Category Archives: Bears

Ravens Move on Without Jimmy Smith

Chris Schisler

As if two consecutive division game losses wasn’t enough, the Ravens got devastating news today. Baltimore will be without one of their best players, Jimmy Smith, who had season ending surgery. Smith’s absence was felt majorly in the Ravens loss in Pittsburgh. The Ravens have quite the challenge in front of them. This was the one player the Ravens defense could not lose, as their secondary was already thin.

The Ravens have no answer in terms of personnel. They will lean on the players they have. Ladarius Webb is a good corner. The Ravens promoted Tramain Jacobs from the practice squad and signed Danny Gorrrer off waivers. These players will help with depth and fill the nickel position. There is no replacing a top tier corner like Jimmy Smith at this point in the season.

With no answer on the depth chart, it is up to Dean Pees to make up for it schematically. Expect a heavy dose of zone blitzing from Baltimore’s defense. The Ravens need to get pass rush to compensate for their struggling secondary. They also have very few players who can hold their own in man coverage with top NFL pass catchers.

The expectations should not be all that high for the Ravens defensive unit. The Ravens have to play Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Ryan Tannehill in the coming weeks. The schedule looks a little tougher, knowing Smith will miss each game. The offense will very likely have to carry the team.

The Ravens play in Baltimore this Sunday against Tennessee. We will certainly see how resilient this team is. They are definitely due for some good news.

Predictions NFC North

Chris Schisler

Green Bay Packers: 12-4
Reason: The Packers have arguably the best quarterback in football. The offense may go to new heights. I really love the addition of Devante Adams, especially in the red zone. The offense will stay balanced because of the versatile Eddie Lacey; this will help them win the NFC North’s grind it out games late in the season. The defense will be much better. Julius Peppers gives the Pack another pass rusher. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will help the secondary greatly.

Chicago Bears: 10-6
Reason: There is no doubting the offense (if Cutler can stay healthy). Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall may be the best receiver duo in the NFL. Add Martellus Bennet and Matt Forte and its almost like a video game. The Bears defense was horrible in 2013 however. I do not see it being much better in 2014. This is why they will finish second to the Pack.

Minnesota Vikings: 9-7
Reason: The Vikings fresh start will fall just short of playoff football. Teddy Bridgewater will at some point overthrow Matt Cassell as the starter. This will energize the Vikings. Minnesota has a ton of young talent and it is about to start showing.

Detroit Lions: 7-9
Reason: The Lions play what I call pinball football. They rack up high scores and often their opponent gets the highest score. The Lions have a weak secondary and a flashy but not all that great defense. A good pass rush and Stephen Tulloch does not make up for their defensive issues. I obviously love their new defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin. However you have to give him the talent. The undisciplined Lions did not address key problems and it will hurt them in 2014.

Draft Grades NFC North

Green Bay Packers: A

The Packers selection of Hasean Clinton-Dix at pick 22 was absolute gold. I had Clinton-Dix ranked as the 13th overall player in the entire draft class. The Packers also got high value in the second round, with Fresno State receiver Devante Adams. Adams is a good replacement for James Jones, who Green Bay lost in free agency. Adams gives Aaron Rodgers a red zone threat with his big frame and great jumping ability. Carl Bradford was a steal in the fourth round, if he was a little taller he’d go earlier. Jared Abbrederis is simmilar to the Packers number one reciever Jordy Nelson and was a steal in the 5th round. The Packers made no reaches, making 9 quality picks.

Detroit Lions: C+

Going into the draft the Lions desperately needed secondary help and they did little to ease that situation. Detroit selected the electrifying tight end Eric Ebron with the 10th overall selection. This improves an already potent offense. Detroit resigned Brandon Pettigrew so it looks like we will see many two tight end sets. The lions could have gotten the defensive help they needed, Kyle Fuller or Darqueeze Dennard would have made more sense. In round two the Lions selected Kyle Van Noy. Van Noy is a good outside linebacker but he is not a system fit. Maybe Teryl Austin is trying to convert his defense to a 3-4. Travis Swanson and TJ Jones were good values. Lions got okay players but all but ignored their needs.

Chicago Bears: B+

The Bears got good value with most of their selections. Chicago hit a home run with their first selection, Kyle Fuller. Fuller was the best fit at cornerback for their defense. My favorite selection from their draft us Will Sutton, a beastly defensive lineman from Arizona State. Ka’Deem Carrey is a stron lick in the 4th.

Minnesota Vikings: B+

The Vikings got their franchise quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater trading back into the first round with the Seattle Seahawks. This was by far their most important acquisition. Anthony Barr was not a great fit and a bit of a reach. Scott Chricton and David Yankee were high value selections.

Ravens Game Plan Week 11

Ravens Gameplan Week 11 | Chris Schisler

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The Baltimore Ravens go to Chicago on Sunday, and I’m here to get you ready like a pro. I have meticulously gone over the film of the Chicago Bears last two games. Through my studies I have developed both an offensive and defensive gameplan for the Ravens. The purpose of this is twofold. I want you be prepared for what you’ll see on Sunday. The more you know going into the game, the more you’ll pick up on during the game. Secondly I do it because it is my job at Common Sense Football. When I prepare for a game with great intensity I can cover the game better as an analyst. Film study allows me to see what the Ravens did well and what the Ravens could have done better.

Scouting Report: Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears have a very formidable offense. The Bears have a very strong offensive identity which does not change with backup quarterback Josh McKown under center. The Bears offense is aggressive and sophisticated. This really should not be a shock as former Saints offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and Marc Trestmen built it. The offensive line is finally solid. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey might be the best receiving duo in football. Martellus Bennett has been a go to guy in the passing game as well and Matt Forte is finally being used correctly.

The Bears know exactly who they are offensively and it shows in their play selection. In the past two games the lions have averaged almost 20 plays a quarter with 5.5 runs per quarter and 13 passes per quarter. Against the Green Bay Packers in week 9 the Bears played 79% of their 72 plays in 11 personnel (1 back, 1 TE, 3 WR). Against the Detroit Lions in week 10 the Bears ran 69% of their 76 plays in 11 personnel.

The Bears love to bring in an extra offensive tackle. Often they will replace Martellus Bennett with the extra tackle. The tackle plays as an eligible receiver but always blocks. It would figure to be a substitution favoring the Bears run game but they call both runs and passes with this look. For the sake of concise charting, I counted the extra offensive tackle as a tight end. The Bears fancy themselves more of a spread out passing team but they run the ball quite effectively. They are not afraid to bring in big run formations to get the job done. The Bears ran 8 plays in 21 personnel (2 backs, 1 TE) in both games. Against the Packers 6 of these plays were passes and against the Lions 5 of these plays were passes. In the Lions game the Bears used both Martellus Bennett and Donte Rosario in 12 personnel much more. The Bears ran 18% of their plays from 12 personnel in this game. It is important to note that a few of these plays the second tight end was the extra offensive tackle.

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For the most part the Bears offense is not very predictable. The Bears run the ball just enough to make you honor the run and play-action; also they use many different formations. They love to stack their wide receiver which makes it hard to cover their very athletic and savvy receivers man to man. They also have a handful of plays that put Marshall and Jeffrey on the same side. This is almost unfair because it can create a one on one matchup for Martellus Bennett on the other side. I can also envision a Forte Wheel route to the other side being deadly.  In the past two games they have used Jeffrey to open up Brandon Marshall; but maybe they will break that tendency if they realize the opponents expect that. The Bears do have a few go to plays that I would expect to see on Sunday. They love to run all verticals and have Forte wide open in the middle of the field. Against the Packers this play went for 33 yards. Another go to play is a quick screen out to Alshon Jeffrey off play-action.

The Chicago Bears defense is banged up and has seen better days. The Bears have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL (I never thought I would say this about Da Bears). There are several reasons why Chicago struggles to stop the run. For starters the defensive line is too aggressive for its own good. They often backdoor plays (Run themselves too far down field and out of the play). This is probably why the draw play was so effective for both the Lions and the Packers. The Packers Eddie Lacey and James Starks embarrassed the Bears. Players were out of position. Major Wright has taken awful angles coming from the secondary, there were issues with gap responsibility and they could not tackle. The Bears are playing with two high of a pad level and they are throwing high arm tackles. The Bears cannot stop the outside run. Their defensive ends (Even Peppers) have not done a good job in run defense. Shea McLellan may be out for the game and linebacker Lance Briggs will not play on Sunday. With an injured Charles Tillman the Bears vaunted secondary is hurting too.

The Bears play mostly a traditional cover 2 but mix coverage up well. When Aaron Rodgers went down in the week 9 Monday Night Football game the Bears put 8 men in the box and made Seneca Wallace try to beat them. This was the intent but the Bears still could not stop the run. Deep inside routes is the way to attack the Bears secondary. In the cover 2 defense the corners play outside technique to funnel receivers into the two deep zones of the safeties. Many times the inside routes are wide open, however Joe should be careful the linebackers play well in zone coverage.

Game Plan Ravens Defense

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The Ravens need to stop the run to win this game. The Bears depend on their running game to set up play-action. Play-action sets up the deep pass and also takes linebackers out of depth so the Bears can throw across the middle of the field to Marshall and Bennett. The Ravens need to be gap sound and they must win up front. If the nose does his job Darryl Smith and Jemeal McClain should be able to make plays in the backfield.

The Ravens need to be physical at the line with these powerful wide receivers. The Ravens pass rush is stellar and McKown can stare down receivers and hold the ball too long. If Baltimore reroutes the receivers at the line it should behoove the pass rush. The Ravens need to move Ladarius Webb around. He is so good in the nickel and he is our best cover corner. If we switch Webb’s responsibility from play to play they will have to account for him on every play. When Webb is the Nickel we need to see him blitz a few times because no one does it better. This will also help our regular pass rushers get free rushes to McKown. The Ravens need to win up front because I want to be able to play our safeties deep. The Bears are a home run hitting offense. We need to make Josh McKown sustain drives to beat us. We cannot give up the big play and must keep everything in front of us. I want two deep safeties however at all times. The Ravens must take away the deep ball, reroute the receivers at the line and blitz the daylights out of McKown. The Bears offensive line is not bad but it has two rookies on the right side. I want to see some overload blitzes to the right side of the offensive line.

Ravens Gameplan Offense

Joe Flacco

If the Ravens offense can’t get the running game going the run game is officially hopeless. The Bears have so many injuries, and they can’t stop the run healthy. The Ravens need to reinvent themselves in this game; better yet they need to remember the physically dominating team they once were. The Ravens are not a team that can play without a fullback. They cannot spread defenses out in 1 back and 3 wide receiver sets because they’re not built to. They cannot protect Flacco with 5 man protections and Ray Rice and Bernard Peirce are horrible at picking up the blitz. Vonta Leach is the answer. The neglected fullback has had next to no time on the field lately and the Ravens offense has struggled mightily. This is the week the Ravens need to admit they were wrong and feature Vonta Leach in 60% of the offense, for both run blocking and pass protection.

The Ravens need to be able to run the football because if they cannot this game is a hopeless cause. The Bears struggle against the outside run and they’re over aggressive. Let’s use an off balanced line. We can do a couple of toss plays to the strong side- get the defense to be overaggressive- call them on it with a counter to the weak side. Let’s put Tyrod Taylor in for some trickeration, let’s do anything we can to get some creativity into the run game. Imagine what could happen if the Ravens could finally run the football. The passing game would open up and play-action would actually serve a purpose.

The Bears defense is vulnerable to inside routes especially the deep dig route. The Ravens need to attack this vulnerability. Chances are the Ravens will not be able to get the run game going. It’s a sad but honest prediction. If you have watched the Ravens at all this year you know the running game has been that bad. The Ravens need to use a handful of draw plays and not just on the few 3rd and 14 plays the Ravens have come to know so well. This as well as screens will take advantage of an overaggressive defensive front.

Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones are the kind of deep threats that should make a Cover 2 defense sweat. Joe Flacco has the kind of rocket launcher deep ball that should strike fear in the hearts of Chicagoans. That said none of these weapons mean anything at all unless the Ravens can start winning the battle up front. Run the ball, protect Joe and good things will happen. This should be the week of offensive explosion for the Baltimore Ravens but it is dependent on a change of philosophy. If the Ravens keep the same strategy they have played their last three ball games with, if they want to spread Chicago out and ignore the best fullback in football, they will lose another close game on the road. If they change and show some creativity in the run game, if the offensive line finds its big boy pants and the Ravens use good route combinations they will win. It is that simple. It really is.

The Bears Mistake

The Bears Mistake | Chris Schisler | July 19, 2013

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Lovie Smith was fired after the Chicago Bears were eliminated from postseason contention in the final week of the 2012 season. Smith had been one of the most respected coaches in the league during his 9 years as the Bears head coach. In that time Smith’s Bears had gone to a Super Bowl, won 3 division titles and Smith was the awarded as the 2005 NFL Coach of the Year. 2012 began with a convincing 7-1 start for Chicago. There were times last season that the Chicago Bears seemed like a championship caliber team. Then it all came crashing down. The Bears made what many believe to be a rash decision in firing Lovie Smith.
The 2012 season began to slip away from Chicago on national TV. The Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was out with an injury; Jason Campbell had to take on the San Francisco 49ers. The game was almost unwatchable unless you were a 49ers fan. Campbell’s confidence unraveled behind one of the worst offensive lines in football, which was facing a daunting pass rush. The Bears could not run the football, they could not pass the football, and they were inept. The defense put up a valiant fight. Put in bad situations the entirety of the game though, the Bears defense could not keep up with Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers. That was the beginning of the end for Lovie Smith in Chicago.
Chicago went 10-6 but missed the playoffs. The season which was once about the dominating defense and the improved play of Jay Cutler was now defined by the Bears flaws. The offensive line could not protect Cutler. The defense wore down late in games, which was evident during the 4th quarter against the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson marched the Seahawks down the field for a dramatic game winning touchdown in the waning moments of the game. The Bears faults had now been fully exposed. The Bears fired Lovie Smith after one of the finest coaching performances of his career. Smith took a team with all these faults and had a 10 win season.

 

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It has always seemed likely to me that Chicago could not find a man who would do better than Lovie Smith. The Bears think they have found that man who can give them the championship they demand. Marc Trestman, who has not worked in the NFL since 2004 when he was an assistant head coach of the Miami Dolphins, was given the job. Trestman has spent the last 5 years coaching in the CFL, where he has won two championships. The new coach of the Chicago Bears was brought in to be the quarterback guru he is known to be; to help Jay Cutler reach new heights. Will Marc Trestman do a better job than Lovie Smith?
There are two problems I have with the hire. While Trestman is definitely experienced as a football coach, he has spent 8 seasons away from the NFL. The game has changed a lot in that time span. Trestman may be qualified for the job but this is rather concerning, at least from my perspective. Secondly Marc Trestman is known as a great quarterbacks coach. The quarterback is not the problem. Cutler is a very talented passer who often has to run for his life behind an awful offensive line. I understand the Bears want an offensive minded coach after having the defensive focused Lovie Smith for so long. I get it.
The problem is that until the Bears give Cutler adequate protection and another weapon the offense can only peak so much. The Bears are limited offensively because of the players they have on the roster. Lovie Smith did fail to hire the right offensive coordinator, a fact no Smith supporter can fight. The problem is personnel. If the Bears could have protected Cutler- avoiding his injuries, the Bears probably would have made the playoffs the past two seasons.
With Lovie Smith in charge you know what to expect. You know the defense will be good. When a Lovie Smith defense encounters problems, Lovie Smith finds answers. Lovie Smith teams are very consistent. In 6 of Lovie Smith’s 9 seasons the Bears have had a winning season. When the Bears would miss the playoffs they were a team that was in the hunt and just missed a playoff spot.10-6 will get you into the playoffs in most seasons. The Bears were an improved team in 2012. In 2010 the Bears gave a much more talented Green Bay Packers team a great game in the NFC Championship. Green Bay was the best team in league that season, and in all honesty the Bears were not as talented. The fact that the Bears were able to get to the NFC championship and compete at a high level, was impressive. The Packers would go on to win it all, to make the Bears wounds deeper. Lovie Smith has been close to a championship several times with the Bears. Lovie Smith was a coach that gave the Bears a legitimate chance to capture a championship. No one knows what to expect from Marc Trestman, but know this; he has large shoes to fill.
The measure of a coach is how much he can get out of his players; head coaches need to be able to make more with less. It can be argued that Lovie Smith continuously over achieved in Chicago. Smith was able to take a Rex Grossman led team to Super Bowl XLI. That is about as good as overachieving gets. While Smith lost Super Bowl XLI to Peyton Manning in a sloppy Super Bowl, getting there was quite an accomplishment. That season the Bears best offense was the kick and punt returning of Devin Hester and a defense that generated turnovers like cars in an assembly line. Rex Grossman was inconsistent at best and was prone to turning the ball over. In this era of football it is almost impossible to win a Super Bowl without at least good quarterback play. Lovie Smith almost pulled it off.
The Chicago Bears made a huge mistake in firing Lovie Smith and replacing him with Marc Trestman. They let go of one of the better and most underrated coaches in football. The Bears replaced him with a coach that has been removed from the National Football League for the past 8 seasons. Trestman may be a quarterback guru but he is an unknown quantity as a NFL head coach. There were reasons for the Bears frustrations. Lovie Smith should not have been one of them. Lovie Smith should not have been fired.

Scouting Report Jay Cutler

Scouting Report Jay Cutler | Chris Schisler | Independence Day 2013

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Every time I watch the Chicago Bears I feel awful for their quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler is a talented quarterback who has been stuck in a dysfunctional offense. Cutler has had little help in Chicago. The offensive line fails miserably more often than not. The injuries Cutler has had support this claim. The offensive philosophy in Chicago is as ineffective as the talent around Cutler not named Forte or Marshall. Until Brandon Marshall came over from Miami, Cutler had not had a premier weapon at wide receiver.
Jay Cutler makes the Bears relevant and watchable. Their offense has been dysfunctional, their talent has been lacking. Jay Cutler may not be a top tier quarterback but he is certainly very good. When Cutler is healthy and playing the Bears win. When Cutler is hurt, that offense is just not watchable. Imagine what Jay Cutler could do in an organization that helped him out.
Jay Cutler gets a lot of bad publicity. He is perceived by the media as a jerk and always deals with people questioning his toughness. The public perception of Cutler is an absolute joke. He is a hard worker and takes a beating in every game. Cutler survived years of playing for 7 step dropback crazed Mike Martz behind one of the worst pass protecting lines in football; I refuse to attack Cutler’s toughness.
Cutler has a great arm and good touch on his passes. His footwork is inconsistent, but this is understandable as he scrambles for his life too often. I cannot stress how poor that offensive line has been enough. Cutler is inconsistent with his overall game though. There are times where he plays amazing and times he plays horribly. Cutler is a very accurate passer. When pressured his accuracy does not get much worse, but he takes silly risks. I think Cutler does get rattled and he shows his emotions on his sleeve. This is part of why he gets so much flak from fans and the media. Cutler does not lack confidence and he thinks he can fit the ball in any window. When he gets rattled he tries to be Superman and it gets his team into trouble.
Cutler is most effective when quickly firing a pass, and he is magnificent at the deep play action pass and bootleg. Cutler needs structure in the offense. He needs to be reined in by his coaching staff. When he can play 3 and 5 step drop backs and can get rolling out of the pocket, he is very efficient. When Cutler plays well the Bears are awfully tough to beat. The Bears need to work on getting the good Cutler every week. Cutler has performed well in the most mismanaged and poorly coached offense I have ever seen. Again just imagine the production he could have if the Bears get the act together.