Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Mar 2012

ESPN: The Bears' Curious Offseason

Chicago finally addressed their hole at wide receiver with Brandon Marshall. Though he comes with risks, at least it was a stab at correcting a problem; when will the Bears do the same for their offensive line?

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 27 Mar 2012

44 comments, Last at 15 Oct 2012, 2:30pm by sera

Comments

1
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 2:25pm

"Bush isn't exactly Jerome Bettis." - Hadn't FO established that Jerome Bettis wasn't exactly Jerome Bettis?

5
by Intropy :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 4:27pm

I think that would be a contradiction.

17
by AnonymousInternettian (not verified) :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 9:18am

I think that would be a misunderstanding.

2
by tuluse :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 3:24pm

"when will the Bears do the same for their offensive line?"

They're last two first round picks were both offensive lineman, two years ago one of their primary free agent acquisitions was Frank Omiyale, an offensive lineman.

The problem the past couple of years has not been failing to address the problem, it's been trying to restock a bare cupboard and making poor assessments.

3
by dryheat :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 3:33pm

Well, if my problem is that my car breaks down every morning on the way to work, and in each of the last two years I've replaced it with a car that also breaks down every morning on the way to work, I really haven't addressed the problem or showing up late every day.

4
by tuluse :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 3:50pm

Read the entire blurb at the top, "at least takes a stab at correcting a problem."

7
by LionInAZ :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 7:33pm

A large part of the problem with the Bears O-line was lack of stability at the positions -- too much shifting of players from one line spot to another. Tice seems to have settled on a group last year, and there was some improvement, although I don't really understand why they signed Chris Spencer if they were going to have Garza start at C all year. One gets the impression that Tice thinks he can work with the group he has now. Carimi will be back, and with Martz gone they won't try so hard to get Cutler killed. Look at the Lions O-line -- they all have limited ability but somehow work decently together as a group, partly because they've stayed together for a while. One more year together could do the same for the Bears O-line, and that (along with the Brandon Marshall acquistion) would worry me as a Lions fan.

9
by Kal :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 8:35pm

Kinda. A large part of the problem was that the tackles suuuuuucked.

10
by Marko :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 8:47pm

"One gets the impression that Tice thinks he can work with the group he has now. Carimi will be back, and with Martz gone they won't try so hard to get Cutler killed."

Exactly. Especially the last part about Martz being gone. Also, last time I checked, the offseason isn't over and the draft is still about a month away. There's plenty of time to add someone if they so desire. But I think if Carimi and some others that missed a lot of time last year are healthy, the line will be respectable.

6
by Kal :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 4:52pm

Given the high quality players that were around this FA it was disappointing; I would have loved to get a shot at Nicks or Grubbs, for example.

11
by Marko :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 8:50pm

No way were the Bears going to break the bank for a guard. I don't know how much Grubbs got, but didn't Nicks get the biggest contract for a guard ever? I know that contract numbers thrown around can be misleading, but even if you account for that, Nicks got a huge deal.

8
by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 7:34pm

What's going on with Chicago? Do they have that much confidence in their current O-line not to go out and get a couple of guys in free agency? Not sure if Eric Winston would've been a good schematic fit, but definitely thought Grubbs or Nicks would've been great players.

I get the Brandon Marshall trade given his relationship with Cutler, but hard to see how someone with a borderline personality disorder and troubled history would be less risky than a player with 2 DUI's.

12
by akn :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 9:20pm

DUIs or not, Vincent Jackson on the open market was going to get overpaid, and even then there was no guarantee that the Bears could get him. Marshall was younger, cheaper, locked up for 3 years, and with most of the guaranteed money already off the books making him a much lower risk.

O-line wise, it's helpful to remember that last year Cutler was sacked very few times in the last 4 games he played (after Lovie and Tice's annual Martz intervention), suggesting scheme was more important than o-line talent. Add the fact that Carimi and Williams (both former 1st round picks) were injured for much of last year and it's like the Bears are getting 2 free agents this year (if they can stay healthy--is there any word on Carimi's knee?). With Garza and Spencer you have 4/5 of pretty decent core. Cutting Omiyale (aka Gate 68) was addition by subtraction--I still have no idea why the Seahawks picked him up.

Webb of course is Tice's personal project, and he's been stubborn in keeping him at LT. I imagine the Bears will draft another low round LT project to compete, but we'll just have to live with Webb once again this year. Hopefully, the humongous TE Kellen Davis can help chip on the left side to mitigate Webb's deficiencies.

Is it an ideal o-line? Of course not, but it isn't the gutter anymore (magnified by Martz craziness), and the Bears have shown they can get decent production when they can protect the QB at even a mediocre level.

13
by tuluse :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 9:28pm

I don't think it's a given Spencer will start. Tice is a big fan of Louis as well. Either way that also means the Bears have an NFL caliber backup. If they can find another one it will be the most talent rich line they've had since 2006.

14
by akn :: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 10:17pm

As the highest paid o-lineman (at 4.25 mill) I assumed Spencer would start. But Tice is the puppet master and he loves shuffling things up, so you never know.

18
by tuluse :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 10:14am

He wasn't the starter game 1 last year.

25
by LionInAZ :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 6:39pm

And that's what I'll never understand. I think everyone assumed that Spencer would be the one who replaced Kreutz last year. And yet the Bears signed a seven-year veteran starting center from another team only to have him sit on the bench while their starting guard from 2009 became the center. WTF? Did Garza actually outplay Spencer, or was there some weird thing going on with the coaches? I can only assume that if Spencer doesn't start in 2012, he'll be gone. Why would he want to be a backup to a guard?

28
by tuluse :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 7:51pm

I believe Mike Tice was given near total autonomy over the line. So it was his opinion that the players who started had the best training camp.

15
by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 1:03am

Ah, my burning question of the day was answered. Just have to see if the Bears' theory holds up in practice.

19
by Authentic Sellout (not verified) :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 1:49pm

The Bears might be satisfied with their O-line, but given the Lions D-Line it will be rough going within the division. IF they can get to the playoffs, then SF and the Giants D-Line will be a bigger problem.

20
by Dan :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 2:18pm

O-line wise, it's helpful to remember that last year Cutler was sacked very few times in the last 4 games he played

Cutler wasn't sacked much because he did an amazing job of dealing with the pressure. It wasn't the o-line that improved, it was Cutler. The Bears offense, when it was going well, depended on Cutler scrambling and making plays, and Forte breaking loose on screens, misdirection plays, and outside runs. Not signs of a strong offensive line.

Pro Football Focus keeps data on this, counting dropbacks, pressures, and sacks (their detailed data is behind a paywall, but this and this are relevant). An average QB is pressured on 32% of his dropbacks and sacked on 19% of the pressures. Cutler played 10 games last year: over the first 5, he was pressured on 38% of his dropbacks and sacked on 26% of the pressures; over the last 5, he was pressured on 40% of his dropbacks and sacked on only 7% of the pressures. Hanie and McCown were each pressured on 41% of their dropbacks; Hanie was sacked on 35% of those and McCown on 24%. Pressures stayed roughly constant over the course of the year (at a rate that was among the worst in the league). What changed is that midseason Cutler did an amazing job of avoiding sacks, Hanie did a terrible job of it, and early-season Cutler and McCown did a mediocre job of it.

21
by akn :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 4:34pm

Good stuff.

22
by Eddo :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 4:54pm

That all sounds about right. And it's why I preferred signing acquiring a top receiver as opposed to one of the top guards.

Cutler can deal with pressure. Subjectively, he's one of the top five QBs in the league at doing so. The Bears stand to benefit more from having a true #1 option, which will open things up for Cutler as he evades pressure.

The Marshall acquisition (provided he's not suspended) means two things:
1. the Bears now have a receiver big enough so that he doesn't have to get good separation to be an option;
2. the Bears now have a receiver that commands attention at each level of the field, which should, in theory, mean their secondary receivers will be able to get open more frequently.

24
by tuluse :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 5:04pm

I would add to your list 3) The Bears now have a receiver who can run slant routes, which means they should be able to run more quick hitter plays and make life easier for the linemen and Cutler.

26
by Dan :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 6:43pm

I agree that a go-to WR was their biggest need. If the Bears could only add one player on offense, Marshall is pretty close to being the best possible option (assuming he plays).

But of course they weren't limited to one player. They added backups at QB and RB for about $3.5M/yr each, and still have some cap room. $7M/yr is about what G Grubbs cost. Guys like LT Gaither, G Mathis, and C Wells went for about $5M/yr. Slightly cheaper, there's C Satele ($3.5M/yr). Cheaper still, G/RT Geoff Schwartz ($1.5M) and T Anthony Collins have shown promise but have some question marks with injury or limited playing time. They could've done something.

Instead, so far they're sticking with what they have. Their OL has been pretty bad, at pass blocking and run blocking, and doesn't have a lot of talent. That will hurt their offense even with Cutler in there, increase Cutler's chances of getting hurt, and hurt their offense even more if Cutler's out (Campbell is not so great under pressure).

32
by Jimmy :: Thu, 03/29/2012 - 11:35am

The Bears have mediocre guards coming out of their ears, what purpose is served by signing more, especially expensive ones. The Bears line had issues last year (and the last few) but the biggest problem over that period was that Omiyale was bloody awful - although wierdly the one thing he could do close to competently was play LT, everywhere else he was appalling. #68 is gone, that is an improvement or will be once we spend a third or fourth rounder on a backup tackle.

The largest issues in pass protection last year were (for my mind) hot reads. Until Bennett got back from his rib injury no receivers ever picked them up, or if they did they couldn't get open and once Cutler went down Caleb Hanie looked like he had never heard of the concept. So there were five or so games in which the Bears were able to use a standard mechanism that the rest of the league uses to counter pass rush pressure, and it worked even though the only guy Cutler could go to was Bennett. Look at the Pack, they haven't got the greatest line in the NFL but their receivers and QB seem to be telepathic, and they can change the plays and protections at the line which Martz wouldn't allow. Prepare to guffaw but I think the Bears actually have the best offensive line in the NFC North, it needs better depth on the perimeter, after that I would leave it alone.

33
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/29/2012 - 11:58am

I've been arguing a lot there is talent on the Bears line. Basically if you trust Mike Tice's evaluation of linemen, you have to think Louis and Carimi will be above average and Webb has the potential to be. Williams and Garza both look average to me (Williams is an unusual case as he is so athletic, but it doesn't really translate to production).

If the Bears can get an NFL caliber swing tackle, I'll be satisfied with their line.

35
by Dan :: Thu, 03/29/2012 - 3:10pm

Grubbs and Mathis are both very good guards (not on Nicks's level, but very few are). They played better last season than any Bears lineman has since 2009 or so, when Kreutz & Garza were still good. Schwartz was good in 2010 and injured in 2011 - he'd be a risky high upside pick who might give you the production of Grubbs/Mathis/Garza2009 for a fraction of the price if he's back to form, and if he isn't then the Bears would be in the same place they are now with a little bit less money. Signing more mediocre linemen is what they did last year when they brought in Spencer ($3M/yr), a veteran who had firmly established himself as mediocre with several years as a below average starter for the Seahawks. That is not what I want them to do this offseason.

Omiyale barely played last year - the problems go much deeper than him. The Bears haven't had a decent OT since John Tait. Hopefully they've found one in Carimi (we'll see once he plays), but I don't know about the other spot. Webb is an intriguing developmental prospect, but we've been forced to watch him struggle through his development in painful detail. He has improved - from 2010 where he should not have been active on game days, to last year where he looked like like a backup quality tackle - but not to the point where I'd want him starting.

On the inside, as you say, the Bears have a bunch of mediocre linemen. The veterans: Spencer has never been more than mediocre, and Garza is 33 and has declined to mediocrity. The young guys (Chris Williams, Lance Louis, Edwin Williams) are similarly mediocre - they don't get much push in the running game and aren't great at giving the QB a clean pocket to step up into, but they don't allow too much easy pressure up the middle and are good at pulling. They're also getting to be not-so-young: Chris Williams is going into his 5th NFL season and Lance Louis & Edwin Williams are going into their 4th. The Bears can probably have a non-disastrous, below average interior OL with 3 of those 5 guys, but I'm not too optimistic about anything beyond that.

In my ideal world they'd add a starting tackle to pair with Carimi (with Webb as the swing backup) and a starting interior lineman, with everyone else competing for the other 2 spots (I like the Williamses). If they went the cheap high-risk route (like Schwartz & Collins) or with a rookie, maybe the new guy would have to compete for the starting job. They'd need to cut one guy to keep 8 OL, probably either Spencer or Garza (who are pricier and on the downside of their career).

36
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/29/2012 - 3:15pm

I'd like to see how Louis does inside for at least 8 games in a row before I make an evaluation on him.

Also, Omiyale started 3 games, played tackle in at least one more (the Saints game when the line just collapsed). That's about a quarter of the season. That's more than "barely" to me.

I don't think the line will be a strength, but if they can stay mostly healthy and replace Omiyale with an NFL caliber backup, I think they can live with their line.

37
by Kal :: Thu, 03/29/2012 - 4:50pm

One concern I have is that players who get injured often get reinjured or are more prone to other injury. Relying on things like 'starting 8 games in a row' when the problem was that he was out due to injury is problematic for me.

38
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/29/2012 - 4:55pm

Louis played in 14 games last year. He was just forced to play right tackle because Carimi was hurt. I think it's clear he doesn't have the lateral agility to consistently play tackle, but I'm curious to see him at guard.

Unless you are confusing him with Chris Williams who does appear to be injury prone.

39
by Dan :: Thu, 03/29/2012 - 4:57pm

They can live with their line, just like they have the past couple years. But that has meant settling for a below average offense (which ranked 22nd in DVOA last year before Cutler went out). A Cutler-led offense could be performing at the level of an offense led by Romo, Ryan, or Roethlisberger, but instead they've been depending on top-notch defense and special teams to be a good team, with Cutler's magic just keeping the offense close to average.

Adding Marshall & Carimi to the lineup are major steps in the right direction, and should be enough to make it into the top 16 (assuming their core stays healthy and non-suspended). But in order to be genuinely good (and able to withstand an injury or two) I think they need more improvement on the OL (further upgrades to the receiving corps would help too). Maybe some of the linemen that are already on the roster will take big steps forward, but I wouldn't count on it. And if they add OL talent and some of the guys that they have also step up, that's great - maybe they'll end up with 3-4 good linemen instead of 0-1.

40
by tuluse :: Thu, 03/29/2012 - 5:14pm

No it won't be just like the past couple of years. They couldn't live with the 2009 or 2010 line, they were truly terrible. Last year the line had no depth and was hurt by injuries, but I think the starting 5 can be adequate.

"A Cutler-led offense could be performing at the level of an offense led by Romo, Ryan, or Roethlisberger, but instead they've been depending on top-notch defense and special teams to be a good team, with Cutler's magic just keeping the offense close to average."

"But in order to be genuinely good (and able to withstand an injury or two) I think they need more improvement on the OL (further upgrades to the receiving corps would help too)."

You'll be trading one weakness for another. The Bears could make a big investment in offense, but then the defense or special teams will regress. Personally, I would rather watch a great defense with an average offense than vice versa, but that is purely personal preference.

23
by Kal :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 4:56pm

Great argument. Well done.

16
by Jimmy :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 6:23am

I don't have insider so I don't know if the article pointed out Bush's rather amazing receiving DVOA over the last two seasons. All I know is that it says he isn't Jerome Bettis.

27
by Illuminatus (not verified) :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 7:23pm

"Brandon Marshall"
"takes a stab"

I saw what you did there.

29
by tuluse :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 7:52pm

I figure I'll just post this here.

Johnny Knox is expected to start the season on PUP, and might not be fully recovered all year. This is a pretty big blow to the offense imo.

30
by Eddo :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 8:17pm

I'm not a Knox fan, but I was interested to see how he would do as a #2, as opposed to a de factor #1.

That said, I think Bennett is clearly better than Knox at everything except straight-line speed. Hester's not as good, but it's not as wide a gap as some would think; Knox is a better route-runner, but Hester's better at using his body.

31
by tuluse :: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 8:27pm

Prior to last year I would have agreed with you about Hester, but he couldn't catch a cold last year.

Losing Knox is definitely not going to help the Bears.

34
by Eddo :: Thu, 03/29/2012 - 12:41pm

I don't disagree; in no way is losing Knox a positive thing.

I just think there has been a bit of an overreaction by some people (not saying you're one of them, tuluse).

Then again, I'm probably Knox's most vocal critic here.

41
by paytonrules :: Sat, 03/31/2012 - 10:17pm

Locally, in both print and radio (ugh) media, the consensus seems to be that the Bears need a defensive end and a corner more than they need OL help.

I do not understand this logic. I think it's more of a "we are tired of saying the same thing year after year." Kind of like when MJ wouldn't win MVP. I certainly don't see any improvement.

42
by Eddo :: Sat, 03/31/2012 - 11:44pm

Isn't that somewhat a function of what's available? The Bears won't be in a position to draft a top OL, but might be to draft a top DE or CB.

I also don't think it's *that* crazy. With an athletic QB like Cutler, having added a big WR in Marshall, having a top-notch offensive line isn't as important as if there was a status back there. Adding one lineman would upgrade the line from "bad" to "below average", whereas adding a DE/CB could upgrade an already-good defense to "championship caliber".

That said, there's no reason to ignore the offensive line. If the opportunity was there to get Reiff or another top lineman, the Bears should definitely do it.

43
by FinsFan (not verified) :: Fri, 04/27/2012 - 11:52am

Marshall is one of the best WR, but his off-the-field problems maybe will affect him. I'm a big Fins fan and was hard to see him leaving, now I need to change my Dolphins Jersey :D

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44
by sera (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2012 - 2:30pm

No it won't be just like the past couple of years. They couldn't live with the 2009 or 2010 line, they were truly terrible. Last year the line had no depth and was hurt by injuries, but I think the starting 5 can be adequate.
"A Cutler-led offense could be performing at the level of an offense led by Romo, Ryan, or Roethlisberger, but instead they've been depending on top-notch defense and special teams to be a good team, with Cutler's magic just keeping the offense close to average."
"But in order to be genuinely good (and able to withstand an injury or two) I think they need more improvement on the OL (further upgrades to the receiving corps would help too)."
You'll be trading one weakness for another. The Bears could make a big investment in offense, but then the defense or special teams will regress. Personally, I would rather watch a great defense with an average offense than vice versa, but that is purely personal preference.evim şahane-mobilya modelleri-bedava chat-chat-islami rüya tabirleri-mynet