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Epyon

Bears' Dirty Little Secret: They Can't Run Up the Middle

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Posted (edited)

Another SI article of note for the Bears today....

Gotta say, I knew we where bad running the ball, but this puts things in perspective for just how bad.

https://www.si.com/nfl/bears/news/bears-dirty-little-secret-is-they-cant-run-inside

 

Where Bears Ranked Running Up the Middle

1999 31st 

2000 31st

2001 31st

2002 32nd

2003 31st

2004 29th

2005 32nd

2006 32nd

2007 30th

2008 29th

2009 32nd

2010 31st

2011 32nd

2012 22nd

2013 28th

2014 30th

2015 23rd

2016 32nd

2017 32nd

2018 29th

2019 30th

 

All in all it explains a ton about us as a franchise offensively..... We simply need to be better at running the ball unless we can luck our way into drafting the next Rodgers/Brees/Brady/Manning.... and part of that is being able to actually move the ball up the middle instead of trying to turn every single running play into an outside stretch.

Edited by Epyon

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I won't disagree with the writer, because hell, that's the direction where most runs are targeted towards. But there are a few things to consider here that he doesn't talk about and some may even further his point. 

1) QB position was the most important. 
The author states (paraphrasing) that when you are a team who struggles at QB then the RB becomes the most important and the Bears struggle with running the ball. My refute to this is....how the hell are/were supposed to address the RB issue when we had much bigger issues? 

2) Timing, RB competition in the mid-2000's, and the turning of the times.
Yes, I understand that running the ball up the middle is important but it's not like it we haven't tried to address it either.

Since the early 1990's, we have spent draft pick after draft pick after draft pick trying so desperately to find the next Walter Payton so it's not as if the problem wasn't acknowledged. They just didn't work out because of the front office incompetence. This is where the author has a point.   

--Wannstedt reached hard on a fullba...I mean halfback Salaam by taking him with 21st overall pick in the 1995 draft so we had to give him a chance to prove his worth.

--When he failed, Wannstedt once again, drafted Curtis Enis in 1998 with the 5th overall pick in the draft (wasn't a reach though, he was a highly touted player IIRC).

--When that failed, **** Jauron drafted Anthony Thomas with the 7th pick in the 2nd round who just couldn't stay healthy and fell off after defenses were targeting him since he was the only threat we had. 

--When he failed, Lovie was hired in 2004 and brought Thomas Jones with him he was excellent in his first year here.

--In 2005, Jerry Angelo drafts Cedric Benson with the 5th overall pick (haha--I still laugh today) , despite Jones playing great in the previous year proving that we didn't need a RB. And for those who don't know, Jones was beast. While the author essentially recognized that Thomas Jones (along with that OL) helped the Bears reached one of their highest rankings, he also left out the part that Thomas Jones was competing with some of the best RB's in history during that time while playing in inept offenses so he was very often underrated. Then the idiot JA let's Jones walk following the SB (but he was okay with paying head-case Manning top dollar to play nickel corner in a defense that rarely used nickel defense after paying Vasher top dollar for playing 1 good season and 1 okay season---but that's beside the point.

---2007(Goodell era) is really when the age of the running game began to die and started to shift more towards the passing game.  This is a very important part left out of the author's point. 

--Then there's Matt Forte who was drafted in 2008 (still one of the best RB drafts of all-time), after the shift began, and he became one of the best RB's (2nd best next to Payton IMO) in the league. For the most part of his career we failed to give him a good OL and relief in other areas. 

He was a do it all back. He can run between the tackles, run outside, ran good routes, could catch, and hell even block.

So to the point of the author, how do you utilize that type of talent without also hindering his other traits? We used his catching ability to act as a short run game in the same way that teams would use a bruising back like Marshawn up the middle. 

Its just a changing of the times. RB's are less valuable now than ever.  

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7 hours ago, JustAnotherFan said:

I won't disagree with the writer, because hell, that's the direction where most runs are targeted towards. But there are a few things to consider here that he doesn't talk about and some may even further his point. 

1) QB position was the most important. 
The author states (paraphrasing) that when you are a team who struggles at QB then the RB becomes the most important and the Bears struggle with running the ball. My refute to this is....how the hell are/were supposed to address the RB issue when we had much bigger issues? 

2) Timing, RB competition in the mid-2000's, and the turning of the times.
Yes, I understand that running the ball up the middle is important but it's not like it we haven't tried to address it either.

Since the early 1990's, we have spent draft pick after draft pick after draft pick trying so desperately to find the next Walter Payton so it's not as if the problem wasn't acknowledged. They just didn't work out because of the front office incompetence. This is where the author has a point.   

--Wannstedt reached hard on a fullba...I mean halfback Salaam by taking him with 21st overall pick in the 1995 draft so we had to give him a chance to prove his worth.

--When he failed, Wannstedt once again, drafted Curtis Enis in 1998 with the 5th overall pick in the draft (wasn't a reach though, he was a highly touted player IIRC).

--When that failed, **** Jauron drafted Anthony Thomas with the 7th pick in the 2nd round who just couldn't stay healthy and fell off after defenses were targeting him since he was the only threat we had. 

--When he failed, Lovie was hired in 2004 and brought Thomas Jones with him he was excellent in his first year here.

--In 2005, Jerry Angelo drafts Cedric Benson with the 5th overall pick (haha--I still laugh today) , despite Jones playing great in the previous year proving that we didn't need a RB. And for those who don't know, Jones was beast. While the author essentially recognized that Thomas Jones (along with that OL) helped the Bears reached one of their highest rankings, he also left out the part that Thomas Jones was competing with some of the best RB's in history during that time while playing in inept offenses so he was very often underrated. Then the idiot JA let's Jones walk following the SB (but he was okay with paying head-case Manning top dollar to play nickel corner in a defense that rarely used nickel defense after paying Vasher top dollar for playing 1 good season and 1 okay season---but that's beside the point.

---2007(Goodell era) is really when the age of the running game began to die and started to shift more towards the passing game.  This is a very important part left out of the author's point. 

--Then there's Matt Forte who was drafted in 2008 (still one of the best RB drafts of all-time), after the shift began, and he became one of the best RB's (2nd best next to Payton IMO) in the league. For the most part of his career we failed to give him a good OL and relief in other areas. 

He was a do it all back. He can run between the tackles, run outside, ran good routes, could catch, and hell even block.

So to the point of the author, how do you utilize that type of talent without also hindering his other traits? We used his catching ability to act as a short run game in the same way that teams would use a bruising back like Marshawn up the middle. 

Its just a changing of the times. RB's are less valuable now than ever.  

While I do agree that the changing of the times have affected how runningbacks are used those rules hold true for the other 31 teams in the league.  We still rank at the bottom of the list and so do our offenses.  Bottom line is...we need better o-line play and we need to scheme our run game better. 

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RBs were always a little overvalued and OLs undervalued.

But scheme matters.  The rise of the Run and shoot which turned into spread offenses and the accompanying single back sets and also zone blocking schemes - primarily Mike Shanahan and his pal Alex Gibbs who really devalued the RBs.

RBs still mattered.  Honestly the best ones are still probably best all around athletes on the team.  But in zone systems that dominate now it isn’t about amazing ability so much as intelligence and patience.   OJ Simpson and Jim Brown may or may not have been great zone backs.  Because they just sprinted right to the hole and then juked or ran people over after that. 

In a zone scheme you kind of jog to a spot, a target, a marker, then you make a decision based on a position of a defender or sometimes a blockers butt.  A hole will appear magically if you read it correctly.  

Its why Gibbs and Shanahan liked late rounders.  They could be taught without ego.  It was more about coaching and the O line than the player.

By combining it with 3 or more WRs and getting rid of FB you have lightened the box and simplified the Combo calculations.  

Before it was always we are going to pull a linemen or two and send a fullback ahead.  Who can out smash who.  Who is bigger, stronger and faster.   Or you ran option schemes and made them play assignment football rather than all running to the ball.  A good fake is worth two blocks has long been a coaching adage.  This is when RB was king.  Close to QB as most important guy on the field.  

The zone reads added an option the spread.  Plus you can still run veer and speed option of our spread as well.     

Now defenses have caught up some.  DL and LB can read zone blocks better.  DL can work to prevent the climbing to LB that makes the zone block work so well.  

Its a lot of cat and mouse.  One side gets an advantage then the other side adjusts and then you have to do something a little different and so on.

But bottom line is a great RB is great, but generally speaking, the O line makes the RB not the other way around.  QBs make WRs more so than WRs make QBs.  DL makes LBs more so than LBs make DL.

 Why so many of us are down on Pace for not doing better with O line.

 

 

 

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Bears specifically have sucked running under Nagy because of their inability to run IZ.

1) Problem is Nagy like to run it with a wham or trap blocking TE responsible for EMLOS on one side or other.  I haven’t charted this play, but we miss that block A LOT more than we make it.  And the play is often ruined as a result.

2) Our guys often don’t climb or get beat.  On sooo many plays one guy just completely screws up and it ruins the play.  And that is all it takes.  One guy.    He gets swum, or blocks the wrong guy or never comes off his double or wrong guy climbs.  Or, and I am not kidding, falls down.  I have seen all this happen on IZ for Bears in last 2 years under Nagy.

It is infuriating.  

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8 hours ago, dll2000 said:

Bears specifically have sucked running under Nagy because of their inability to run IZ.

1) Problem is Nagy like to run it with a wham or trap blocking TE responsible for EMLOS on one side or other.  I haven’t charted this play, but we miss that block A LOT more than we make it.  And the play is often ruined as a result.

2) Our guys often don’t climb or get beat.  On sooo many plays one guy just completely screws up and it ruins the play.  And that is all it takes.  One guy.    He gets swum, or blocks the wrong guy or never comes off his double or wrong guy climbs.  Or, and I am not kidding, falls down.  I have seen all this happen on IZ for Bears in last 2 years under Nagy.

It is infuriating.  

IZ runs with talent challenged midgets are also a bad idea, btw...

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I don't disagree with your premise but I also think you may be looking at only a couple of IZ variations that have been awful and applying it to the entire IZ scheme which isn't really fair, IMO, because we have had success with other variations in the past. It's just that Nagy/staff has refused to run them as often as they should have. 

11 hours ago, dll2000 said:

1) Problem is Nagy like to run it with a wham or trap blocking TE responsible for EMLOS on one side or other.  I haven’t charted this play, but we miss that block A LOT more than we make it.  And the play is often ruined as a result.

Yes, this happened alot with Shaheen and Braunecker and usually in motion too ---to help Mitch recognize the defense pre-snap ---which makes even less sense on plays you notice the front-7 are playing zone loaded to the play-side and you are asking a small frame Braunecker to pick up a 260lb linebacker lined up on the strong side. Man coverage I can understand. 

However, in Nagy's defense, this is only with some variations of the IZ though and almost all coaches uses some form of it to avoid recognizable tendencies. Especially RPO heavy based systems. There's simply no way to really avoid it unless you wanna run with a 6th down lineman like Sowell again. At which point, you may as well hand the other team your playbook.

Ultimately though, the real fix to the problem comes down the TE position. (well, the RB position too because Montgomery struggles with reads as well but that's for another discussion).

Nagy/staff are certainly not blame-free by any means but let's face it, we have had some terrible blocking at TE and that's something that they are hoping to get out of Kmet. It's kind of sad to say but Dion Sims was a better blocker than anything we have had since and I remember telling everyone that he was not as bad as they were making him out to be. Just throwing a little jab in there. B|

11 hours ago, dll2000 said:

2) Our guys often don’t climb or get beat.  On sooo many plays one guy just completely screws up and it ruins the play.  And that is all it takes.  One guy.    He gets swum, or blocks the wrong guy or never comes off his double or wrong guy climbs.  Or, and I am not kidding, falls down.  I have seen all this happen on IZ for Bears in last 2 years under Nagy.

Absolutely. This is why I would like to see more plays run from the IZ "lock' or "man" variation because it plays the strengths of Massie and Leno and better hides their weakness as blockers at the space and at the second level. Both are better when they are given more simple assignments and neither are weak lineman nor have bad footwork. Their weaknesses are the ability to read the play, disengage with the block when they're supposed to and taking on 2nd-level defenders who have already established position and/or gained downhill momentum. This is what leads to alot of stupid penalties. 

The IZ lock helps to neutralize this because it leaves them in one-on-one with outside defenders at the POA with no responsibly that call for climbing and we have success with this in the past but gave up on it. Don't quote me on this (I tried to find it, I will when I'm not looking for it), but I believe in 2018 I charted only about ~20 run plays from this variation the entire season and only 3 plays went for less than 4 yards and two of them was week 1 against the Packers when Alex bars started the game at LG and failed to get to the second level and the other was a GL run for a TD. The majority of the other were against the Vikings in both match-ups IIRC. 

 

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4 hours ago, Heinz D. said:

IZ runs with talent challenged midgets are also a bad idea, btw...

Darren sproles disagrees. Cohen can work in this offense on certain schemes. He proved that in 2018. In 2019, Nagy put him a lose-lose situation more times than not instead utilizing his strength to work in space in one-on-one situations against linebackers. That's on the coach/play-caller, not Cohen.

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1 hour ago, JustAnotherFan said:

Darren sproles disagrees.

Sproles isn't talent challenged. 

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Didn't Nagy make a bunch of adjustments to the RPO game specifically because Mitch was struggling to properly execute the plays?

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6 minutes ago, Heinz D. said:

Sproles isn't talent challenged. 

Neither is Cohen.

3 minutes ago, abstract_thought said:

Didn't Nagy make a bunch of adjustments to the RPO game specifically because Mitch was struggling to properly execute the plays?

Yes, for a short period he stopped with the inside zone read(or outside---don't remember) and the deep scissor route concepts because Mitch was having a hard time digesting the WR's routes schemes and reading defenses accordingly. Some of the things that make the RPO run successfully. 

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9 hours ago, JustAnotherFan said:

I don't disagree with your premise but I also think you may be looking at only a couple of IZ variations that have been awful and applying it to the entire IZ scheme which isn't really fair, IMO, because we have had success with other variations in the past. It's just that Nagy/staff has refused to run them as often as they should have. 

 

Nagy has tried IZ every which way you can run it.  He is a knowledgeable coach. The way I described is his preferred variation.  

I can feel his pain. He is searching hard for answers in season.  What if we did this way, what if we did it that way.  I have seen him completely change run plays week to week trying hard to make it work. 

The problem isn’t scheme it is execution.  He needs to practice different and be able to recognize in practice when some guys aren’t cutting it and make changes.  Or fix the guys who are doing poorly.    

Too many modern coaches run through all their plays on grass real fast and then ***** in meetings watching tape.  The delay there matters.  When I watched practice that was Bears. They run a terrible play and then they are on to next rep like nothing happened.  A thousand reps done bad doesn’t help much. You need quality reps.  

Take some time on grass and fix it then.  Then reinforce it in film.   

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9 hours ago, JustAnotherFan said:

I don't disagree with your premise but I also think you may be looking at only a couple of IZ variations that have been awful and applying it to the entire IZ scheme which isn't really fair, IMO, because we have had success with other variations in the past. It's just that Nagy/staff has refused to run them as often as they should have. 

Yes, this happened alot with Shaheen and Braunecker and usually in motion too ---to help Mitch recognize the defense pre-snap ---which makes even less sense on plays you notice the front-7 are playing zone loaded to the play-side and you are asking a small frame Braunecker to pick up a 260lb linebacker lined up on the strong side. Man coverage I can understand. 

However, in Nagy's defense, this is only with some variations of the IZ though and almost all coaches uses some form of it to avoid recognizable tendencies. Especially RPO heavy based systems. There's simply no way to really avoid it unless you wanna run with a 6th down lineman like Sowell again. At which point, you may as well hand the other team your playbook.

Ultimately though, the real fix to the problem comes down the TE position. (well, the RB position too because Montgomery struggles with reads as well but that's for another discussion).

Nagy/staff are certainly not blame-free by any means but let's face it, we have had some terrible blocking at TE and that's something that they are hoping to get out of Kmet. It's kind of sad to say but Dion Sims was a better blocker than anything we have had since and I remember telling everyone that he was not as bad as they were making him out to be. Just throwing a little jab in there. B|

Absolutely. This is why I would like to see more plays run from the IZ "lock' or "man" variation because it plays the strengths of Massie and Leno and better hides their weakness as blockers at the space and at the second level. Both are better when they are given more simple assignments and neither are weak lineman nor have bad footwork. Their weaknesses are the ability to read the play, disengage with the block when they're supposed to and taking on 2nd-level defenders who have already established position and/or gained downhill momentum. This is what leads to alot of stupid penalties. 

The IZ lock helps to neutralize this because it leaves them in one-on-one with outside defenders at the POA with no responsibly that call for climbing and we have success with this in the past but gave up on it. Don't quote me on this (I tried to find it, I will when I'm not looking for it), but I believe in 2018 I charted only about ~20 run plays from this variation the entire season and only 3 plays went for less than 4 yards and two of them was week 1 against the Packers when Alex bars started the game at LG and failed to get to the second level and the other was a GL run for a TD. The majority of the other were against the Vikings in both match-ups IIRC. 

IZ Lock is a term I am not familiar with.  I can guess what you mean though.

Zone is funny it is supposed to be this super simple concept that addresses stunts and all the different things a defense can do to screw up man blocking - and it is.

 But many coaches teach it differently with spacing and technique and steps and emphasis and their O lines look completely different.  Some really like the doubles, others don’t.  

My preference in both zone blocking and zone coverage on defense is I want man blocking or coverage.  We just use zone as a crutch in case they do something funky or to address stacked defenders or WRs for that matter.  

So in coverage I am technically in zone, but as soon as a man comes into my zone I am locked on him in man.   Saban calls it being ‘in phase’.  Standing in grass by yourself isn’t particularly helpful.

Same with blocking.  I am in zone in case a guy goes way over there.  No point in chasing him someone else is coming to replace him shortly. Otherwise I am locking on this dude who is closest to me and in my chest and calling a day.  To me the goal is always a hat on a hat.  I don’t want double teams and a zero team on another guy.  

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, dll2000 said:

Nagy has tried IZ every which way you can run it.  He is a knowledgeable coach. The way I described is his preferred variation.  

Isn't part of the problem that he simply calls those plays too often? It doesn't matter how good a play is, you simply can't be too predictable? 

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