Bears

View from the Moon: Patriots can run as well?

View from the Moon: Patriots can run as well?

Friday, Dec. 10, 2010
Posted 4:37 PM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bear defense will be without Pisa Tinoisamoa for the third time in four weeks after the veteran starter at strong-side linebacker was declared out of the New England game.

Im dealing with it day to day but stuff happens so you try to make the best of it, said Tinoisamoa, who had arthroscopic knee surgery last month. I feel great but Ive still got to wait on it, just having had surgery Patience isnt one of my best assets but weve got to be smart with this.

He isnt biding his time for them necessarily, but Tinoisamoa said that he does not want to come back prematurely and then be unable to play in the playoffs. In the meantime, Nick Roach was able to practice Friday, back from the hip injury he suffered in the Detroit game, and Roach is expected to start Sunday.

He got better as the week went along, coach Lovie Smith said, so hopefully hell be able to go on Sunday.

If Roach is unable to play, Rod Wilson would start. Wilson filled in at Detroit after Roach was injured.

Wait, you mean they run the ball, too?

With the hype and fascination surrounding Tom Brady and the New England passing offense, it has been easy to overlook a Patriot running game comprised of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, who have combined for 1,054 rushing yards, 4.6 yards per carry and 14 rushing touchdowns.

The problem they pose for defenses is that Green-Ellis is a pile-driver and Woodhead, at 5-7, 195 pounds, hides behind piles and catches passes, 28 as a matter of fact.

Green-Ellis is a one-cut, physical, get-downhill type of back who fits their scheme real well, the type of guy who gets more yards after the first hit, linebacker Lance Briggs said. Hes in the 220s so the guy can run through tackles and thats probably his biggest asset.

Woodhead was a little more difficult to type-cast. Briggs was asked about him this week and clearly didnt know all the names he was about to see. Tough guy, he said, stammering a bit for someone who never does. help the team.Hes a big team player, he concluded, laughing.

Briggs coach understands. Both of their running backs are good players, Lovie Smith said, but you can see why you might get overlooked.

No regrets

Bears kicker Robbie Gould has no hard feelings over being cut by the Patriots late in training camp 2005 by a New England team that had Adam Vinatieri at the time. And the man who was forced to let Gould, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history go doesnt look back wistfully either.

I think any time you look back, there are always things that you can look back on and think that you might have been able to handle it a little bit differently or done something a little bit differently, Bill Belichick said. But I dont really spend a lot of time worrying about that. We did what we did. Robbies a good player. Hes had a great career and hes an outstanding kicker. We knew he was good when we had him here, but again, its one of those situations where you have to make some decisions and you make the ones that you think are best for your team.

Checking in

Good friend Alex Marvez from FOXSports.com is at Halas Hall Friday working on an interesting look at the Bears, particularly the defense. Alex and I go back quite a while and he was an outstanding beat writer covering the Denver Broncos and then the Miami Dolphins before FOX grabbed him.

Alex checked in with us during training camp from Bourbonnais (from where partner Jay Glazer also named the Bears as his darkhorse pick for the NFC in 2010) and itll be good to hear what he thinks of the team he saw in its formative time vs. what its become.

By the way, The Glaze had the Bears come up in his recent FOXSports.com chat, and whether they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. As ever, The Glaze cuts right to it.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Why what 'Run DMC' does catching passes in training camp will be a big clue for how good the Bears' offense will be

Why what 'Run DMC' does catching passes in training camp will be a big clue for how good the Bears' offense will be


How much better Mitch Trubisky will be is the defining question for the 2019 Bears. But we won’t begin to know the answer to that question until September — it’s not something that’ll be easily discernible during training camp practices in Bourbonnais or a handful of snaps in preseason games. Those can sometimes produce false positives and false negatives.

The Bears believe in Trubiskiy, of course, and you’ll likely hear Matt Nagy and players laud their quarterback’s growth over the coming weeks. But belief is one thing; tangible production is another. And we won’t truly get to see that growth until the night of Sept. 5 at Soldier Field. 

But there are a few things to look for in Bourbonnais that could clue us in that a big-time leap is coming for No. 10. We’ll begin this mini-series leading up to the start of training camp next week with this: Better success from running backs catching passes on first down. 

It’s a narrowly specific angle, but one that carries plenty of weight. Consider this excerpt from Warren Sharp’s 2019 Football Preview:

“First down has long been perceived as a running down. In 2017, the league-wide average run-pass split on first down was 47-53. It was 50-50 last season, but that was still well below the 59-41 league-wide split on all downs. Yet passing to running backs on first down is significantly more effective.

“In 2018, there were 6,248 running back rushing attempts on first down. They averaged 4.5 yards per carry, minus-0.01 Expected Points Added per attempt, and a positive play rate of 41.3%. When teams threw to running backs on first down, they averaged 6.02 yards per target, 7.8 yards per receptions. 0.08 EPA per attempt — slightly more efficient than the average of all passes regardless of down at 0.05 EPA — and a positive play rate of 52.3%.”

The larger point here (especially if your eyes glazed over some of those numbers — which, we promise, make sense) is this: Scheming more throws to running backs on first down is an area in which almost every team in the NFL can improve. It's worth noting the Kansas City Chiefs' most effective play on first-and-long in 2018, per Sharp, was a pass to Kareem Hunt. 

And the good news is the Bears re-worked their running back room in a way that could optimize their success throwing the ball to David Montgomery, Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen on first down. 

The 2018 Bears simply didn’t have the personnel to do that regularly or successfully.

Jordan Howard was only targeted nine times on first-and-10, catching five passes for 42 yards. All nine of those targets were short throws, either to the left (two), middle (one) or right (six), and Trubisky had a passer rating of 83 on those attempts. Meanwhile, Howard carried the ball 128 times on first-and-10, averaging 3.7 yards per carry and only generating nine first downs (the NFL average for rushing attempts on first-and-10 in 2018 was 4.7 yards per carry). 

Cohen was, roughly, the inverse of Howard’s numbers: He caught 30 of 37 targets for 241 yards (6.5 yards per target) and generated seven first downs through the air, but averaged just 3.2 yards on his 46 rushing attempts with four first downs. Neither player was particularly balanced in these scenarios: Howard was mildly ineffective running the ball and not a threat catching it; Cohen was largely ineffective running the ball but was a threat catching it. 

And for the crowd who still believes Nagy wasn’t willing to establish the run: The combined rushing attempts on first-and-10 of Howard, Cohen, Benny Cunningham and Taquan Mizzell totaled 182; the combined pass attempts by Trubisky and Chase Daniel in that down-and-distance was 176, per Pro Football Reference’s play index. 

The Bears, in 2018, averaged 5.5 yards per play on first-and-10, tied for 24th in the NFL. Yet only three teams — the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts — averaged fewer yards-to-go on third down than the Bears’ mark of 6.9. That’s a sign of Nagy’s playcalling prowess and the talent on this offense, and it’s not a stretch to argue an improvement of first-and-10 success will have a significant impact on the overall success of the Bears’ offense. 

So back to the initial point about passes to running backs in these situations: The Bears believe both Montgomery and Davis have some untapped potential as pass-catching running backs. Montgomery caught 71 passes in college at Iowa State, while Davis was targeted the most by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 on first down (17 of 42 targets). Cohen, of course, is already an accomplished pass-catcher. 

The “Run DMC” backfield needs to have more success carrying the ball on first-and-10 than last year’s group did, of course. But if you’re in Bourbonnais or watching a preseason game, keep an eye out for how effective the Bears are at passing to their running backs — especially if those passes travel beyond the line of scrimmage (another inefficiency noted by Warren Sharp's 2019 Football Preview). 

If you start seeing Montgomery making defenders miss after catching a pass, or Davis looking fluid with the ball in his hands, or Cohen breaking off some explosive gains — those will be significant reasons to believe in Trubisky and the Bears' offense in 2019. 

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Under Center Podcast: State of the Bears: Defense

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: State of the Bears: Defense

JJ Stankevitz, Cam Ellis and Paul Aspan are back with their training camp preview of the Bears' defense, looking at if it's fair to expect this group to take a step back without Vic Fangio (2:00) or if it's possible to repeat as the league's No. 1 defense (10:00). Plus, the guys look at which players the Bears need to improve to remain one of the NFL's best defenses (15:15), debate if Leonard Floyd can be better (20:00) and look at the future of the defense as a salary cap crunch looms after 2019 (25:00). 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: