Bears film review: All about 'Willy Wonka'


Bears film review: All about 'Willy Wonka'

The first time Chase Daniel trotted out to line up next to Mitch Trubisky — which elicited plenty of “huh" or more profane reactions from the crowd at Soldier Field — we didn’t get to see exactly what bizarreness Matt Nagy had concocted. 

Kyle Long was guilty of a false start on that play, which came early in the second quarter with the Bears facing a first-and-goal from the four-yard line. Trubisky found Tarik Cohen for a nine-yard touchdown on the next play, but Nagy wasn’t ready to punt that strange look just yet. 

“Chase couldn’t get his helmet on soon enough to get in there,” Nagy said. “And I know Kyle wasn’t going to hear the end of it if we didn’t get a second shot at it.”

Added Daniel: “We were trying to run it the first time and (false started), and right when I came off the field (Nagy) said we’re coming right back to it.”

So the next time the Bears got to the right distance from the goal line — about seven minutes of game time later in the second quarter — out again came Daniel to line up next to Trubisky. 

The play was called “Willy Wonka,” which came from a collective brainstorming session in the Bears’ quarterback room. 

“When you can just go ahead and give it a two-word name, they remember that,” Nagy said. “You can sit there and say, ‘Squeeze left, Y left, Zebra right, counter motion, such-and-such, such-and-such – then you look up at the (play) clock and there’s 14 seconds on it. But you go ‘Willy Wonka’ and boom, they know it, they remember it. it’s crazy how they think but it works and when you give them ownership on that kind of stuff, it’s fun for them.”

So how did this play actually work? 

First, Taylor Gabriel (blue arrow) comes in motion from the far sideline and lines up between wide receiver Kevin White and left tackle Charles Leno, about two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Then, Trey Burton (red arrow) comes in motion from the far sideline, stops behind Gabriel, and runs back across the offensive line to get set between right tackle Bobby Massie and wide receiver Allen Robinson. 

“There’s two quarterbacks, you got me going in motion, you have Trey going in motion, it’s just a lot of things going on,” Gabriel said. 

Trubisky completes what’s essentially a touch pass to Gabriel — he barely has the ball for a half-second before popping it to the wide receiver, who’s quickly accelerating to the far sideline as he catches the ball. In the yellow circle, three Tampa Bay defenders are surrounding White, while cornerback M.J. Stewart (white arrow) is slow to read the play. Burton (red circle) seals off defensive end Vinny Curry, while Robinson (green arrow) moves toward engaging cornerback Brent Grimes. 

Meanwhile, Trubisky fakes a zone read mesh point with Daniel only after he’s flipped the ball to Gabriel. 

“(There was) a lot of confusion on the other side of the ball,” Daniel said. 

The alternate viewpoint shows just how rooted Stewart’s feet were when the pass was made. An already depleted and scrambled Tampa Bay defense was going to have a tough time stopping this play, so in that sense, it was an ideal time to use it. 

“Just the misdirection and all the motion, it kind of confuses the defense a little bit,” Gabriel said. “And I think that’s what happened, they kind of got confused and then I came out scot free open and got the touchdown.”

Robinson delivers a strong block on Grimes, and when Gabriel plants and cuts inside, Stewart is too late getting there and can only shoulder-bump the Bears’ receiver as he goes into the end zone for a touchdown. 

Robinson delivers a strong block on Grimes, and Stewart is too late getting to Gabriel when the Bears receiver cuts inside. Stewart can only shoulder-bump Gabriel as he easily gets into the end zone for a touchdown. 

“I think that's why it opened up so much because they know about (Daniel's) run ability and his break tackles and spin moves,” Trubisky said. “Just the running threat he brings to the offense. But that was a really fun play that we had in practice. Chase was a big part of coming up with it, and it opened right up just the way we drew it up.”  


Quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone said Nagy was the one who came up with the concept for the play — “His mind can go a little with being creative, which was awesome,” he said — while Daniel and the Bears’ other quarterbacks had input on how it was schemed, named and executed. 

There is, of course, a method to Nagy’s madness here. Using a play that has two quarterbacks on the field at the same time is unorthodox, but Gabriel said there wasn’t a lack of trust from players when Willy Wonka was called. Instead, it was the opposite — the thought was, if Nagy is willing to call this play, he trusts us to execute it. 

“I believe in him, and he believes in us,” Gabriel said. 

“Just the swag,” he added when asked why he liked the play call. “The confidence in us to go through with those type of formations and schemes. And that’s what you get when you get coach Nagy, just the swag and confidence.”

But for as cool, or fascinating, or bizarre — whatever adjective you want to use — as this play was, Nagy was still sticking his neck out a bit in calling it. FOX’s television broadcast of the game ripped the play call when it was first used (after Long was flagged for the false start), for example. 

“When they work, they’re awesome,” Nagy said. “When they don’t work, they’re not too awesome.”

Taking a post draft, rookie-minicamp look at the Bears 2019 opponents: Weeks 11-17

Taking a post draft, rookie-minicamp look at the Bears 2019 opponents: Weeks 11-17

A lot has changed since the NFL released the 2019 schedule. Teams have added through the draft and free agency, and learned more about their rosters with rookie minicamps. Now with all that behind us, let’s take another look at which opposing rookies could make an impact in 2019. We’ll go over the first five opponents on Wednesday, the next four on Thursday and the last four on Friday.

Week 11 at Rams

If LA doesn’t re-sign Ndamukong Suh they’ll have a major vacancy on their defensive line: enter fourth-rounder Greg Gaines. The Rams traded back into the fourth round to snag Gaines, so clearly they think highly of the first team All-Pac-12 DL who had 56 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season at Washington.

Week 12 vs. Giants

The Giants made the biggest splash of the draft by selecting Daniel Jones No. 6 overall. Reactions to the picks in the media and on social media were very similar to when the Bears traded up to pick Mitchell Trubisky No. 2 overall in 2017, and Trubisky has already publicly given Jones advice for how to deal with the negative attention. Will Jones follow in Trubisky’s footsteps and have replaced Eli Manning under center by the time the Giants visit Chicago?

Week 13 at Lions

See Thursday’s preview of Bears’ opponents. 

Week 14 vs. Cowboys

Fourth-round pick Tony Pollard is the lesser-heralded running back from Memphis rather than Darrell Henderson, but he can run and catch. Over his last two seasons, he put up 782 rushing yards, 994 receiving yards and 15 total touchdowns. He also adds much needed depth to the Dallas running back room, as the leading rusher behind Ezekiel Elliott last season was Dak Prescott with 75 attempts for 305 yards. After that, it was Rod Smith with 44 attempts for 127 yards.

Week 15 at Packers

See Wednesday’s preview of Bears’ opponents.

Week 16 vs. Chiefs

If Tyreek Hill doesn’t play this year due to domestic violence allegations, second-round pick Mecole Hardman could get a lot of snaps at WR in his stead. Hardman can blow by defenders, like Hill, and ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine. That number was good for fifth-best among all participants this year. On the field for Georgia, he caught 35 balls for 543 yards and seven touchdowns. He added a punt return touchdown, as well.

Week 17 at Vikings

See Wednesday’s preview of Bears’ opponents.

Numbers game: What recent data tells us about expectations for David Montgomery and Kerrith Whyte Jr. 

USA Today

Numbers game: What recent data tells us about expectations for David Montgomery and Kerrith Whyte Jr. 

A line has often been drawn between David Montgomery and Kareem Hunt, with the Bears’ third-round pick’s current and former coaches making that favorable skillset comparison. Both have similar running styles, both are adept pass-catchers, both were third round picks, both played for the same coaching staff in college, etc. 
“There are some clips that you can go back and forth and watch and say man, (Montgomery) kind of reminds me of Kareem," Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. "And you go back to cuts from (Hunt) too and you’re like man, that’s kind of strange, it looks a little like David there in that sense. They’re different, but I do think there are some similarities.”

The Montgomery-to-Hunt comparison carries with it lofty expectations. Hunt’s dynamic rookie year — under the watch of then-Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy — saw him gain a league-leading 1,327 yards on 272 carries (4.9 yards per attempt) with eight touchdowns, as well as catch 53 passes for 455 yards with three touchdowns. That level of production is the dream scenario for the Bears with Montgomery.

Hunt’s rookie year was, clearly, well above average. But how much above average was it? That was the question this article set out to answer. We wanted to build a baseline for what Montgomery’s rookie expectations should be. What it turned into was a dive into how all 257 rookie running backs who were on a 53-man roster in the last seven seasons fared, from Saquon Barkley to Taquan Mizzell. 

We’ll start here: Only running backs whose rookie seasons fell from 2012-2018 were included, given 2012 was the first draft conducted under the league’s new collective bargaining agreement. Plus, it’s recent enough to account for the NFL’s gradual (but hardly total) shift away from placing a high value on running backs. 

Receiving stats weren’t taken into account here, given how different offenses use different running backs in the receiving game — and how the Bears can reasonably expect Montgomery to be an above-average pass-catcher as a rookie. So only running statistics were used, which also hold the most importance for the 2019 Bears after Jordan Howard’s uneven 2018 season. 

Also, compiling these numbers wouldn't have been possible without the essential Pro Football Reference Play Index. 

Beginning with a wide lens, the average production for a rookie running back over the last seven years — drafted or undrafted — is 56 carries for 243 yards (4.3 yards per attempt) with 1 1/2 touchdowns. But that’s not a totally useful measuring stick, given it includes 121 undrafted free agents, and 47 of those UDFAs didn’t receive a single carry in their rookie seasons. 

The 136 running backs who were drafted from 2012-2018 have a meatier average: 88 carries, 371 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 2 1/2 touchdowns. Or, another way: That’s about a third of Howard’s 2018 totals (250 carries, 935 yards, 9 touchdowns) while improving his average yards per carry by a half yard. 

Drilling deeper: Third round running backs — 18 players, highlighted by Hunt — put together an average season of 108 attempts, 473 yards (4.4 yards per attempt) and 2.9 touchdowns. That feels like a good starting point for Montgomery, especially if he’s being used as part of a time-share with Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen. 

Perhaps something closer to what Arizona’s David Johnson did his rookie year is better, adding a few more carries and removing a couple of touchdowns (125 carries, 581 yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 8 touchdowns). If that’s what Montgomery winds up doing in 2019, it’ll be an improvement over Howard — and an even more pronounced one if Davis winds up being effective, too. 

What about Kerrith Whyte Jr.?

The thought here is we’ll see Whyte battle with Mizzell in the coming weeks and months for a roster spot that carries with it a small role in Nagy’s offense (Mizzell, for all the consternation about him, only played 6.5 percent of the Bears’ offensive snaps in 2018). He’s not the first, second or third option, but as a speedy change-of-pace guy he does carry some intrigue as another weapon in Nagy’s arsenal. 

It’s rare for seventh round running backs to make much of an impact on the ground their rookie years, with the Eagles’ Bryce Brown having the best season not only in this timespan, but in the last 20 years, with 564 yards on 115 carries (4.9 yards/attempt) with four touchdowns in 2012. Only four of the 18 seventh round running backs in the last seven seasons have averaged more than four yards per carry. 

Round-by-round data

Ryan Pace has picked a running back in the third round (Montgomery), fourth round twice (Cohen, Jeremy Langford), fifth round (Howard) and seventh round (Whyte) during his five years as Bears’ general manager. The three guys who’ve played — Langford, Howard, Cohen — were all rookie-year successes, to varying extents: Howard’s 1,313 yards in 2016 are the sixth-most for a rookie running back since 2012; only two fourth-round picks in the same timespan rushed for more yards than Langford’s 537 in 2015 (Andre Williams, Samaje Perine). Cohen’s impact, of course, goes beyond his on-the-ground production. 

The point here being that Pace has a track record of finding productive mid-round running backs, even if we’re only talking about three players here. That’s a good skill for a general manager to have; plenty smart observers consider it wasteful to use a first round pick on a running back, let alone a top 10 selection, which Pace had in his first four drafts. 

Naturally, though, it’s easier to find an immediately productive running back earlier in the draft than later. But that there have been standout players to come from nearly every round of the draft (and from the undrafted free agent pool) bolsters the compelling case for not using high picks on running backs. The round-by-round averages are:

First round (11 players): 212 attempts, 934 yards, 4.4 YPC, 7.4 TDs
Best season: Ezekiel Elliott (322 attempts, 1,631 yards, 5.1 YPC, 15 TDs)

Second round (19 players): 135 attempts, 572 yards, 4.2 YPC, 4.2 TDs
Best season: Jeremy Hill (222 attempts, 1,124 yards, 5.1 YPC, 9 TDs)

Third round (18 players): 108 attempts, 473 yards, 4.4 YPC, 2.9 TDs
Best season: Kareem Hunt (272 attempts, 1,327 yards, 4.9 YPC, 8 TDs)

Fourth round (26 players): 82 attempts, 312 yards, 3.8 YPC, 1.9 TDs
Best season: Andre Williams (217 attempts, 721 yards, 3.3 YPC, 7 TDs)
— Includes 1 player who did not receive a carry

Fifth round (22 players): 71 attempts, 310 yards, 4.4 YPC, 1.8 TDs
Best season: Jordan Howard (252 attempts, 1,313 yards, 5.2 YPC, 6 TDs
— Includes 2 players who did not receive a carry

Sixth round (23 players): 43 attempts, 183 yards, 4.3 YPC, 1.0 TDs
Best season: Alfred Morris (335 attempts, 1,613 yards, 4.8 YPC, 13 TDs)
— Includes 6 players who did not receive a carry

Seventh round (18 players): 28 attempts, 109 yards, 3.9 YPC, 0.6 TDs
Best season: Bryce Brown (115 attempts, 564 yards, 4.9 YPC, 4 TDs)
— Includes 5 players who did not a receive a carry

Undrafted free agent average (121 players): 20 attempts, 88 yards, 4.4 YPC, 0.5 TDs
Best season: Phillip Lindsay (192 carries, 1,037 yards, 5.4 YPC, 9 TDs)
— Includes 47 players who did not receive a carry

If you want a look at the full, raw data, click here.

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