Cleat Geeks

Bear Down; Trubisky Awakens

Last week there was a lot of frustration among Chicago Bears fans despite a win in Arizona. Quarterback and 2nd overall pick Mitch Trubisky had another mediocre game as he missed a lot of open targets. The young North Carolina alumn did a complete 180 on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Six touchdown passes, 354 passing yards (19/26), 154.6 passer rating, 53 rushing yards and a 48-10 victory. It was his 16th start in the NFL, so he now has a season-worth of starts in his career going back to last year. His six touchdown passes in one game are far and away a career-high and his 354 passing yards was also a career-high and just the second time he has surpassed 300 in a game. In fact he had seven touchdown passes all last season (12 games) under John Fox.

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Photo by; SB Nation

Everything was working for him. He was throwing the deep ball very well and accurately, which was good to see because he had plenty of wide-open targets down field. He also got the Bucs to jump off-sides a few times, used his athleticism on a few nice rushing plays and just looked much better in the pocket than last week. Also worth noting he did not turn the ball over. There were a few overthrown and underthrown balls, but his good outweighed the little bad by a lot.

As Trubisky dominated, the rest of the offense worked like a symphony in perfect rhythm. Great blocking all around allowed for Trubisky to have time to throw and set up some nice screen passes. Tarik Cohen led the way in receiving yards with with 121 with Taylor Gabriel at 104, who also caught two of the six touchdowns. Other touchdown passes were caught by Cohen, Allen Robinson, Josh Bellamy and Trey Burton.

Bears will head into a bye week next week before heading to Miami.

Bear Down; Defense Records First Victory Of The 2018 Season

The Chicago Bears have defeated the Seattle Seahawks 24-17 at Soldier Field for their first win of the season. It was also Matt Nagy’s first NFL win as a head coach. This win certainly helped Bears fans wash a bit of that sour taste in their mouths after the heartbreaking loss to Green Bay the week before.

As Chicago Bears tradition goes, the story of the success was the defense. Khalil Mack got a roaring ovation from the crowd in Chicago as he took the field as a Bear for the first time at Soldier Field. The defense sacked Russell Wilson five times in the first half and held the Seahawks to a field goal in the first 30 minutes. Biggest play of the night came from Prince Amukamara in the fourth quarter when he picked off Wilson and ran into the endzone for six, making it 24-10. Bears on the next Seahawks drive recovered a Wilson fumble, creating two turnovers on back-to-back defensive drives. Seahawks found the endzone in the last half-minute of the game in “garbage time.”

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Photo by; The Chicago Tribune

In total the Bears recorded six sacks, a pick-six and held Wilson to under 250 yards. Danny Trevathan had two of the sacks and rookie Roquan Smith had seven solo tackles, which led the team. Khalil Mack recorded a sack and four solo tackles.

Mitch Trubsiky and the offense was on and off. The first offensive drive of the game was incredible and led to a Trubisky to Trey Burton shovel pass for a touchdown. They did not find the endzone again until the fourth quarter when Trubisky rolled out to his left and fired a 10-yard pass to rookie Anthony Miller. Overall the young QB went 25/34 with two touchdown passes, two interceptions and 200 yards. A number of his passes were off the mark, but he also made some very nice throws in the scoring drives. Still plenty of work to do with him, but hopefully he can build on it.

A nice thing for Bears fan to see was the energy at Soldier Field. There has not been a lot to cheer about on the shores of Lake Michigan the past few years, but the crowd was in the game the entire way and very loud. Bears fans will likely show up in droves next week in Arizona as they take on the Cardinals.

Bear Down; Looking at 2018 With Cautious Optimism

The Chicago Bears will begin their 2018 season on their biggest rival’s turf in Green Bay Sunday evening. Many eyes will be on first-year head coach Matt Nagy, as well as quarterback Mitch Trubisky, newcomer OLB Khalil Mack and many others. A match-up between Mack and Aaron Rodgers is something football fans will certainly want to watch.

The new-look Bears had no doubt the most productive off-season of any NFL team. In addition to hiring a new coaching staff and trading for Mack, they acquired free agent talent in receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel as well as signing former Eagles TE Trey Burton, re-signing CB Kyle Fuller and drafting LB Roquan Smith in the first round…just to briefly sum it up. Many holes were filled around the young core of Trubisky, Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson and Akiem Hicks. There is a lot to be excited about for Bears fans for the future.Image result for mitch trubisky bears

What about 2018 itself? Can this team with all the new talent make a huge leap forward and be playoff contenders? It is certainly not out of possibility, but at the same time there are reasons to be cautious about the upcoming seasons. This is not to say that I do not believe in what GM Ryan Pace has done, he has made great moves and it will eventually pay off, but 2018 may still be a step in the staircase towards playoff contention.

Unknowns and growing pains

There are many promising, yet unknown pieces on this team. The Bears are dealing with a first-year head coach with a quarterback that only has 12 NFL games under his belt in Trubisky. Last year he threw for 2,193 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was greatly handcuffed by the conservative John Fox offense and no reliable targets to throw to, but he showed promise. Trubisky is a great athlete with a good arm and ability to use his legs. With a full season coming and an offensive minded coach like Nagy and talented targets for him to throw to, he can play at a very good level. Promise is there, but we need to see it consistently. A number of players and personnel fall into this category, but Trubisky is by far the most important asset on the team.

Speaking of Nagy, he is in his first year as an NFL head coach. There are a lot of positive things to say about him so far, but again we need to see results in regular season games. With him coaching a lot of young guys with not much experience/guys in new roles (Trey Burton being the anchor tight end for example), there will probably be some ups and downs early on. That is just how it goes with teams building up with young talent and a new staff.

NFC North

One of the most difficult parts of this rebuild is the division itself. It is looking early on as one of, if not the most competitive division in the NFL. Obviously the biggest roadblock has been and probably will be Aaron Rodgers. The Bears have just two wins against the Packers since 2011 and they are finally looking to turn the tide. While Green Bay has shown great weaknesses on the team over the past few years, a healthy Rodgers makes them Super Bowl contenders year in and year out. Chicago is going to have to beat Rodgers if they want to go on a run, not easy by any means.

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With all of that being said we still have to get to the favorites to win the North, the Minnesota Vikings. Even with Rodgers on the field for the Packers, the Vikings with their elite defense and newcomer QB Kirk Cousins make them very likely candidates to repeat as division champs. Beating that defense is going to be the toughest part and one big test for Trubisky who is 0-2 against the Vikings so far in his career. The Bears have one win against the Vikings the past three seasons.

It also is worth mentioning the Detroit Lions and Matt Stafford, who has been a thorn in the Bears side the past several years. They may not be favorites to win the division, but certainly not an easy win. Bears defense playing well will be key in beating the Lions.

“Safe” predictions?

This Bears team can go in several directions; a reasonable prediction would be around the 8-8 mark. That is a prediction I will personally stick with as the season begins.

While there are a lot of unknowns on the team, there is no doubt enough for this team to at least be competitive. Biggest questions are if they can beat their division opponents and how they matchup against teams like the Patriots and Rams. Established players like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Jordan Howard are definitely should be enough to get you wins against lesser teams, it is all about those tough opponents. Pace is in his fourth year as GM and has been in a rebuild mode throughout most of that time. Now it is time to at least expect improvement more than anything.Related image

Now can the Bears surprise the world and go say 10-6 and contend for the playoffs? Sure there is. If all this talent works out and the team is healthy, then they have the potential to have a lot of success. The Bears have lost so many frustratingly close games they could have won the past two years and this is the opportunity to turn those close games into wins. Not to mention we so often see teams for from worst to first on a yearly basis, no reason why it is not impossible for the Bears to do that especially with all the new talent. It just won’t be easy.

The talent is there.

The coaching is there.

The team philosophy is there.

The excitement is there.

The winning attitude is there.

This offeseason and 2018 regular season will be a huge stepping stone for the Chicago Bears organization. 2019 is a time Bears fans will hopefully be fully expecting playoff berths and playoff runs. The 2018 season should be exciting for Bears fans, however, it seems like there are plenty of reasons to hold certain cautions. Really want to finally see results on the field and not just on paper. Enjoy the ride and hope for the best.

 

BEAR Down; Khalil Mack, Welcome To Chicago

Chicago Bears fans across the country woke up Saturday morning both stunned and delighted to see that their team made a blockbuster deal with the Oakland Raiders. In exchange for several first round draft picks, the Bears acquired Pro Bowl DE Khalil Mack from Oakland. Mack (27) is one of the best players at his position and gives a Bears teams a much needed pass rusher.

The 2016 NFL defensive player of the year now will wear navy and orange. The Bears made Mack the highest-paid defender in NFL history with a six-year, $141 million extension that guarantees him $90 million and pays an annual average of $23.5 million from 2019-24. ESPN and NFL Network reported the contract details. Mack, the fifth overall draft pick in 2014, is scheduled to make $13.8 million this season, the fifth year of his rookie contract.

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Photo by; Silver and Black Pride

Most significantly, the Bears gave up their first-round picks in 2019 and 2020, but they received the Raiders’ second-rounder in 2020. There was more to the trade, the Bears also received a 2020 conditional fifth-rounder; they dealt a 2020 third-rounder and 2019 sixth-round pick. That leaves the Bears without a first- or second-round pick in the 2019 draft because of Saturday’s trade and their 2018 draft day trade up to select Memphis receiver Anthony Miller. Although the Bears no longer have a 2020 first-rounder, they have two second-round picks. It is a high price to pay in both what they gave up for the trade and what they now owe Mack, but now is the perfect time to pull the trigger on a move such as this, because quarterback Mitch Trubisky is only two seasons into his slotted rookie contract.

In 64 career games he has 40.5 sacks, 231 tackles, 72 assists, nine forced fumbles and four fumbles recovered.

Mack was rumored to be linked to a number of teams, as he was holding out with the Raiders while trying to negotiate a new contract. Not only is this a huge get for Chicago, but the rival Green Bay Packers were also reportedly one of the teams in the mix for Mack. Him going to Green Bay would have really made things tougher for the Bears. Now that he is in Chicago, the team is clearly very serious about winning this year.Image result for khalil mack bears uniform

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio now adds Mack to a defensive front seven that has Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, Jonathan Bullard, Danny Trevathan, Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman. Last season the front seven and defense as a whole was pretty good, adding first-round pick Roquan Smith and Mack makes it all that much better. Now they filled their biggest hole in the pass-rush game. If this team is fully healthy, they can put all sorts of pressure on the quarterback and either bring him down or force bad throws. Mack’s speed is one of the things that makes him so good and he can get around and get to the quarterback very fast.

Is this one of the biggest trades in Chicago Bears history?

It has to be. There is not a whole lot of trading in the NFL compared to baseball or hockey, so the sample size is not huge. Nevertheless it is still very significant. The last major trade they made was getting Jay Cutler in 2009 for Kyle Orton. Since then there has not been a major move like this one. While not a quarterback, the impact that Mack can make on a team is big because of how good he is. In an NFC North division with Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Kirk Cousins the Bears will need as good as a defensive unit as they can get.

“He brings a ton on the field, but he really fits what we are building in our locker room, too,” General Manager Ryan Pace wrote in a statement. “Elite defensive players in their prime are rare so when we knew we had a legit shot to acquire him, we did everything we thought necessary to get him. I’m confident the compensation to Oakland, including the return draft picks to us, and the contract extension for Khalil are fair to all parties.”

The Chicago Bears must at least have a .500 season in 2018. GM Ryan Pace has worked on the rebuild since 2015 and has yet to reach a winning season. Now is the time to start playing like contenders.

Bear Down, Solid Showing By Depth vs. KC

The Chicago Bears for the first time in 2018 played at Soldier Field in their preseason match-up against the Kansas City Chiefs. A 27-20 win over the Chiefs improved their preseason record to 2-2.

There were a lot of mixed feelings from Bears fans and media towards head coach Matt Nagy’s decision to rest the starters including QB Mitch Trubisky, a decision which was made the night before. Some were frustrated they could not watch Trubisky work with the first-string offense in a game, others were fine with Nagy not risking injury.

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Photo by; Brownsville Herald

Chase Daniel made the start for the Bears, who is slated to be the backup on the squad in the regular season. He had a very nice game passing for 198 yards and was 15/18 in completed passes with two of them being touchdowns. He also rushed for 47 yards including a 28-yard dash. Overall he has looked comfortable with the offensive scheme, which makes sense considering he had played in Kansas City with Nagy for a few years. Tyler Bray came in towards the end and went 5/7 with 72 yards.

Probably the guys being talked about most in this game were rookie WR Javon Wims and Kevin White. Wims led the way in receiving yards with 114 and caught one of the touchdowns. His touchdown catch was a very impressive over-the-shoulder catch in the back of the endzone as he dragged both feet just inside the zone. So far the 23-year old from Georgia is making a big case to make the roster. Meanwhile 2015 first-round pick Kevin White had two catches for 33 yards. His touchdown catch early on had a lot of people buzzing as he was able to deck the defender and find himself wide-open down field.

The defenders who played were second-stringers or lower, zero of the starters played. Safety Deiondre’ Hall led the team in tackles with five and LB John Timu had four. No interceptions or fumble-recoveries recorded. Roy Robertson-Harris did play a little as he is battling Jonathan Bullard for the starting DE spot.

There is one more game to be played before their September 9th opener in Green Bay. That will also be at home vs. the Bills. What Nagy will do with the roster for that game will remain to be seen.

#ManCrush Monday Series: Allen Robinson

This is the fifth in a series of articles that will all include the hashtag #ManCrush in which I will highlight specific players that I have fallen in love with in terms of fantasy football and why I am excited about their 2018 season and beyond. Some aspects of subsequent articles may stem from previous articles, so I encourage you to read them all. I also encourage you to check out each of the links for a more in depth look at what makes these players so special.

 

This past season, I acquired Allen Robinson via trade in my dynasty league AFTER his injury in a high risk, high reward kind of way. Let’s just say that what has transpired since that trade has not been in my favor, and I need Robinson to come through for me going forward. The situation will become more clear as we go. But first, I need to tell you my love story.

Being a Michigan State fan my whole life, I got the opportunity to watch Robinson destroy Big Ten opponents during his junior season at Penn State in 2013. I’m honestly glad my Spartans never had to deal with him, but sad that we couldn’t bring the Detroit native to East Lansing a few years earlier. That season, Robinson had 97 receptions for 1,432 yards and 6 touchdowns, including 8 games over 100 yards.

Robinson entered the draft a year early and was a part of the now high-profile 2014 WR class that featured Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Davante Adams, Jarvis Landry, and others. Robinson was drafted 61st overall by the Jaguars, who had grabbed QB Blake Bortles in round 1 with the 3rd overall pick. On paper, it was an ideal situation for Robinson, being able to start his career with the quarterback the Jaguars were hoping would be their franchise guy. In addition, the Jags’ receiving corps was at the time led by Cecil Shorts and 2012 first round pick Justin Blackmon, who has not played a game in the NFL since October 2013 due to repeated violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.

As it turned out, Bortles didn’t make the transition to the NFL as well as some may have liked, struggling with interceptions and sacks in his 13 starts in 2014. This didn’t bode well for Robinson and the Jags’ receivers; none of them even surpassed 700 yards. The Jacksonville offense ranked last in the league, which translated to a 3-13 record. No quite what we had in mind.

Flash forward to the 2015 season. Some call this season an anomaly for Bortles on his four year resume, and while that argument may carry some weight if you watch his play over the course of that season, Bortles through for close to 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns. That’s what can happen when you target Allen Robinson 150 times. Even when Bortles made reckless throws into coverage that no quarterback should have made, Robinson did his job and came down with the catch more often than not. Robinson was a downfield threat and a red zone nightmare. All in all, Robinson’s breakout sophomore season resulted in 80 catches, 1,400 yards, 14 touchdowns, and his first Pro-Bowl selection.

The constant deep ball didn’t work out as well for Bortles and Robinson in 2016, and the Jaguars offense regressed. Robinson’s 73-883-6 season line wasn’t terrible by any means, but a huge drop from a year prior. To start the 2017 season, on the third play from scrimmage, Robinson suffered a torn ACL in his left knee, costing him his entire season in a contract year. [Later that season is when I made the move for Robinson. I traded away my 1st and 2nd round picks, Larry Fitzgerald, and Orleans Darkwa and received Robinson, Cameron Meredith, Doug Martin, and Terrelle Pryor. This was based on the assumption that my picks would be in the middle of the rounds, Fitz would retire, and the players I was getting would bounce back in 2018.]

As free agency came upon us in March, the Jaguars had a decision to make with Robinson. He was an unrestricted free agent and would be one of the most coveted receivers on the market. Teams knew what Robinson was capable of, but two years removed from that 2015 season and now coming off an ACL injury, there was some risk for the Jags in paying to keep him. They considered placing the franchise tag on Robinson, which would have cost them nearly $16 million in 2018. In the end, the Jaguars let Robinson walk in a controversial move, especially considering the players they elected to keep and sign, along with picking up Bortles’ fifth year option. Robinson signed a 3-year, $42 million dollar contract with the Chicago Bears.

Now Robinson finds himself in a similar situation to the one he was in in 2014. The Bears drafted their quarterback of the future in Mitchell Trubisky last April, and he already has his rookie season under his belt. The Bears’ receiving corps has no veteran presence, 2015 first round pick Kevin White has probably only one more season to prove he’s not a complete bust, and the Bears lost restricted free agent Meredith to the Saints after declining to match their offer sheet. The Bears signed Marlon Brown last Thursday, but apart from the 7 touchdowns he posted in 2013, he was never a big factor in his time with the Ravens. Robinson enters as the de facto #1 receiver in former Chiefs’ offensive coordinator and new head coach Matt Nagy’s offense heading into 2018.

Without a quality running mate opposite him to draw defenders away, Robinson will most likely not be the most efficient receiver, but he should earn close to the 150 targets he had in consecutive seasons with the Jaguars, and he is going to be a huge weapon in the red zone. Someone will have to emerge for the Bears for them and Robinson to reach their true potential. Nagy and new offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich (former head coach of Oregon) will surely be creative and use speed mismatches to create space and make an NFL offense have more of that “spread” feel. Nagy and the Bears brought Taylor Gabriel over from the Falcons, who is essentially a poor man’s Tyreek Hill, and still have the skill set of Tarik Cohen at their disposal. They also acquired an athletic tight end in Trey Burton. If you include the threat of Jordan Howard on the ground, Trubisky and Bears have a young team with potential, and if all goes well, I see no reason why Robinson can’t be successful as he was in 2015.

I put Robinson’s floor at 75-1,000-7. Despite the injury, from which he will have had a full recovery period, he is driven. In fact, he’s held onto the hospital wristband from that surgery as extra motivation. He is undoubtedly talented, and has been compared to Dez Bryant in his prime for his size and ability to win heavily contested jump balls consistently. He’s excited, and you should be too.

[Note: To finish the rest of the story involving my trade….

Fitzgerald has decided to return for 2018, and my season went south after the trade and the picks that ended up being the ones I traded away were the 1.01 and 2.01. As for my newly acquired players, all four of them have moved to new teams. Martin joined a crowded backfield with new Raiders’ head coach Jon Gruden, Pryor decided to go back to poor quarterback play and signed with the Jets, Meredith is going to New Orleans, and Robinson is with the Bears. Meredith could pan out if he can claim the slot role, but with the running back duo the Saints have along with already having a top receiver in Michael Thomas, it’s not ideal. So this is why I desperately need Robinson to ball out in 2018 and save this from being the worst trade I’ve made. Either that or the certain 1.01 Saquon Barkley needs to be a bust, which is extremely unlikely.]

 

Thanks for reading! Be sure to go back and read all my other #ManCrush articles if you haven’t already! Stayed tuned for my next #ManCrush piece on Cardinals’ safety Budda Baker! Check out all my work and follow me on Twitter @brad_petrowitz.

 

2018 NFL Drafting Needs; NFC North

Nothing beats a bit of draft speculation straight after one of the best Superbowls of all time, right? I’ll be going through the draft needs of every NFL franchise, and now I’m 75% done with this, the NFC North edition!

Minnesota Vikings – CB, DT, C

The ‘nearly-men’ of the NFL last season, following a death-defying, last-second touchdown, and then a soul-destroying defeat a week later to the eventual Champions; the Vikings must be feeling like they’re very close to making it to the big game, and possibly even winning it. Dalvin Cook will hope to be ready in time to start week one, money to spend on a quarterback and only Joe Berger and Tom Johnson considered urgent contract situations, the future is bright in Minnesota.

Potential picks:

30 – Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

2017 was an insane year for Jackson, with a ridiculous playmaking rate, allowing a lowly 41% completion rate when defending the pass. Elite instinctive player with good height and arm length. He’s drawn to the ball rather than the man with fantastic handling skills, which figures given his history as a receiver. Loves the attention that comes with the big plays but works hard at the same time in order to improve. There is however, a huge concern for me. He’s started 14 games. What’s to say 2017 isn’t an outlier. If you look at the stats, which will be below this paragraph, it has to be considered his absolute ceiling. An experienced quarterback will be able to manipulate him into a route misread. Tackling isn’t a strength either making Josh Jackson a low floor, high ceiling prospect but very alluring based on upside.

2017 stats – 13 games; 48 combined tackles (0.5 for loss); 18 passes deflected; 1 forced fumble; 8 interceptions (2 for TDs); 1 kick blocked

62 – BJ Hill, DT, NC State

Athletic guy who plays mostly inside. Good burst and anticipation. Uses his instincts well and is able to notice pre-snap movement and adjust accordingly. Stamina is above-average so BJ Hill may be able to play more snaps than most within a DL rotation. Solid tackle production in his college career so far. Has shown a tendency to get caught out by double-teams. He’ll need to work on his body control and balance on contact. More strength will be required at the point of attack in order to make it at the next level.

2017 stats – 13 games; 57 combined tackles (5.5 for loss); 3 passes deflected; 1 forced fumble; 3 sacks; 1 blocked kick

94 – Austin Corbett, C, Nevada

An intelligent and strong player; Corbett plays with good awareness and instincts, combined with technical ability. Only played at tackle in college so will have to adapt in order to play center. Leg drive isn’t the strongest and his allows defenders through too often due to poor hand placement. This may be another reason to bring him in as a center. I highly doubt he’ll be an NFL tackle or even guard, but the Vikings could sure use him in the middle.

Detroit Lions – RB, DT, LB

I can’t be the only person anticipating a busy off-season in Detroit? I’m also highly intrigued to see how highly-coveted HC Matt Patricia does in his new role – a role he fully deserves. At the time of writing, They have Travis Swanson, Darren Fells, Tahir Whitehead, Paul Worrilow, Tavon Wilson and Nevin Lawson out of contract, as well as several other areas of need. It looks like Frank Gore may sign, and between us, my bold prediction is that Gary Barnidge makes a return to the NFL at tight end.

Potential picks:

20 – Sony Michel, RB, Georgia

One of my favourite prospects in this year’s draft, Sony Michel is the better of the two highly-promising running backs coming out of Georgia. He’s decisive and has the intelligence to make decisions quickly, avoiding taking unnecessary risks and finding the most efficient path. Huge home-run potential. His ability to burst through linebackers quickly gives him a huge advantage and his vision will allow him to get extra yardage regularly. He also happens to be a very competent blocker as well which will always go down well with NFL coaches. He may need to work on his catching technique – he hasn’t had any real issues with drops but could catch the ball more cleanly, especially under NFL level pressure.

2017 stats – 14 games; 1,227 yards on 156 touches (7.87 YPC); 16 TDs

96 yards and 1 TD on 9 receptions

51 – Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

Now, before I start…yes, I am aware that before ANY of the prophecy below can come true, Maurice Hurst will need to be medically cleared. For the purposes of my article, I am assuming that Detroit luck out and get a first round talent at 51 overall because of the fear in relation to the heart irregularities which came out of the combine. Hurst has good initial quickness and aggression. He manages to find a way to sneak through the blockers and toward the quarterback or ball. His speed is accompanied by good footwork and this allows him to adjust his positioning and angles well. He’s a little small compared to other defensive linemen, at college and NFL level and so will have to close the gap on stronger blockers to avoid trouble. He would definitely be more effective in a 4-3 defence, but let’s just say Matt Patricia knows how to run a good defence.

2017 stats – 13 games; 61 combined tackles (14.5 for loss); 2 passes deflected; 5 sacks; 1 forced fumble; 1 blocked kick

82 – Shaquem Griffen, LB, Central Florida

My new favourite linebacker? Who wasn’t entirely awestruck with Shaquem’s combine performance? Incredible. Matt Patricia will love his character and the fact he is capable. Good athleticism, great intelligence and clearly, the ability to adapt. He’s a punishing hitter and disruptive in several ways across the field. Will be a very good fantasy football player as he fills up the box score. Good technique. He’ll need coaching to improve his tackling technique as he can go in a little high and this may allow tackles to be broken. He will be somewhat limited by his physical limitation (for those who don’t know, he doesn’t have a left hand) but I think he is fully deserving of a place on an NFL roster.

2017 stats – 13 games; 74 combined tackles (13.5 for loss); 3 passes deflected; 7 sacks; 1 interception;2 forced fumbles; 1 fumble return (for a 20 yard TD

Green Bay Packers – CB, WR, DE

In 2017, Packers fans had to endure the majority of the season without Aaron Rodgers. From 2018, they will have to watch their team sans Jordy Nelson. They have signed Jimmy Graham who will certainly provide a red-zone threat; and generally they don’t have too many contracts to extend, with Jahri Evans, Davon House and Morgan Burnett the only guys out of contract. It remains to be seen whether the Packers will look to build for the future or go ‘win now’, but the below picks will help them achieve either.

Potential picks:

14 – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Elite athletic ability, with the patience and technique to make him an instant starter in the NFL. True ‘lockdown’ corner. In fact, over the last two years, he has allowed a completed pass less than one-third of the time he is the targeted cornerback. Excellent disruptive ability and can keep up with the receiver in most situations. Reminds me a lot of Chris Harris at Denver, so that is the level we’re dealing with here. His build is a bit smaller than average and visually at least, he appears small in coverage against bigger receivers. He would immediately start as a slot cornerback with a view to moving him outside after some NFL experience and coaching, but a solid pre-season could see him go outside straight away.

2017 stats – 13 games; 37 combined tackles (2 for loss); 15 passes deflected; 2 interceptions; 2 blocked kicks

45 – DJ Moore, WR, Maryland

Size, speed, and a good teammate. These are three ringing endorsements from coaching staff for whom DJ Moore played at Maryland. He was the go-to guy there, using his quick feet and acceleration to great effect. He can be trusted by a quarterback to make plays. Lethal on screen plays and took on punt return duties in 2017. He will need some coaching to ensure he’s as competitive as a route runner as he is after the catch as he fails to gain enough separation at times. On 50-50 balls he loses more often than he wins. I think he has it in him to really focus once drafted, work on the areas his coaches ask him too and confidently play his play into the hearts of the Green Bay fans.

2017 stats – 12 games; 80 receptions for 1,033 yards and 8 TDs;

61 rushing yards and 1 TD on 5 touches (12.2 YPC);

15 punt returns for 153 yards

76 – Rasheem Green, DE, USC

It may be optimistic to think Rasheem Green will; still be available at this point but you never know. Green is tall and once he bulks up, will have a very intimidating frame to work with. Explosive bursts at point of attack with violent, aggressive tendencies against the blockers initial contact. His overall strength and body control needs work, but this is normal when going for early draft eligibility. Can be slow to find the ball on occasion. Needs to learn how to trick his opponent as he is easy to read at times. With the right coaching, Green will be a top defensive end in the NFL, but patience may be required initially.

2017 stats – 14 games; 43 combined tackles (12.5 for loss); 4 passes deflected; 10 sacks; 1 forced fumble

Chicago Bears – CB, WR, G

Definite signs of improvement already for Chicago. Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel are significant upgrades on Kendall Wright, Dion Sims and Kevin White. They have an ever-improving, young defence as well as a solid coaching setup. Mitchell Trubisky should have much more fun out on the field in 2018, but let’s see what else the Bears could achieve via the draft…

Potential picks:

8 – Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama


Arguably the best defensive back in this year’s class. Eats, sleeps and breathes football. A big-game player with the utmost competitiveness, Minkah Fitzpatrick is a franchise player. Can play all over the secondary and even in nickel linebacker roles. Excellent blitzer, and home run ability if he makes an interception. Also elite playmaker on special teams. An NFL coaches dream. He’s not the finished article just yet, but there really isn’t much to work on. Think Jamal Adams or Budda Baker.

2017 stats – 13 games; 60 combined tackles (8 for loss); 1.5 sacks; 8 passes deflected; 1 interception; 1 forced fumble; 1 blocked kick

39 – Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Chicago improved their offensive weapons on the outside in free agency; now they get their slot guy. Christian Kirk is well-built and strong. He has a fantastic work ethic and runs slant and whip routes excellently. Great hands and able to catch the passes which aren’t 100% accurate. Good after-catch ability which translates into punt/kickoff return skill. He isn’t the quickest but I think he fits well in a Nagy system as a pure slot guy.

2017 stats – 13 games; 71 receptions for 919 yards and 10 TDs;

31 rushing yards on 4 touches (7.75 YPC);

10 punt returns for 191 yards and a TD;

22 kickoff returns for 490 yards and a TD

105 – Will Clapp, C, LSU

Will Clapp is the right build for an NFL center and also has experience playing guard in college so if needed he could handle reps there in the NFL. He’s competent when it comes to blocking. Very intelligent and has good awareness of space particularly in pass protection. He may not start right away as he will need to work on his technique but eventually he could become a good addition to Trubisky’s protective unit.

 

 

 

*2017 stats from www.cfbstats.com

IDP: Top 15 Defensive Back Acquisitions of 2017 Part 1 of 3

IDP: Top 15 Defensive Back Acquisitions of 2017

Part 1 of 3

 

This is my first attempt at writing about fantasy IDP ! I’ve always been fascinated with adding defensive players into leagues and hopefully this will become a series of article focusing on various positions. So lets jump straight in: Defensive Backs.

Per Football Outsiders, 52 Defensive Backs participated in 90% or more of their teams defensive snaps in 2017. Of these 52 players, 15 were either rookies or new additions to their team.

With such a huge work load in year 1, lets see how productive they were for IDP leagues and keep our fingers crossed their usage continues in to 2018.

All scoring is taken from the the NFL default IDP scoring system which is as follows: Tackle = 1pt; Sack = 2pts; INT = 2pts; Force Fumble = 2pts; Fumble Recovery = 2pts; TD returned = 6pts and PBU = 1pt.

 

Name Team Snaps Played Games Played Tackles Sacks PBU INT FF FR TD Total IDP Points PPG Points per Snap
Jordan Poyer BUF 1038 15 95 2 13 5 0 1 1 130 8.67 0.125
Barry Church JAX 990 16 74 1.5 8 4 0 0 1 99 6.19 0.100
Micah Hyde BUF 1065 16 82 0 13 5 0 0 0 105 6.56 0.099
Tre’Davious White BUF 1092 16 69 0 18 4 1 2 1 107 6.69 0.098
Eddie Jackson CHI 1055 16 73 0 6 2 1 3 2 103 6.44 0.098
Mike Adams CAR 967 16 69 0 10 2 2 2 0 91 5.69 0.094
Tre Boston LAC 1041 16 79 0 8 5 0 0 0 97 6.06 0.093
Adoree Jackson TEN 1022 16 70 0 17 0 3 1 0 95 5.94 0.093
Marcus Williams NO 960 15 73 0 7 4 0 0 0 88 5.87 0.092
DJ Swearinger WAS 1095 16 79 0.5 10 4 1 0 0 100 6.25 0.091
Jamaal Adams NYJ 1103 16 83 2 6 0 1 2 0 99 6.19 0.090
AJ Bouye JAX 1015 16 56 0 18 6 0 0 0 86 5.38 0.085
Tony Jefferson BAL 1085 16 79 2.5 2 1 1 0 0 90 5.63 0.083
Marcus Maye NYJ 1066 16 79 0 2 2 1 0 0 87 5.44 0.082
Brandon Carr BAL 1024 16 56 0 12 4 0 0 0 76 4.75 0.074

With the current default scoring weighing so heavily towards tackles, it is no surprise that defensive backs do not have a huge level of fantasy production (on a per game basis). It seems that their relative success is predicated largely on their play making ability. Perhaps if forced turnovers were more valuable DBs (corners in particular) would be as valuable as Linebackers? Maybe.

So, rant over. Time for a break down of these top 5* DB acquisitions from 2017!

 

*Order of players is based on their Fantasy Points per Snap.

 

 

Jordan Poyer – SS – Buffalo Bills

Height: 6’0” Weight: 191lbs Age: 26 years Experience: 5 seasons

Image result for jordan poyer bills

The Buffalo Bills truly had one of the most rocky but successful seasons they’ve had in years! Aside from making the play-offs for the first time in my lifetime, they benched their starting QB to a disastrous end (#FreeTyrod). But, their off-season additions were truly something to celebrate.

Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde arrived in Free Agency and Tre’Davious White was drafted in the first round. Not only were all three of these phenomenal (White specifically), more importantly, they all appear on my list.

And I mean that with no level of arrogance. The fact that they are on this list means they played 90%+ of their teams snaps, a huge achievement for newly added players, all 3 in the secondary.

Now, on to Poyer. This season for him was the definition of a ‘career year’. His total career INTs = 7; INTs this year = 5; total career tackles = 219; tackles this year = 95. Not only that but he also played (and started) 15 or more games for the first time since 2014 which was the only other time in his five year career.

Moving forward, I would not expect his usage to change, there’s no reason it should, outside of the Bills drafting Derwin James (he won’t still be on the board at pick 21). The Bills depth at safety is non-existent and besides Morgan Burnett, the Free Agency market is slim at the strong safety position.

Furthermore, his cap hit for 2018 is a mere $3.875 million (overthecap.com), making him the 30th highest paid Safety in the league next year. Let’s hope he can stay healthy.

 

 

Barry Church – SS – Jacksonville Jaguars

Height: 6’2” Weight: 218lbs Age: 30 years Experience: 8 seasons

Image result for barry church jacksonville jaguars

Photo by; Zimbio

One of the many new passengers on the Jags’ hype train, the long-time Cowboy had an impressive first year for this historic defense. His numbers were bolstered by a ridiculous supporting cast, notably his Pick 6 which he expertly plucked from the air after an acrobatic Jalen Ramsey Pass Break Up. But he was still a good player in his own right.

Recording the second highest Points Per Snap of the 15 DBs listed above (behind only Jordan Poyer), he was making plays all over the field. At 30 years of age he still has a few years left in him and his cap hit is fairly minimal at $5 million for 2018.

The addition of Church seemed to add just a little more spice to an already red hot defence and in essence, that is exactly what a competent safety can do for a defence. With most of the Jags defensive players returning for another year of dominance, expect Church to continue his reign of terror in Florida.

Unfortunately for opposing QBs the Jags are strong throughout their secondary, so unless they want to run the ball 50 times again they will be forced to pass at some point. Church, although a good coverage player, may be deemed as the weakest link of all their DBs (unless the slot position isn’t filled), which is good for us. More targets = more tackles, more PBUs and more chance for an INT. Don’t forget, we don’t care if he gives up 200 yards and 2 TDs a game in coverage – unless it gets him benched.

 

 

Micah Hyde – FS – Buffalo Bills

Height: 6’0” Weight: 197lbs Age: 27 years Experience: 5 seasons

Image result for Micah Hyde

Along with Casey Hayward a few seasons ago, add Micah Hyde to the list of: “Defensive players the Packers really wish they hadn’t let go and now want them back, please.” These two ball hawks may soon be joined by fellow safety Morgan Burnett when he joins the Colts and starts dominating the AFC South.

Hyde is the second of three Buffalo Bills in our top 5 for this week. As previously mentioned, the Bills knocked it out of the park when improving their secondary. The 2017 Pro-Bowler and Second-team All-Pro picked himself 5 passes out of the air in his fifth NFL season.

Pair that with career highs in tackles (82) and PBUs (13), Hyde had a great IDP season for a safety posting the third highest Total Points, Points per Game and Points per Snap of those in our top 15.

Just with Poyer, the depth behind Hyde (that’s not fun to read aloud) is poor and his cap hit, although higher than our previously two entries still ranks 16th in terms of Safety salary in 2018.

Lets hope this safety tandem can grab another 10 INTs between them next season!

 

 

Tre’Davious White – CB – Buffalo Bills

Height: 5’11” Weight: 192 Age: 23 years Experience: 1 season

Image result for tre'davious white buffalo bills

Graphic by; Pro Football Focus

Perhaps the best rookie defensive player behind DROY Marshone Lattimore, Tre’Davious White was a revelation. Without a doubt the Bills best first round pick since Stephon Gilmore in 2012, White developed quickly into one of the top 10 Corners in the league. He is also the only CB in our top 5.

Paired with another new addition to the team (EJ Gaines traded from the Rams) the future of the Bills CB core is a very bright one. Once again, the Bills successful in their secondary has already been discussed- twice!

With an enormous 22!! Plays on the ball in 2017 (18 PBUs and 4 INTs) white proved to be one of the top DBs in IDP league, especially in dynasty leagues. He also added 4 total Fumble plays and a return TD for good measure.

Players of White’s calibre do not enter the league on a regular basis and we all hope that his success continues long into the future. The issue with his immense talent as a shut down corner is the reluctance of opposing QBs targeting him. This was illustrated in 2017 as 13 of his plays on the ball occurred within the first 8 weeks of the season with only 9 to come in the following half of he season.

This may not seem like a huge disparity, but in 4 of those final 8 games, White recorded 0 plays on the ball including 0 in the final two weeks of the season. Now, this may be due to his own poor performance (which I doubt) but it is more likely it was due to teams avoiding him.

That was my poor attempt to disparage you from adding White to your fantasy roster, so he’ll be there for me instead. Selfish, I know, but worth a shot. This man is a stud and I loved watching him play.

 

 

Eddie Jackson – SS – Chicago Bears

Height: 6’0” Weight: 202lbs Age: 24 years Experience: 1 season

Image result for eddie jackson chicago bears

Photo by; Chicago Sun Times

At the embarrassment of the Carolina Panthers, Jackson will be forever embedded in NFL history as the only player to return 2 defensive touchdowns of more than 75 yards in the same game. A huge, monstrous achievement. But, also, not a great indication for fantasy. Those two plays alone account for 18 of his 103 points for the season (17.5%) in the form of an INT, a FF, a FR and of course the 2 TDs.

Despite this, he still put together a solid season as a rookie. Namely, playing an enormous 99.7% of the Bears defensive snaps!! The highest mark of any DB in the league, tied with Tennessee’s super start Safety Kevin Byard (per football outsiders).

Fourth round picks rarely pan out to be such impact players. But this lack of invested capital can have an adverse effect. IF a better player presents themselves to the Bears, their willingness to rotate Jackson further down the depth chart will be higher.

But, I cant see that happening. A roster with so many glaring holes it is unlikely the Bears will up-heave one of their strongest players. Furthermore, the Bears recently released veteran Quintin Demps, a player who, in the past has been more than competent.

Eddie Jackson is yet another example of high-value defensive players that came out of the 2017 NFL Draft. His future is bright, now we ask for more consistency.

 

I hope you all have enjoyed my first entry tackling fantasy IDP! Fingers crossed part 2 of this article will be out within the next couple of days. In which we will discuss the following players: Adoree Jackson, Jamaal Adams, Tre Boston, Mike Adams and Marcus Williams.

 

As always, feel free to contact me, comment, like or share on any of my work, I appreciate all feedback. You can follow me on Twitter @Murphy123George

 

Cheers Guys!

George Murphy

 

 

All stats (unless otherwise indicated) were taken from NFL.com.

 

The Fantasy Impact of Replacement Quarterbacks in 2017

The Fantasy Impact of Replacement Quarterbacks in 2017

 

In 2017 we saw a number of high-profile, elite level players go down with injury. Other players were replaced by seemingly more viable options. At the most important position in sports, this turnover of talent can have a huge impact both on the field and in the fantasy football world.

This article aims to outline the variance in production of certain team’s weapons when their signal caller was replaced, willingly or otherwise. These quarterbacks include Mitch(ell) Trubisky of the Bears, Brett Hundley of the Packers and of course Mr.Moneybags Jimmy Garoppolo of the 49ers.

 

Mitch(ell) Trubisky – QB – Chicago Bears

Image result for mitchell trubisky

Photo from Fansided.

Height: 6’3” Weight: 222lbs Age: 23 years Exp: Rookie

2017 production: 12 games started 60% completion, 2193 yards for 7TD and 7INT (248 yards and 2 TD on the ground)

 

Coming out of the 2017 draft (2nd overall) there were a number of questions surrounding the Bears future franchise QB (?). Most notably his lack of college starts, of which he only amassed 13 starts in a 3 year career at North Carolina.

After taking over from Mike Glennon in week 5 as the starter, Trubisky flashed lots of potential but was limited by the play calling of John Fox and team. In 12 starts he average just 27.5 pass attempts against, almost 5 fewer than the league average (32.46). But how did this reflect his surrounding talent? Lets take a look.

With Trubisky With Glennon
Name Position Touches/Game Yards/ Game TD/Game Touches/Game Yards/ Game TD/Game
Jordan Howard RB 18.83 78.7 0.42 18.25 75.5 1
Tarik Cohen RB 7.17 32.67 0.17 13.5 82.75 0.25
Kendall Wright WR 3.75 38.33 0 3.5 38.5 0.25
Dontrelle Inman WR 2.88 41.75 0.13 NA NA NA
Josh Bellamy WR 1.27 23.82 0.09 2.5 28.5 0
Deon Sims TE 1.2 14.1 0.1 0.75 9.75 0
Adam Shaheen TE 1.22 13.89 0.22 0.25 0.5 0.25
Zach Miller TE 2.3 31 0.67 3 35.75 0

 

In an unspectacular first season for the man out of North Carolina there is certainly room for improvement. Clearly, the under-utilisation of Tarik Cohen was evident and we can all hope that the new coaching staff changes this.

But ultimately, it is hard to give Trubisky too much flack for his first year. The Bears need more weapons. Simple as that. When your top WR is averaging just 40 yards a game you should be concerned. With another year under his belt, some competent weapons and a more adventurous coaching staff, look for Trubisky to improve in year two.

Note his preference for targeting TEs. Zach Miller is unlikely to return to his former self (if at all) and Adam Shaheen is a physical specimen, potential high upside waiver wire claim.

Finally, be weary of Jordan Howard’s production. He is without doubt an immense talent but for fantasy purposes he can be quite scary. In his 4 games with Glennon, Howard surpassed 80 total yards and/or scored a TD in 75% of games. With Trubisky he only achieved this in 41.67% of games (5/12). Although his per game production was still impressive he was prone to ‘bust’ games peppered with huge explosions.

 

Brett Hundley – QB – Green Bay Packers 

Image result for brett hundley packers

Photo by Newsweek.

Height: 6’3” Weight: 226lbs Age: 24 years Exp: 3 Seasons

2017 production: 9 games started 60.8% completion, 1836 yards for 9TD and 12INT (270 yards and 4 TDs on the ground)

After Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone at the hands of Vikings OLB in week 6, Brett Hundley valiantly stepped up to the plate. The results were, mixed. At times he flashed some ability but fell completely flat at home in Lambeau Field, failing to score a single passing TD.

Despite this, his rapport with recently extended Davante Adams built as the season progressed, providing a glimmer of hope for us fantasy nerds. Clearly, Hundley will not be starting for the Packers in 2018 but it is worth evaluating him nonetheless. Fingers crossed Aaron is healthy in every game for the rest of his career. But in the absence of another back-up, the responsibility may fall to Brett once again if injury strikes for the most talented QB of all time.

With Hundley With Rodgers
Name Position Touches/Game Yards/  Game TD/Game Touches/Game Yards/ Game TD/Game
Ty Montgomery RB 6.3 44.67 0.33 16 70.25 0.75
Jamaal Williams RB 17.33 83 0.67 3.67 11.67 0
Aaron Jones RB 6.5 32 0.33 7.4 47.2 0.4
Jordy Nelson WR 3.13 20.5 0 3.6 43 1
Davante Adams WR 5.86 69.86 0.56 4.67 57 0.83
Randall Cobb WR 4.13 40.38 0.25 6 60.4 0.4

This table mainly shows how much of a dominant force Aaron Rodgers is in this league. Exclusively looking at Jordy Nelson’s numbers with Hundley under center may trick you into thinking the once excellent WR is over the hill. Although this may be true to some extent it is not the complete picture. He has certainly lost a step at the hands of age and injury. But, his almost telepathic-like connection with AR12 keeps him relevant in this league.

As for the RB situation; Ty Montgomery was largely injured after a promising start to the year. There are rumours of him returning to WR which would be a shame after he exhibited potential at RB. Aaron Jones may be one dimensional but he is a powerful runner who will make a great number 2 in this league.

The real story is Jamaal Williams. After he surpassed Montgomery and Jones on the depth chart, Williams’ receiving ability out of the back field impressed the football world a great deal. The Packers are likely in the market for a RB in the draft (potentially late round) but if Williams maintains his role, keep an eye on him.

Lastly, Adams just got paid. He will be used and he will be effective. Cobb is a few years removed from pro-bowl level play and could save the Packers a sizeable chunk of cap space if released. Just saying.

 

Jimmy Garoppolo – QB – San Francisco 49ers 

Image result for jimmy garoppolo 49ers

Photo by worldnewsinsider.

Height:6’2” Weight: 225 Age: 26 years Experience: 4th Season

2017 Production: 5 games started, 67% completion,1542 yards for 7TDs and 5INT (7 yards and 1 TD on the ground)

 

As a 49ers ‘Faithful’ I will do my best to keep a level head when discussing The Bay Area’s newest superstar. Having said that, it is clear that the addition of Garoppolo was just the push the 49ers needed to get back to winning football. Not only did the offence flourish but the defensive seemed to step up, leading to five start wins for the 49ers to end the season.

The mind boggles at the potential this team would have had if Pierre Garcon were healthy during the inauguration of King Jimmy. It is no question he was the team’s most reliable weapon at the start of the season, leaving Jimmy G to throw to less-than-elite weapons.

Although his TD:INT ratio doesn’t pop off the stat sheet he amassed a tremendous amount of yardage.

 

With Jimmy G Without Jimmy G
Name Position Touches/Game Yards/ Game TD/Game Touches/Game Yards/ Game TD/Game
Carlos Hyde RB 18.6 70.8 0.8 18.73 84.91 0.36
Matt Brieda RB 11 55.6 0.2 6.45 33.36 0.18
Kyle Juszczyk FB 3.6 39.6 0 2.44 14.33 0.11
Marquise Goodwin WR 5.8 76.8 0.2 2.6 23.9 0.1
Trent Taylor WR 3.4 38.2 0.2 2.6 23.9 0.1
Kendrick Bourne WR 1.8 30.8 0 1.17 17.17 0
George Kittle TE 3 44.8 0.2 2 29.1 0.1
Garrett Celek TE 1.6 37.6 0.4 1.18 13.45 0.18

Much like Trubisky’s situation with the Bears, expect Jimmy G to be surrounded by new weapons in 2018. One can dream that Allen Robinson will not be tagged by the Jaguars and Lynch&Co snag him in free agency. Assuming that, Sammy Watkins may become available and in light of being tagged; Jarvis Landry may be in a position to be traded for.

Although free agency appears to be the focus of John Lynch, the 49ers have enough late-round picks in the upcoming draft so look for a WR selection on the third day.

In terms of fantasy advice, Pierre Garcon will be a valuable late round selection as he has been for the majority of his career. He inhales targets, providing a cushion of security in PPR formats. Depending on the fate of Carlos Hyde, Matt Brieda may be a player to keep an eye on. He has top end speed and is more elusive than his glass-cannon counterpart (Hyde).

Finally, George Kittle and Trent Taylor are primed for a break out season (ignore the cliche). Kittle had more production (in terms of yardage) in his final 5 games than Vance McDonald had in his entire tenure with the 9ers. Trent Taylor loves to convert third downs.

 

Thank you for reading my first article with Cleat Geeks, please do not hesitate to contact me, George Murphy by following me on Twitter and provide comments or criticism. Everything is welcome.

In the future I will be trying to produce two articles a week during the off-season covering a range of topics and I promise to keep my Jimmy G bias to a minimum.

 

 

The Bear Cave: Fangio Is Back

Image result for chicago bears

What Keeping Fangio Means for Nagy and Company

The Chicago Bears number one priority in the off-season was finding the right coach to take the franchise in the direction it hopes to finally get back to. The Bears and Ryan Pace are tying their future with Mitch Trubisky in the picture. Ryan Pace and the Bears’ brass made it a priory to find a coach that believed in Trubisky and believed in what the Bears had to offer, including defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. The number one priority after getting Matt Nagy to choose Chicago over Indianapolis was getting Nagy a defensive coordinator to keep that side of the ball stable. It had been reported that Nagy had agreed that if he got the job he would try to recruit Fangio back to Chicago, though his contract was expiring the day after Nagy signed. This was part of the reason the Bears moved so fast to get Nagy on board.

Fangio spent the last three seasons under John Fox as the Bears defensive coordinator and was set to be one of the top targets for many defensive staffs around the league. Fangio has developed a good reputation for himself over the past decade or so. Fangio has been all over the league as defensive coordinator but really made a name for himself under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco. The 49ers had one of the best defenses as they went to three straight NFC Championship games with one Super Bowl appearance. When Harbaugh was let go (or both sides mutually agreed to separate) Fangio was recruited by John Fox to Chicago to serve in the same role.

Image result for vic fangio

Why Is Fangio So Important?

In his first year as defensive coordinator Bears moved from 31st ranked defense (thanks Mel Tucker) in terms of points allowed to 20th. The following year the Bears finished 24th, with an offense that really was a joke at the quarterback position. Think about the starters the Bears had, Matt Barkley started most of the Bears games that season. During the 2017 campaign, the Bears finished 9th in the NFL for points allowed. Now some of those numbers can seem a little high and many people can wonder why it was so important to keep him, but think about the Bears offense. The offense has finished no better than 23rd in terms of points per game over the past three seasons, including 29th this past season. This means the defense was always on the field and usually never playing with a lead. Playing defense with a lead and playing defense from behind are two totally different things. If you actually watch the games the Bears have played, look at where they get the ball. Look how many times they have been in bad spots. Look at the time of possession. Sure some of it has to do with defense, but it’s almost ridiculous how well they have played with all this on top of an awful offense.

Continuing on, think about the roster changes the Bears have made since Ryan Pace has come in. I believe Fangio, Pace and even Fox get a little bit of a break on this one. The longest tenured Bear right now is Kyle Long. On defense? Sherrick McManis. Think about that one, not even a full time starter. McManis is known more for his special teams play. The Bears have had a total overhaul with their roster and the defense has only gotten better over time, with players that really should not have been playing as much as they were as the Bears tried to find an identity on defense and pieces they could build with moving forward.

Injuries are not an excuse, although the Bears were dealing with a lot of them – especially at the defensive end. A lot of those issues with depth and what not come from the GM, the head coach and strength and conditioning program. Fangio and the defense never seemed to skip a beat. He always found a way to get a lot out of his guys – whether it was linebackers filling in for Jerrell Freeman (injuries/suspension), guys filling in for Danny Trevathan, or guys filling in for the always injured Pernell McPhee.  Just a few names of guys the Bears were really hoping to depend on that really haven’t been around much the last couple of years. Fangio always seemed to be ready with whoever he had.

The thing that really has me excited with Fangio is consistency, something that you do not get out of the NFL these days. Fangio has developed so many guys over the past three seasons that it is almost exciting to see what the Bears can do with some guys with injuries coming back, plus some of the guys who have stepped up.  Guys like Leonard Floyd who has shown real promise over the course of the past two seasons. Guys like Eddie Jackson who showed during his rookie campaign that he could help the defense tremendously in the defensive back field. How about the development of Akiem Hicks who was a pro bowl snub which many agree with. Those are three guys that you can depend on and move forward with, and potentially win with. It gets me excited knowing these guys are part of the Bears foreseeable future and knowing Fangio will be the guy leading them makes it that much more exciting.

Image result for bears defense

Getting Fangio back is exciting because we can see where this defense can go next with the same guy leading them. The same scheme, the same voice, the same expectations – if not more. The Bears have a lot of personnel coming back and a lot of personnel (hopefully) getting healthy. It is exciting to see the Bears get back to what they have been known to do for a long time, playing defense. Now that the Bears have a competent defense that looks promising and on the rise, let’s fix the other side of the ball – what Nagy was hired to do. The best defense is a good offense, ask any defensive coordinator. Keeping Fangio may be the best signing the Bears make all offseason, including free agency. The Bears got their number one guy they had to lock up. The defense has definitely not been the issue, at least the last three seasons.  Welcome back Vic!

 

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