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Who Replaces Cordarrelle Patterson As The KR?


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So who should fans watch when it comes to the kickoff return spot?

Williams, Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin each have extremely-limited kick return experience and none of them profile for the position athletically. (Speed is great but most speedsters fail due to lack of vision, elusiveness.) Anthony Miller can do the gig but Miller might not be on the roster come September. Dazz Newsome seemed a natural to give work there, but his lack of experience doing so in college, coupled with a broken collarbone, leave it unlikely special teams coach Chris Tabor will get much time to experiment with him this preseason.

That leaves Khalil Herbert. And the rookie, even in a crowded running backs room, has a direct path to making the 53-man roster as a serious contributor.

Three reasons I like Herbert for the role:

He’s an exclusively downhill runner and that’s what kickoff returns are: find the seam and get what you can. (His highlight package at Tech above shows what I’m talking about.) He’s also incredibly difficult to bring down on first contact. Often if a kick return man survives first contact, he’s got a chance to score.

Pace and the personnel folks will be eager to score more points in the later rounds and getting serious contributions from a sixth-round pick would do just that.

Production. Herbert returned 16 kicks last season at an average clip of 26.9 yards per return last season. Nobody else on the current roster had anywhere near that production returning kickoffs over the last calendar year.

With training camp just days away, this feels like it could be Herbert’s job to lose. And maybe it should be.

Edited by soulman
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I like Herbert's chances of making the roster as the #4 RB and #1 KR.  What gives him the edge?

1) College experience

2) One cut north/south type runner

3) Quick acceleration/good balance

4) Good long speed/tough to catch from behind

5) Ability to cut without breaking stride

6) Doesn't go down from first contact

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Herbert makes sense for this role to me too. That said, I think what happens at PR is more important than KR.

Patterson led the NFL in KRs last year with 35, so to start were talking about 2 plays per game. But with context, I’d wager about 30% of those were kicks that shouldn’t have been returned, meaning received 6+ yards deep. I didn’t like his decision making in that regard at all. Realistically, we’re talking about 20-25 or so plays over the course of the season. Maybe less than 2 a game. It’s important, but it’s pretty far down the list to me. Pretty much everyone has an explosive guy in this role, so to me the difference between the effective and ineffective returners comes down to decision making. Personally, I thought Patterson hurt us more there than helped, despite his numbers. With PR the volume of returns is about the same; however the decisions made on fair catches (especially deep in your own end) tend to be far more impactful than those on KRs when those decisions are poor ones. Run a KO out from 8 yards deep and you’re probably still getting to the 15-20, but don’t fair catch a punt at the 12 and you might be starting at your own 3. The latter leads to a significantly lower chance of that drive resulting in points. The same rules really apply for me outside the presence of a transcendent talent back there (read: Hester) - having a guy who makes the right decisions on what to return and what to fair catch is the most important element to me. Cohen has been the guy for us there and I expect that to be the case provided he’s healthy, but he’s struggled with this IMO far more than I’d like. He tends to let the ball hit the ground a lot which significantly increases the likelihood of a negative play. I hate that. 

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Herbert fits the bill but he will have to still beat out Newsome (when he heals), Goodwin and Byrd (in that order would be my best guess). I think Byrd has the edge on Goodwin and Miller to hold the #3 spot down so he gets less opportunities, Newsome is cheap and behind Byrd, Goodwin and Miller so this is a great role for him to fill while he develops and learns the playbook.

 

 

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One thing I see in Herbert's running style that I like is his vision and how he seems to just flow to the open gap and accelerate very quickly once he's made his cut.  He takes the same approach on KOR which IMHO is how a KR needs to approach it.

With a PR the first thing the returner typically has to do is to avoid an unblocked "gunner" then pick his way through a rush of other tacklers which is where Cohen's elusiveness help him break free.  Newsome may have similar abilities. 

But the KR is all about smaller shifts to avoid tackles without breaking stride so the returned is always moving upfield and past tackler forcing them into pursuit where his speed tends to govern how far he can take back a kick.

There will always be some exceptions to the rule but more often than not great KR don't always make the best PR and vice versa.

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1 hour ago, abstract_thought said:

Only problem with Herbert is you're now keeping 4 RBs on the game-day roster. All for a guy who serves no purpose other than returning kicks.

You don't have to keep 4 on game day.   Bears usually have 4 on initial 53 with Patterson as 4th.

 

 

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12 minutes ago, dll2000 said:

You don't have to keep 4 on game day.   Bears usually have 4 on initial 53 with Patterson as 4th.

You still keep all 4 on game day - Montgomery, Williams, Cohen, and Herbert all have roles. You gain some depth in pure RBs but lose Patterson's versatility.

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21 hours ago, AZBearsFan said:

I didn’t like his decision making in that regard at all.

In his defense, Chris Tabor gave him the green light on all returns. He's of the opinion you can't break one if you don't have the attempts (understandable, I suppose).

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26 minutes ago, abstract_thought said:

You still keep all 4 on game day - Montgomery, Williams, Cohen, and Herbert all have roles. You gain some depth in pure RBs but lose Patterson's versatility.

Herbert will play ST more than likely, so really he just replaces CP

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7 hours ago, abstract_thought said:

Only problem with Herbert is you're now keeping 4 RBs on the game-day roster. All for a guy who serves no purpose other than returning kicks.

I wouldn't exactly say no purpose.  If the longer term goal is for his to move into the #2 RB spot he's gonna need some practice reps and maybe a few carries throughout the course of the season.  We've done this before with Hester and others.

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6 hours ago, G08 said:

In his defense, Chris Tabor gave him the green light on all returns. He's of the opinion you can't break one if you don't have the attempts (understandable, I suppose).

And I get that thought process, to an extent anyway. The results don’t show any gained value though. I’m bored and out of town so I went through last year’s game logs to look way too far into this. Here are the results of Patterson’s KRs last year (incl. postseason):

*None of the results listed here apply any penalty yardage

Return from -6 to 23 

Return from -8 to 28 

Return from -4 to 41

Return from -5 to 18

Return from -1 to 29

Return from -6 to 24

Return from -1 to 25

Return from 0 to 25

Return from -2 to 38

Return from -8 to 18

Return from -4 to 17

Return from 2 to 30

Return from -8 to 24

Return from -9 to 38

Return from 2 to 30

Return from -4 to 18

Return from -2 to 19

Return from -3 to 20

Return from 5 to 13

Return from -1 to 31

Return from 7 to 11

Return from 0 to 20

Return from 7 to 33

Return from -4 to TD

Return from 6 to 37

Return from 0 to 21

Return from -7 to 13

Return from 1 to 46

Return from 20 to 39

Return from 8 to 28

Return from -1 to 29

Return from 1 to 23

Return from 0 to 20

Return from -4 to 29

Return from -6 to 20

Return from -8 to 34

******

On kicks returned by Patterson from 6+ yards deep we started short of the 25 yard line 66.7% of the time (6 of 9), with an average starting position of CHI 24.7 yard line. We started inside the 20 twice, and beyond the 30 twice. Patterson was worth essentially zero here. Taking a knee would have given us a slightly better outcome.

On kicks returned by Patterson from 1-5 yards deep we got beyond the 25 yard line 53.8% of the time (7 of 13, including a TD). Average starting position (excluding the TD) was CHI 26.17 yard line. We started inside the 20 four times, and beyond the 30 three times (including the TD). Patterson’s value added here was pretty negligible outside of one play.

On kicks returned by Patterson with a touchback possibility overall (anything caught inside the EZ) we got beyond the 25 yard line 45.5% of the time (10 of 22, including a TD). Average starting position (excluding the TD) was CHI 24.36 yard line. Taking a knee would have given us a slightly better outcome outside of one play.

On all Patterson KRs overall, our average starting field position (excluding the TD) was CHI 26.06 yard line.

2.78% of Patterson’s returns crossed midfield (1 of 36; the TD)

8.33% of Patterson’s returns reached the CHI 40 (3 of 36)

33.3% of Patterson’s returns reached the CHI 30 (12 of 36)

47.2% of Patterson’s returns resulted in a drive starting inside the CHI 25 (17 of 36), with 2 starting exactly at the 25

22.2% of Patterson’s returns failed to reach the CHI 20 (8 of 36)

******

I didn’t compare any of this to anyone else (I’m sure there’s a database somewhere that would have made this all easier but if so I couldn’t find it or don’t have access), but I don’t see any real added value here by Patterson at all. For any perceived good provided there was a pretty equal corresponding negative to offset it. For a guy with a pretty big reputation as a home run hitter he only got as far as our own 40 on a KR three times all season in 2020

Now, not all of KR results are on the KR himself and that needs to be kept in mind here too, but that goes for the good and bad results. Patterson may not be solely responsible for the poor returns but likewise a replacement KR may also have scored a TD on the one where Patterson did too. I didn’t do any film analysis with this to know whether Patterson was held back by other player failures or if he himself cost us by making wrong decisions, etc. Looking strictly at the raw results though it’s pretty easy to see why the team chose not to shell out big money to keep Patterson in this role and why we could reasonably expect Herbert or Newsome or whoever to produce comparable results in the role in 2021. 

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Cohen is going to be a factor here because of his knee..... He wasn't doing on field stuff during OTAs yet.... and I've read some vague rumblings questioning his recovery pace.

If you don't see active Cohen in TC, he could very well be on the short term IR list entering the season..... I also wouldn't be completely shocked if Newsome was in the same boat given his collarbone, and then needing time to strengthen that arm/shoulder back up (as just the healing process is 6-10weeks.... it's typically X2 that for full strength recovery)

The point is, that's potentially two roster slots that could be open, at least in the short term.

Edited by Epyon
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