Bears

Miller: Hanie's panic led to interception

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Miller: Hanie's panic led to interception

Yesterday we focused on Caleb Hanies first interception returned for a touchdown. I hit on some of the pre-snap clues Hanie should have been looking for and how those clues should have affected his reaction when dealing with the strong side linebacker blitz by Seattles K.J. Wright. Ultimately, if executed properly, there would have been enough separation if Hanie gets depth rather than width on the bootleg naked play allowing Hanie to hit a wide open tight end Kellen Davis in the flat for a big play. Unfortunately, this gaffe led to Hanie getting hit by Wright which caused the interception to defensive tackle Red Bryant for a Seattle touchdown.

Today lets focus on Hanies second pick six for a touchdown.

The situation on the field is: 1st and 10, ball on the Bears 30 yard line, 5:11 left on the clock in the 4th quarter, and the score is Seattle 31 Bears 14.

The Bears elect to go four wide receivers with Hanie going out of the shotgun with running back Kahlil Bell lined up just to the right of Hanie in the gun. Two are left with Roy Williams on the outside in the (X) position and Dane Sanzenbacher in the slot (Z) position.

Two receivers are to the right with Earl Bennett on the outside in the (W) position (W = identifies receiver who has substituted for fullback) and Davis (Y = tight end) in the slot. Here is how it looks in what I always referred to as Half Right formation.

X Z LT LG C RG RT Y W

QB RB

The play call in the huddle is: Half Right Counter 63 Y ReadAll Slant...On One...On One... Ready Break!

It is a simple play. Let me tell you what it means:

Half Right we already covered (formation shown above). Counter 63 is the protection called (63 = 6 man protection and just calling it left...i.e. if called to the right it would have been 62). 63 protection means the five offensive line have the four down defensive lineman plus the Mike (Mike = middle line backer). Counter 63 just means the sixth protector, the running back (RB), goes in front of the quarterback across the formation for protection to pick up the secondary blitzer (i.e. nickel back or 5th defensive back) before he gets out on a wide route.

Y ReadAll Slant - I dont want to get too complicated but offensively, route combinations are called from strong side to weak side. The tight end (Y) position always signals strength offensively. Hence, that side is called first. Y ReadAll Slant. Davis (Y) has the read route (basically an Out route, but he reads the leverage of the defender covering him) while Bennett (W) runs a clear out Go route on the outside. The weak-side is simple. It is just as it sounds All Slant. It means Williams (X) and Sanzenbacher (Z) both run slants.

Here we go from the line of scrimmage and what clues Hanie should have digested...Red Eighteen...

1. Seattle is in a four-man defensive line front

2. Seattle has gone to Nickle as the Bears went three wide receivers and are just extending Kellen Davis (Y) out. The nickel back is over Sanzenbacher and the SLB moves out to cover Davis.

3. Press coverage presented on all receivers. DingDing... Im thinking it might be Man to Man coverage.

4. The SLB over Davis is trying to bait me like hes blitzing, BUT I KNOW HE IS NOT! HE CANNOT!

5. I know this because the safety is walking down over the slot (Z) to Sanzenbachers side NOT to Kellens side. Seattle cannot blitz and be so unsound as to leave Kellen uncovered. If they did, Hanie would just throw it to him.

6. Now the nickle back is showing signs of blitzing over Sanzenbacher and I now know the safety is there to replace him. The other safety is now in the middle of the field and confirms they cannot blitz Kellens side and tells the quarterback it is Man Free coverage. It means it is just man coverage with a safety that is not assigned a particular man and is free in middle of field.

7. Im picked up in protection. Running Back Bell has the nickel back blitzing.
Red Eighteen. SET HUT

We know how it unfolded. Hanie panicked not trusting he was protected and throws the pick six to Brandon Browner. Hanie double clutched the throw because he was concerned about the MLB, when all he had to do was let Sanzenbacher clear him. He quickly went to his number two receiver Roy Williams on the outside slant that was clearly covered. Minimum, Hanie should have thrown it away if he was confused or pop his feet confidently knowing hes protected to see if Davis was uncovered along the other sideline. If hes not open then throw it away, ITs FIRST DOWN! Live to play another down. Hanie did not live to see another down as Josh McCown replaced Hanie the next series.

I originally thought Seattle brought a blitz zone the way the middle linebacker dropped, but he was just crossing the formation like Bell because the running back was his man. Seattle also had a stunt by the weak side defensive end and defensive tackle, but it was so slow developing that Bears left tackle J'Marcus Webb elected to block the most dangerous guy which was the nickel back blitzing. Bell recognized what Webb was doing and was getting in position to block the DT when he eventually came around the outside. That type of protection happens all the time and the Bears had it picked up. There was no need to panic by Hanie.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday. 

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

The Bears began their slew of offseason moves by releasing inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Freeman, 31, signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Bears in 2016.

In his first year in Chicago he amassed 110 tackles in 12 games but was suspended four games for PED use. He played in just one game lsat season before suffering a pectoral injury that placed him on IR. He then tested positive again for a performance-enhancing drug, resulting in a 10-game suspension that bleeds over into 2018 for two more games, wherever he winds up.