or so ET. By 8:43 all of the relevant Bears were out of the game. These games in August should all be early afternoon kickoffs.
  • No idea how well Teven Jenkins played inside against the better Seahawks, but he didn’t seem to make any visible errors. (When Seattle moved to the backups late in the quarter, Jenkins leveled a few guys.)

Quarter Two.

  • Trevor Siemian is having a nice summer for this team. You want a backup quarterback that can execute the offense and not be an automatic loss. Siemian is that.
  • Do the Bears intend to use Trenton Gill on kickoffs?
  • Big time whiff by Kyle Gordon on the long Homer run at the start of the second quarter. Happens. But needs to get corrected.
  • Good reason to be concerned about Trevis Gipson. For a guy expected to start on the edge, he’s had a relatively unimpressive summer and was kept in this game far too long. Bears need pass rush production aside from Robert Quinn. Gipson need to provide a significant amount of it.
  • Dante Pettis relieved Dazz on punt returns last week and relieved Velus this week. Seems like he’ll have a spot on this roster.
  • A guy slid to end the half for Seattle. And then he looked shocked by the moment. That seems about right for these awful games.

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Prelude to a Preseason Game: Things to Watch Tonight

| August 18th, 2022

Playing preseason games on short weeks is absurd, and the Bears are actually acknowledging that absurdity by intending to play their starters less in the second preseason game than in the first. (Almost like these contests have very little value to teams, outside of financial.)

Still, we shall watch tonight. And there are a few things to watch.

  • Teven Jenkins. In the last month, Jenkins has gone from potentially being traded to nursing a mysterious injury to third-string offensive tackle to starting right guard. That’s where he’ll line up tonight and it’s in the best future interest of this franchise for him to thrive at that position. A solid performance tonight likely lands him in the starting five upfront against the 49ers in a few weeks.
  • Dazz Newsome. One would hope the coaching staff haven’t completely given up on Dazz as punt returner due to a single fumble in the first preseason game; that remains to be seen. But Dazz has been really good since botching that return, both in the remainder of that game and in practice sessions this week, even taking some first team reps with Justin Fields.
  • The Jack Sanborn Show. On Saturday, Sanborn had fans on the lakefront saying, “Roquan who?” And with Roquan still sidelined due to a contract dispute, it’ll be interesting to see if Coach Flus moves Sanborn up the depth chart at all, perhaps into the realm of those first 6-10 plays? Doubtful, but it’s something.

Enjoy the second practice game!

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Teven Jenkins Slides Inside

| August 15th, 2022

Michael Schofield is another body, a perfect swing guard for this roster.

Teven Jenkins is an offensive lineman with first-round talent. This move likely would have been made a week ago if Jenkins were able to practice. Jenkins has the athleticism to play guard in this offense and 2022 will be better served seeing if he can adapt to that role, as opposed to sticking with a 31-year-old journeyman.



Training Camp Thoughts, Volume VI: Lynx Edition

| August 9th, 2022

No practice for the Bears on Monday. So here are some things I wasted time reading on Monday.

  • The Jahns and Fishbain practice report at The Athletic seems to suggest an order is forming along the offensive line and that order has Braxton Jones at left tackle and Riley Reiff at right tackle. If Braxton ultimately wins the job, and is on the blindside come opening day, he immediately becomes one of the two or three most interesting players on this roster in 2022.
  • It feels like the drama surrounding Teven Jenkins has come to an end and the focus will now be back on the field. (Courtney Cronin details the whole ordeal here.) If Braxton is one of the most interesting players heading into this regular season, Teven is THE most interesting of the preseason. When will get into these games? Where will Getsy and Morgan play him? How will he respond?
  • Unsung Tweet from Brad Biggs: “#Bears DC Alan Williams praises LB Joe Thomas – saying he is leading that group in takeaways. He has a shot to compete for strong side job and has been a previous core special teams player in the league.”
  • With N’Keal Harry’s comeback derailed by what looks like a serious injury, I wanted to read more about the kid. Sometimes we fixate on the football player without paying any respect to the human being. Harry seems a very, very good young man. From a blog post by Bernd Buchmasser in 2019: “[I want to] give back in any way that I can,” Harry said during the photo op and Q&A session inside Gillette Stadium yesterday. “Definitely help my family, help some people on the island. I feel like with this platform I’ve been given, it’s my duty to do something good with it. God has blessed me to be in this position. So it would be a disservice if I didn’t give back and if I didn’t show appreciation, so that’s my biggest goal.”
  • Somehow, I missed the report that Nicholas Morrow, and not Roquan Smith, would be the signal caller in the new defense, as that duty is exclusively handled by the middle linebacker. (Somehow = I didn’t look.) Patrick Finley in the Sun-Times wrote about this about a week ago. From the piece: “That’s a pretty standard thing, I think,’’ Morrow said. ‘‘I think the biggest thing is making sure we’re all on the same page and we’re over-communicating. Sometimes you get those young guys in there, and there are certain calls where it’s gotta be communicated consistently. Just getting that together is probably bigger than the calls, I think.’’
  • ACTUAL BEAR NEWS: “Danvers residents are being asked to take precautions after a bear was spotted in the Massachusetts town on Sunday. A Danvers resident shared video from her Ring video camera that showed a black bear roaming across her driveway Sunday morning. The bear ended up scaling a short stone wall before moseying along.”
  • Per Alex Shapiro at NBC Sports, the Bears coaching staff thought they’d get pushback for their H.I.T.S. program. But that hasn’t happened. “…the team’s response to Eberflus’ demanding philosophy got its challenge over the weekend, when the team was put through two long padded practices, with plenty of running around, in the hot sun. Cole Kmet said it was the toughest practice of his life. Khalil Herbert said players were “laid out” in the locker room afterwards. Yet, by all accounts, the players gritted through it.”

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