Football

AKA #Chuckstrong

The Bears dropped from the 1st overall defense in DVOA in 2018 down to 8th in 2019, the first year under Chuck Pagano’s watch. Why is that? Was it the offense constantly trying to get off the field as quickly as possible? Was it the key injuries to certain starters, or the loss of half the secondary in free agency? Was it due to the Bears playing Football Outsiders’ #1 toughest schedule of 2019, or simply just statistical variance?

I don’t know, if I did I’d be coaching the Bears defense (spoiler alert: I run a lot of 0 coverage so I’m sorry in advance). However, I did smoke a bunch of LEGAL weed and read PFF and Football Outsiders to get to the bottom of this hypothetical question.

The Good:

Roquan Smith is gonna be the fuckin dude in the middle, y’all. The Bears numbers against the run aren’t very impressive on paper, but metrics put the Bears as the 3rd and 6th overall defense from the Second-Level and Open Field metrics (runs beyond the defensive line). Pagano is letting his second level swarm to the ball, and the groundwork is there for the Bears to once again have the best LB corps in the league, provided they resign Danny Trevathan.

The defense looked good against the teams they should have. I know, that seems like a backhanded compliment, right? It’s not. 2018’s loss to the Giants (even with Chase Daniel at QB) was caused by a defense that could not stop Saquon Barkley and an awful Giants offense. This year’s Bears defense put shitty teams down and held them there, but of course the offense still managed to blow it against both LA teams, Oakland (debatable), and the first Packers game. As Bears fans, we gotta take pride in beating the teams they should beat because this franchise plays down to their opponents so much you’d think it was commonplace.

This is where I officially state my case for Leonard Floyd: he is absolutely a starting-caliber outside linebacker. His numbers as a pass rusher are not great, but Pagano utilized him in the best possible way: setting the edge in the run game. He was most certainly not worth the price the Bears paid for him in the draft, but if he walks the Bears will most likely downgrade with his replacement.

The Bad:

If we can expect variance to be part of the year to year process, we see it in turnovers. The Bears simply did not take the ball away like they did last year. The Bears averaged 1.2 takeaways per game in 2019, compared to 2.2 per game in 2018. The other defenses with a 1.2 takeaway per game average in 2019? Jacksonville, Atlanta, Cleveland, Philadelphia. The Eagles were the only team that made the playoffs that finished outside the top 13 in that stat. If the Bears defense wants to come back to elite status, here is where the change needs to come.

Pagano was touted as a man-blitz schemer, but these Bears only blitzed on 23.5% of snaps, the 8th lowest percentage in the league. Going back to the Leonard Floyd bit, Pagano needs to scheme this guy free with blitzes or some other wizardry, because he still has elite closing speed (though sometimes struggles to finish). The Bears have elite blitzers in the back 7 at all levels, and Pagano needs to bring that heat from weird places more often.

According to Football Outsiders, the Bears ranked 22nd in the league in pass rush efficiency, and I’d say that’s about right. The loss of Hicks and the preponderance of man-coverage fronts instead of the Fangio Man/Zone hybrids created less pressure from the Bears 4 man rush. As a result, this defense didn’t play up to the lofty expectations we all had.

The Weird:

Pagano let the DBs play their preferred style all year long, which is maybe a good thing or a bad thing. I’m not sure so I’m putting it here.

The Future:

Here are the names of the starting players on the defense with expiring contracts:
Trevathan
Clinton-Dix
McManis (special teams counts and you know it)
Kwiatkoski

You gotta assume at least two of these players leave, right? There’s no way the team splits their core special teams up entirely by getting rid of Kwit and McManis, so one of them stays. I think the Bears re-sign Danny and McManis, and they will look to get another one year prove it deal with a former first round safety. My money is on Karl Joseph.

Football

 

vs.

 

Giants (2-8) at BEARS (4-6)

Kickoff: Noon 

TV: Fox 32

Radio: 780 WBBM

For your future’s sake
I’ve got advice I’d advise you to take
Don’t keep betting on it
“Well, it’s gotta light me up sometime”
You lost your turn

Matt Nagy is getting some emo treatment this week, at least from FFUD. The lyrics of Anthony Green spell out where I think a lot of the media, NFL sources and Chicago fans are at with Nagy: If you can’t stop trying to force whatever it is you’ve convinced yourself is the plan on offense, you’re not long for this job. You could also argue this fits for Ryan Pace as well; you’ve lost this season but you can still assess what’s worth keeping for the run in 2020 and beyond – if you’re smart enough. Even Chicago fans can take the quoted advice – Let go of the sky high expectations and accept that this ain’t it. Wait for your next turn.

Will that turn be in 2020? Nagy, Pace and co. will certainly say all the right things and plan for that, but it’s whatever that plan entails that holds the fortune for this current Bears GM/HC contingent. That starts this week at home against the New York Giants, a team still trying to find it’s own way throw a plethora of odd management decisions and draft picks. Pace can learn a lot by looking across the sideline/press box, mostly the pitfalls he should avoid as he moves forward to try and fix his own debacle of a team.

The Giants limp in losers of six straight, though they do tend to keep it close with other cellar dwellers having lost one score games to the Jets, Lions and Cardinals in that stretch. Rookie Daniel Jones has taken over under center and been mostly bad with a few highlight reel tosses mixed in…sound familiar? The Giants bypassed Quenton Nelson, among others like Roquan Smith, Sam Darnold and Bradley Chubb) for the opportunity to take Saquon Barkley second overall in 2018 and make him the true focal point of the offense. Barkley has been one of the best weapons in the league since, but it hasn’t translated to success for the Giants, especially in year two where the offensive line and pass catchers have let them down in a big way. The defense is even worse, ranking 27th or lower in all relevant defensive metrics. The Giants are a -12 in turnover differential with only the Miami Dolphins below them. Barkley can go for 150-200 yards easily, but if the team around him is this terrible, what was the point of spending the second overall pick on a Ferrari you can’t get outside your own neighborhood?

Dave Gettleman and the G-men did themselves no favors, dealing WR Odell Beckham Jr. and DT Olivier Vernon for next to nothing and letting All-Pro safety Landon Collins walk away for nothing. Collins situation was especially absurd, as the team could have tagged him, didn’t, refused to make any sort of passable contract offer to him and ended up pissing him off to the point that he sought out a deal in Washington so he would have the chance to play his old team twice a year. Yikes. They also dealt OBJ mere months after handing him a fat extension, costing themselves millions in dead cap space in the process. I haven’t even gotten to the odd coaching hire decisions and the bungling of Eli Manning‘s contract. The Giants are trash, on the field and off it.

The Bears, at 4-6, are not going to make the playoffs. They’re not going to have a first round pick in April, either. Pace can’t do much about either of those things right now, but what he can do is work with his Head Coach and make sure that they’re giving reps to the players they need to make decisions on in the near future. Mitchell Trubisky remains the great mystery box, at least to Pace/Nagy. Many in the league and the fan base have given up on Trubs (including yours truly), but the fact is they still have six games with which to assess the young signal caller. Nagy has argued, with some pretty favorable, timely quotes from Chase Daniel, that Mitch has absolutely been better the last two weeks. Some have stated the choice to pull Mitch at the end of the Rams game was more about sending a message veiled as being all injury related. The stats are a little uneven, but a strong outing against a bad Giants team to follow up the disgusting offensive display at the Rams last week would do Mitch and Nagy a lot of good.

There are players all over the roster that need assessing as well, and the scrutiny is going to start coming in the form of analysis like “You’re going to need to see more from (insert player on a rookie deal) on a play like that to keep him in the fold” from pundits and the media alike. “I’m not sure if you keep (veteran on a deal that can save the Bears more than the dead cap hurts) if these are the types of efforts you keep seeing from here” should also be pretty prevalent. The good news is that the Giants present an opportunity for a lot of these guys to start making compelling cases as to why they deserve another deal or to keep the one they have/get new money. The list of players with something to prove is a bit larger than a year ago when off season business was kept to a minimum – Eddie Jackson, Leonard Floyd, Tarik Cohen, Allen Robinson, Roy Robertson-Harris, Nick Kwiatkoski, Nick Williams are all playing for new money; Prince Amukamara, Taylor Gabriel, and Eddy Pineiro are just trying to keep their jobs; ANY offensive linemen and tight ends are playing to earn a shot at all.

I guess I haven’t really gotten into any X’s and O’s of what these two teams might try to do this weekend, but I also don’t really know that they know what the hell they’re going to do. Neither has managed sustained success in any facet in 2019, but both have plenty they’d like to point to and prop up as “the Future” of their franchise. For Chicago, that needs to start with a passable display from Trubisky and the offense and some steady play and added pressure on the young QB Jones (looking at you, Khalil Mack) from Pagano’s defense. A loss, or even another terrible day of paltry offensive execution, could spell real doom for Nagy and Pace and a bunch of players up and down the roster. It could also be the spring board to some encouraging results in tough matchups to close out the season. Here’s to hoping Nagy takes the advice.

Prediction: Bears 22, Giants 17

Football

Tony Martin: Today’s matchup post is going to look a little different than usual- since this year has been anything but normal, we are having to seriously discuss how to spend our Sunday afternoons. I just started a new job, I’m still in grad school, and I still play in multiple bands- that time of the weekend would be perfect to spend it on anything other than shitty football that I’m emotionally invested in.

Yet I know for a fact that I’ll be parked on the couch this Sunday, watching the lifeless Bears play against the Giants. I’m not sure if I’m watching to see if they have something to prove or if I do it out of sheer tradition. I feel like if there was a Dawn of the Dead style zombie apocalypse, instead of lurking to the mall you’d find my dead ass sitting on the couch with a half cashed bowl and a LaCroix within arms reach of my rotting arms, waiting for the Bears to come on.

What do the Bears have to prove over these last few games? Is this just a talent evaluation process by now? It could be. I’m thinking they need to assess what options they have at so many different positions- both sides of the line, tight end, linebacker, kicker, and the defensive backfield. At this point, let’s see what this team has going forward. A lot of what Pace and Nagy should be focusing on where the holes in this leaky sink are coming from, because even though Mitch is the most glaring problem, the reason we are where we are is deeper than bad QB play. If Kyle Orton can win games as a starting QB, so can Mitch, but the franchise needs to build and play to his strengths. A great game plan can help mitigate a lot of deficiencies if done right.

This team absolutely has a playoff core, but Pace/Nagy need to spend the offseason figuring out what the identity of the franchise actually is and then building towards it. The end of last season covered up a lot of the problems with this roster from an identity standpoint on offense. They had a bruising running back and then a scatback, an all-star caliber wide receiver and a bunch of undersized speedsters, and a tight end that was not worth the money. All they did was replace the running back with a much better prospect that fits the offense, but they get away from running as soon as they fall behind, even if it’s by something as small as a first half field goal. Now might be the time to find those things to build upon, but it’s going to be boring as shit from a fan perspective to see it.

To wrap this part up, I’ll tell you what I’m looking for as the Bears play us off (insert Bill O’Reilly impression here):

-Is there an NFL-caliber tight end on the roster?
-Is Anthony Miller consistent enough to warrant a spot as the starting slot WR?
-Which defensive linemen could create pressure on their own in the absence of Khalil Mack?
-Does Leonard Floyd still play for this team?
-Eddie Goldman somehow has a grade of 74.3 so far from PFF- how much of 2018’s 88 rating from PFF was aided by the presence of Akiem Hicks?
-Do the Bears look to extend any of the following players: Danny Trevathan, Haha Clinton-Dix, Aaron Lynch, Nick Williams, Nick Kwiatkoski, or Roy Robertson-Harris?
-Are the Bears interested in taking a harder look at Javon Wims or Ryan Nall?

 

Wes French:Tony, I have to admit – If there is a Dawn of the Dead style scenario, I’d like to come find that couch and help you finish off your party favors. Barring a Hollywood situation on Sunday, though, I think I’m checking out on the Bears for a week.

It’s the Sunday before what’s basically a holiday week – yeah, I’ve got to work a few days at the beginning, but am I REALLY working? Fuck no. And the fact the Bears don’t really seem to be working the last month+ makes me unsure about investing another 3-4 hour block of my weekend, especially against a putrid trash heap like the New York Giants. I guess this might be the BEST time to check in, since the Bears should be able to get a W against the rookie-QB led G-Men, but the last time we had that narrative was all of two weeks ago against Detroit and that game was about as entertaining as a wet fart. Plus we’ll get that same wet fart four days later, bright and early before we’re all stuffed.
Am I interested in another slog between trash teams trying to sort out how exactly to best use the players they employ? No, no I’m not. Tony outlined plenty to look for in terms of WHY you may want to check in to this game on Sunday, and beyond the Bears sorting themselves out for a hopefully more spirited run in 2020 I could see you being mildly interested in who this Daniel Jones character is playing QB for NYG and wanting to see the sometimes electric Barkley do what he does. Outside of those two, the Giants have nothing to hold the interest of anyone but the diehards in the Big Apple and even those dummies are probably on to other things by week 12 of a 2-8 season. The Giants are pretty terrible and deserve no one’s attention, and in the immortal words of Local H – And Fuck New York, Too.

So what else should you be doing on Sunday? I’m going to play hockey and casually catch a nice dose of Red Zone with NINE noon games. Why the NFL can’t sort themselves out enough to have a better division of games through the day (there are only TWO late afternoon contests, but one is DAL @ NE) remains a mystery, but I digress. There are some strong teams on bye this week (KC/MIN), but while the schedule at first glance looks like a mirror of Bears/Giants, I’d say we’re in for a noon slate of some wild football with goofy fun matchups galore: 
– SEA @ PHI: The best game on paper at noon, Seattle looks to keep the Eagles down as they chase the 49ers for the NFC West/#1 seed. The Eagles are maddening, but always capable of a breakout performance and still have a shot at their own shitty Division
– TB @ ATL: Human Turnover Machine/Piece of Shit Jameis Winston goes into Hotlanta, quietly one of the best defensive units in the league since Week 5; I’ll guarantee at least 3 INTs and a DEF TD
– DEN @ BUF/ OAK @ NYJ: On the surface, the Bills and Raiders should cruise, but the Broncos have proved a difficult out and the Jets are scoring in bunches of late. The Bills and Raiders also remain the Bills and Raiders, so place those bets cautiously
– PIT @ CIN: A once fierce rivalry reduced to Mason Rudolph against Ryan Finley. I’ll be honest, this one excites even less than the Bears, but it does produce a decent opportunity for the Bungals to get their first win…it could totally be worse, Bears fans
– CAR @ NO: This sees two teams heading in wildly opposite directions, with the Panthers looking like they might be onto their third QB of the season and just about dead in the NFC at 5-5. Saints are aiming for NFC’s top spot. Divisional games can be weird, though
– MIA @ CLE/DET @ WSH: These two matchups pit four of the leagues worst franchises (of late, at least) against each other, and while on the surface the matchups look shit you should NEVER discount a game between the worst of the worst. How will Cleveland respond after the brawl to end last week’s game? Can Miami make it 3 wins in 4 after starting 0-7? Will the Lions continue to be the tonic that aids young/under-performing QBs for Dwayne Haskins and the Racial Slurs???
TUNE IN TO FIND OUT
Football

Ladies and gentlemen, please let me introduce New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. Daniel went to The Charlotte Latin School, in Charlotte, NC; which I know first-hand is full of guys named Daniel and Chad and Harper. From Charlotte Latin, Jones went to Dook University. Dook is a place where guys named Daniel and Chad and Harper go to college and meet girls from New Jersey named Piper and Huntington. In an effort to make Daniel Jones more unlikeable, I’d like to let you know that he has a sister named Becca and a brother named Bates.

So, despite an upbringing that would and probably did lend itself to uber-entitlement, Daniel Jones has excelled athletically at every stop in his football career: 3X NCAA Bowl Game MVP, 6th overall pick in NFL Draft, rookie starter in NFL.

With the Giants, Manning took over for potential Hall of Famer Eli Manning during Week 3 and as he has gotten more comfortable, he has continued to put up big numbers for a team that isn’t exactly oozing offensive talent.

Jones’ unspectacular overall numbers don’t paint an accurate picture of the type of year he has had thus far:

Now before you run to the window to bet the Bears at -6, take a look at what Jones has done over his last 3 games:

Are these blown up because of the inferior competition Jones has faced over the last four games? Maybe. Is Jones getting more comfortable in the Giants system and in the NFL in general? Absolutely. Over his last four games, Jones has thrown for 10 TDs and 2 INTs, which means in the five games before that, he threw for five TDs and six INTs. This is what you call, say it with me, T-R-E-N-D-I-N-G!

When you look at the receivers Daniel Jones is throwing to this season, you immediately appreciate the numbers he’s putting up. Tight end Evan Engram is leading the team in receptions, targets, and yards. That’s right; a tight end you’ve probably never heard of is leading an NFL team in most receiving categories. Unfortunately for Jones and the Giants, Engram has yet to practice this week due to a foot injury. Keep an eye on this.

Retread malcontent and noted doughnut thief Golden Tate is fine, just like he’s always been. Tate is averaging 70 receiving yards and about 5.5 catches per game, so he’s not completely useless.

Rookie Darius Slayton has had a very promising first season and is capable of big plays and big games; evident by his 10-catch, 121-yard, 2-TD performance his last time out. Slayton has all but replaced Tate as Jones’ first option on the outside.

WR Sterling Shepard has been a disappointment this season. Shepard started the season as a #1, and was an Eli Manning favorite, but as Slayton continues to get more targets, Shepard has become more of a possession receiver.

Look for otherworldly Saquon Barkley to see more targets out of the backfield this week, similar to his late October performance when he had eight catches for 80 yards. Barkley has at least five targets in every game this season with a high of 10. I believe his number will be closer to 10 than five this week against the Bears because it provides a safety valve for Daniel Jones in regards to both his physical well-being and mental health.

So dickhead, what does all of this nonsense mean come Sunday afternoon?

For the Bears, if Mitch Trubisky is healthy enough to play, then we will get a good chance to compare quarterbacks that are very similar. Mitch has the advantage of experience, and Jones has the disadvantage of going up against one of the best defenses in the NFL, but both guys are top 10 draft picks, who are playing for bad teams in big markets, whose fans think they reached for each player in the draft. I’d be surprised if either guy passes for more than 200 yards and either team scores more than 17 points.

Bears 17 – Giants 13

Football

vs.

RECORDS: CHI 0-1 NYG 1-0, not that it matters

KICKOFF: 6:30 pm

TV: Fox 32

RADIO: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM

NEWARK ISN’T NEW YORK: Big Blue View

This week the fake slate takes the Bears out to somewhere in New Jersey to play the New York FOOTBALL Giants. Let’s check in on how everything is going for the NFC East’s fail sons this week:

Yeah…sounds about right for the team that traded away Olivier Vernon and Odell Beckham on purpose for a bunch of picks and Jabrill Peppers, which they’ll use to replace All-Pro Safety Landon Collins. Oh, and he ended up with division rival Washington in an effort to destroy his old organization.

The aforementioned Daniel Jones was the big “prize” of the Giants many first round picks, and his debut last week was literally perfect for one single series, and it sounds like his head coach is ready to give him a lot more to chew on. The Bears will probably still get a decent amount of somehow still relevant Eli Manning to start, and for no real good reason Saquon Barkley. Given the amount of injuries at skill positions/pass catchers, I’d think Pat Shurmur would rather not risk what he’s got left, but if that tweet is to be believed John Mara might be making these kinds of decisions. Praying for Evan Engram‘s safety, folks.

The Giants defense is very thin basically everywhere, and the secondary made Sam Darnold look very, very good last week in an especially disastrous display. Cornerback Deandre Baker is likely out, along with Linebacker Alec Ogletree, so the results could very well be the same this week. Sean Chandler is a name that the Giants beat seems to think pretty highly of, so maybe watch for him to try and make a play or two on the back end.

The Bears spent most of the week fighting each other, puking, and trying to control the narrative around Mitchell Trubisky and his development (or lack thereof).  There was also a lot of love, and rightfully so, for rookie RB David Montgomery. Honestly, this was a pretty slow week with the team moving back up to Halas Hall from Bourbonnais, but Matt Nagy may be outsmarting himself this pre-season. His “mock game” where he held a 60-minute controlled, padded practice between his top units led to an injury to Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long beating Jalen Dalton with his own helmet. Long boasts this as his second fight of the week, and this one ended as he went to the sideline and immediately vomited before leaving practice. Nothing to see here.

The main things to watch tonight, unfortunately, are still the kickers. One of the better options from the outside (Vedvik) was snapped up by the Vikings of all teams, so Ryan Pace will likely have to spend some draft capital of his own on a new PK if Fry and Pineiro keep failing to impress. Nagy went out of his way to praise Trubs’ development in reading the defense thus far, so his performance is actually pretty important as well. Pick apart a shaky secondary and I’ll be a believer, but if he struggles with his footwork and accuracy while missing reads in his limited role he and his coach will have some splainin’ to do; especially after the multiple melees and Long’s attitude issues this week.

I guess that’s at least partially predicated on either Mitch or Long even playing, as Nagy is still acting coy on whether or not Mitch throws one pass in the entirety of the preseason. I don’t think a whole lot will be learned once this one ends (especially if we get another three hand-offs and out for Mitch), but they’re gonna play it regardless and I’m gonna watch it because that’s what we do, friends. Enjoy the show. Maybe Long gets a few snaps to scrap with someone not on his team.