Bears

How do ACL tears affect wide receivers? The numbers are promising for Allen Robinson, Cameron Meredith

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USA Today

How do ACL tears affect wide receivers? The numbers are promising for Allen Robinson, Cameron Meredith

For all the excitement generated by the news that hit in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the Bears' top two receivers in 2018 are still working their way back from torn ACLs suffered last year. 

Cameron Meredith tore his ACL in a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans on Aug. 27, 2017. Two weeks later, on the third play of the season, Allen Robinson tore his ACL against the Houston Texans. Both players missed the remainder of the 2017 season following their injuries. 

Robinson says he'll be fully cleared for training camp, and the Bears hope the same will be the case for Meredith. Getting both players as many practice reps with Mitch Trubisky is key, given Robinson was with a different team a year ago and Meredith's only chance to fully practice with Trubisky came leading up to that third preseason game against the Titans. 

"We’re going to try and get together as much as we can in the offseason," Meredith said in January. "Try and make up for the lost time. I’m excited to just to get in rhythm with him, come practice time."

All of that will be part of the Bears' efforts to improve the team around Trubisky. Having his two best receivers coming off ACL surgery seems risky, but recent history shows it may not be as risky as it may sound. 

This comes with the caveat that every injury is different and every recovery is different. But since 2013, there have been 34 wide receivers who have suffered a torn ACL. We're crossing out 13 of those players, most of whom played only a handful of games in the NFL and aren't comparable to Meredith or Robinson. So that leaves us with this list of 20 players who we can use to can compare pre-ACL tear performace and post-ACL tear performance. 

To keep the stats even, we're using Pro Football Reference's 16-game average, even though some of these players didn't play in every single game after returning. But it's an even benchmark for comparing production in this case. On to the table: 

Of these 20 receivers, six never made it back from their torn ACLs. Domenik Hixon and Danario Alexander each had suffered multiple torn ACLs/knee injuries prior to their career-enders, while Sidney Rice decided to retire due to multiple concussions. Stephen Hill is the outlier here age-wise, but the former second-round pick wasn't particulary effective prior to his injury. The average age of when these six players tore their ACLs is 27.2 years old.

Seven players (Vincent Jackson, Kelvin Benjamin, Louis Murphy, Jordan Norwood, Arrelious Benn, Reggie Wayne and Leonard Hankerson) returned from their torn ACLs and saw their production decline. Jackson and Wayne were in the mid-30's when they tore their ACLs, while Murphy, Norwood, Benn and Hankerson were varying levels of productive before suffering their respective injuries, and they didn't play much after getting hurt. Benjamin's effectiveness declined, but not sharply until after he returned with 63 catches for 941 yards and seven touchdowns his first year back off the ACL tear. The average age of when these seven players tore their ACLs is 28.4. Among these 13 players who were either out of football or saw their production decline, the average age of when they suffered their injury is 27.8. 

So that leaves seven players who saw their production improve after returning from tearing an ACL: Keenan Allen, Jaron Brown, Jordy Nelson, Paul Richardson, Jeremy Maclin, Charles Johnson and Travis Benjamin. We'll leave Johnson, who tore his ACL before his NFL debut, out of this argument for the moment. So narrowing it down to Allen, Brown, Nelson, Richardson, Maclin and Benjamin, we come up with this: Those six players saw an average increase of 26.8 targets, 12.3 receptions, 196.8 yards and 1.8 touchdowns in their 16-game averages. 

And here's maybe the most important number: Those six players suffered an ACL tear when they were, on average, 25.2 years old. Meredith turns 26 in September; Robinson turns 25 in August. 

Does this guarantee that Robinson will get back to his pre-ACL tear level of production (143 targets, 75 receptions, 1,060 yards, 8 TDs)? Or what about Meredith, who caught 66 of 97 targets for 888 yards and four touchdowns in 2016? Not exactly. But if you're looking for some reason to be optimistic the Bears' bet on Robinson will pay off alongside Meredith this fall, recent history could be it. 

 

 

Bears takeaways from NFL’s week 3 – end of “Fitzmagic?” Leading NFCN without a leading QB, and Dowell Loggains

Bears takeaways from NFL’s week 3 – end of “Fitzmagic?” Leading NFCN without a leading QB, and Dowell Loggains

After he threw three interceptions in the first half of the Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh game on MNF, Ryan Fitzmagic has reverted to just plain Ryan Fitzpatrick. The result is that the Bears likely should expect to see Jameis Winston at quarterback when the Buccaneers show up in Soldier Field next Sunday.
 
This would not necessarily be good news for the Bears, even with Winston starting this season with a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy.
 
Last-place finishes in the standings by the Bears and Bucs have had Winston facing the Bears each of his three NFL seasons, all three in Raymond James Stadium. After the Bears escaped with a victory in Winston’s rookie (2015) season, the Buccaneers outscored the Bears by a combined 65-17 in Winston’s last two meetings with them.
 
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Needing deeper thoughts
 
No surprise really, but the Bears are leading the NFC North with the lowest-rated quarterback in the division:
 
No.   Player                         Rating
 
8       Aaron Rodgers         104.5
12     Kirk Cousins             98.8
23     Matthew Stafford      83.4
25     Mitch Trubisky          77.8
 
Trubisky does rank ahead of rookies Josh Allen of Buffalo and the Jets’ Sam Darnold but he does stand 26th in yards per attempt at a very underwhelming 5.68
 
But Trubisky and the offense produced produced only six plays of 12 yards or longer at Green Bay and six against Seattle. Against the Cardinals, the Bears had nine, but those included three on runs, by Tarik Cohen (21 and 17 yards) and Jordan Howard (17), plus four short completions with yards after catches.
 
The irony is that the offense is getting a completion rate from Trubisky – 69.2 – that is axiomatic for success with West Coast offenses. But his overall accuracy continues to inconsistent: His completion percentage is its lowest (51.16) in the red zone, and he has established zero deep threat based on accuracy on throws longer than 10 yards.
 
“Those are important to have and we need to start connecting on those,” said coach Matt Nagy. “It's great to take the opportunity of going deep, those are great, but they're way better and they mean a lot more when you connect on them… .
 
“I thought that there were some good ones and I thought there were some he could get better at. That's where we're at. He'll be the first to tell you that. We'll do everything we possibly can each week to make sure we limit those inaccuracies.”
 
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Remember him?
 
Funky stats and factoids aren’t all that difficult to find in the NFL; all the teams that could’ve drafted Tom Brady or Joe Montana, that sort of thing.
 
So isn’t there something at least lightly amusing about the Miami Dolphins, the Bears’ opponent on Oct. 14 coming out of the off week, sitting at 3-0 and sharing the No. 1 spot in the AFC with the Kansas City Chiefs?
 
Behind quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the NFL’s No. 3 passer (121.8 rating)?
 
Under offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains?

Eddie Jackson, Akiem Hicks make Pro Football Focus Team of the Week

Eddie Jackson, Akiem Hicks make Pro Football Focus Team of the Week

The Bears defense did the heavy lifting in their Week 3 win over the Arizona Cardinals, generating a turnover and forcing a quarterback change to keep Mitchell Trubisky and company in the game.

Khalil Mack was a major key to the victory, but the rest of the defense really stepped up too. It was actually Eddie Jackson and Akiem Hicks who were the Bears’ highest-graded starters in the game by Pro Football Focus.

They both made PFF’s Week 3 Team of the Week for their performances.

Technically, Sherrick McManis was PFF’s highest-graded player for Chicago, recording a sack and an interception on only five snaps played.

Mack was right behind Jackson and Hicks to lead the defense, while Jordan Howard was the Bears’ highest-graded offensive player.

On the other end of the spectrum, Mitchell Trubisky was the lowest-graded player on the team. He was the fourth-lowest graded QB in Week 3, ahead of only Tyrod Taylor and both Cardinals quarterbacks.

Matt Nagy will need better from his quarterback down the line, but for now, the Bears have found a way to ride their defense to the top of the NFC North standings.