You’ll notice the slight tip of the cap to my guy Denny Green (R.I.P.) for one of the great precious soundbites of the millennium. To say the Bears season has been nothing short of confusing, exhilarating, perplexing, disappointing, and awesome, then….you win! Hey, it’s 2020, it’s going to get weirder before it gets better. The rest of the league is still trying to figure one another out. The lack of preseason games may be overrated as teams try to avoid injury, but not having OTA’s in May, an abbreviated training camp, and being in the Covid restricted environment hasn’t seemed to hamper offenses, and usually it’s the other way around.
**Without creating a mountain out of a mole hill, AND while simply sourcing this here espn.com article, it appears as though officials have focused on not calling offensive holding as much, and also calling defensive pass interference a little more.
It’s like a brand new offense
The focus has obviously been the QB scenario, but there have been some great positives. The O-Line, including the Tight Ends has looked drastically improved. Having bigger stronger guards has been noticeable, as has the physical attitude of the running backs. Thanks to going into 12 or even on occasion 13 personnel more often, the blocking out on the edge by the gaggle of Bears TE’s against the defensive edge setters, some of whom change given the formation and defensive call, has been very good.
I know fans are clamoring for mystical Travis Kelce level production out of the Tight Ends in the passing game, but as Bears TE coach Clancy Barone has stated, that certainly has to do with how teams roll overages, what the defensive call is, and frankly, who is open. Fantasy football is nice, but some guy won’t magically target a tight end 12 times a game based on sketchy stats trying to make that case.
As far as pass pro is concerned, getting the ball out on time, like any functional offense at any level, has plenty to do with that success rate. The penalties have been down, and the teams offensive identity through the coaching staff has been altered in a good way. Being more dedicated to the run, as well as bringing out multiple tight end personnel has paid off. If the Bears do end up limiting that heavier personnel and rolling 11 a little more (3 receivers and Miller comes in), then that will be from a film scouting issue through the week, as well as in game adjustments.
Has Nagy learned….yet?
Also, Kudos to the Bears staff for recognizing what has happening during games and making key adjustments. Nagy was overwhelmed last season because current offensive assistant Dave Ragone was kind of new and ex OC Marc Helfrich apparently did nothing. Now, with a coach on the field of sorts with Foles, along with competent former OC’s in Bill Lazor and John DeFillippo, the Bears are harder to defend. It might be as simple as getting YAC’s, or yards after the catch, like when the QB put’s it on the receivers numbers. It may be making a kill call and going into an improved play, or even simply getting the damn ball out of the pocket because the QB has an actual clock in his head.
Not all throws have to be huge deep shot bombs. Foles was sticking deep corner shots like the one to Ginn, as well as Millers TD like no one’s business. Those are legit NFL throws. Maybe Foles doesn’t do ten of those a game, but a small handful keeps defenses more honest. Once a defense knows that throw can be made because they have seen it on film, they lose more of the their “luxuries” as far as blitzes and or disguised coverages are concerned. Again, the simplest way to disguise a coverage is between two high and one high safeties.
Last, how the team deals with the Cohen injury, will be interesting to follow. Now, Cohen did kind of tip off defenses anyway. But also vice versa, having him helped the QB and coaches in the booth see the possible coverage. So in that case, he was a like Nagy called him, “an adjuster”. Anyway, it’s not like the Bears have been decimated by swaths of injuries like the 49ers have for instance.Speaking of the 49ers and Coach Kyle Shanahan, a good place to start for the Bears offense would be some 12 personnel outside zone with Patterson, and taking some intermediate shots downfield off of the play action….and or basically rip off a Shanahan of some sort.
Good ole Charlie Pagano
Okay, so here is what we know. Chuck Pagano’s defense is….good? There are two schools of thought on this in the young season. The first is that situationally, whether it be third down, red zone, quick change off a turnover, the Bears have a top ten ranking. When it comes to getting gashed on big plays, the run being more surprising than the pass, they rank in the bottom ten. However, there are some solid statistics out there when it comes to pass coverage (To use the phrase of 2020: “Do your own research!”) wherein the completion percentage against both Jaylon Johnson and Kyle Fuller are below 50 percent, which is great. Not to mention, the big time fulcrums of the defense like Hicks and Mack are making plays when it counts. Sort of like the guy who guys 0 for 3 but then rips the game tying double off the top notch closer.
Sunday’s game will be a barometer for the Bears defense, most pointedly in the run game. If I’m being objective, the Colts will run the hell out of Johnathan Taylor behind Quentin Nelson and the rest of the Colts above average line. There are dudes on both sides of the line of scrimmage, but it’s really going to come down to hitting a few play calls correctly, run blitz or not. Sometimes things match up, and you get a stop for one yard, or sometimes you get a 30-yard touchdown scamper like last Sunday. It’s clear the Bears miss Eddie Goldman, but before we start printing off Super Bowl tickets, we need to see Chuck Pagano win the chess match against Frank Reich. The battle of wits between Nagy and Reich from the Andy Reid coaching tree kicks off at 3:25. Bart Scott along with myself…”CAN’T WAIT!”