FanPost

Mike Tice is smarter than you are. AKA: The Bears offensive Line will not be as bad as you think.

The Bears Offensive line has been in the limelight for the last two years for all of the wrong reasons. Most measurables would put the Bear's Big Boys in Blue (Since we seem to like Acronyms with B's these days) at or near last in the league whether you want to look at sacks, quarterback hits, Pro Football Focus line ranking metric, or just the casual fan's eye test. I will make no excuses for the way these guys have played the last two years. Stats do not lie. They were given a job to do and they did not perform. However there are many reasons that the Bear's Offensive Line will be or at very least could be much better this year.

I apologize in advance on how long this rant ended up becoming, but this is how long it took to convince myself that I was not insane myself for expecting rapid improvement. But if you are ready to settle into a long read (mind you I said long, not good) then sink on down into that chair and let your eyes do the walking.

The information used for all semi intelligent analysis was the offensive line statistics found at www.nfl.com and the ranking of the offensive lines at www.profootballfocus.com with a quick perusing of www.footballoutsiders.com.

NFL Line Stats (pop) PFF Line Ranking 1 (pop) PFF Line Ranking 2 (pop) FO OL Stats (pop)

Note: I will be using sacks as a measurement. I fully realize that sacks alone do not tell the whole story of how a line is producing and qb hits and hurries affect play as well. However when analyzing the offensive line stats; the Bears league ranking for sacks and league ranking for (sacks + QB hits) were almost the same. Hurries were not available. (Sub note: 32nd is worst in league)

Bears (2009 Sack Ranking=19th, Sack+QB Hit Ranking=17th)

Bears (2010 Sack Ranking=32nd, Sack+QB Hit Ranking=30th)

Bears (2011 Sack Ranking=27th, Sack+QB Hit Ranking=27th)

So while sacks is not a fair indicator league wide, there is at least a trend for the Bears that sacks are a fair if not good indicator of global line pass protection performance in relation to the rest of the league based on available data. If I have not lost your attention yet continue on to the many reasons that the Bear's Offensive Line will be or at very least could be much better this year.

Reason #1 - The Offensive System has changed

Two years ago the Bears hired Satan. When Mike Martz was hired two seasons ago there was much talk about the "system" that kills QB's but puts up points through large plays. Since then our offensive coordinator has managed to injure Jay Cutler two seasons in a row. And before anyone argues that Cutler was injured trying to make a tackle after an interception I am blatantly blaming Martz for that too. I mean what other system requires the QB to throw a ball to a receiver before they are done running a route on a playing surface widely known as being one of the worst and as such not conducive to solid footing? But I digress, below are the sack ranking of Martz lead offenses through the years. Table stolen from: http://www.footballnation.com/content/greatest-show-into-turf-mike-martz-and-sacks/9838/

Martz's teams, his job, and sack rankings by year (in this case 1st is the worst)

1999

St. Louis Rams

OC

25th

2000

St. Louis Rams

Head Coach

11th

2001

St. Louis Rams

Head Coach

13th

2002

St. Louis Rams

Head Coach

5th

2003

St. Louis Rams

Head Coach

4th

2004

St. Louis Rams

Head Coach

5th

2005

St. Louis Rams

Head Coach

6th

2006

Detroit Lions

OC

2nd

2007

Detroit Lions

OC

3rd

2008

SF 49ers* 6 games

OC

13th

2010

Chicago Bears

OC

1st

2011

Chicago Bears

OC

4th

<- Martz's first OC job - shiny new offense

-

<- Defenses figure offense out a good bit

-

<- Defenses figure out offense a lot

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

<- Oh the horror

-

-

Evil, Pure evil. Even when the Rams went to the Super Bowl in 2002 with an offensive line that had probowlers they still gave up the fifth most sacks. The system is predicated on big plays that take time to develop and as a result cause more offensive line chaos. It is true that based on the line ranking (which is simply sacks per pass attempt) from footballoutsiders.com; teams do not show immediate ranking improvement when Martz left. However there are a fantastic myriad of reasons of why that could be and I am not about to try to research that. As such I am going to let the numbers speak, Mad Mike Martz makes offensive lines look worse than they are. But now that "philosophical differences" (the power of Christ compels you) have caused Martz to part the Bears, our offensive line will improve by scheme alone.

Reason #2 - Starting Quarterback Injury

I don't think that it a surprise that backup QBs are not as good as starting QBs. It is true that not all backup QBs are as bad a Caleb Hanie was last year, but what is the actual affect on the offensive line sack statistics when the backup comes in? Let's take a look at a few examples from last year.

Colts 2010 Sacks = 16 Colts 2011 Sacks = 35 Percent sack rate increase = 118%

Cutler (10games) = 23 Backups (6games) = 26 Percent sack rate increase = 88%

Texans (10 games) = 16 Backups (6 games) = 16 Percent sack rate increase = 67%

Raiders (6 games) = 5 Backups (10 games) = 17 Percent sack rate increase = 104%

Chiefs (10 games) = 22 Backups (6 games) = 12 Percent sack rate decrease = 9%

Calculation for Bears: 23/10=2.3 --> 26/6 = 4.33 --> (4.33/2.3) - 1 = 0.88 = 88%

In general, based on these cherry picked stats, backup quarterbacks appear to increase sack rate on average by 73.6%. However, also based on these stats either Tyler Palko helps an offensive line to decrease sacks or the Chiefs were able to adjust their offensive scheme to the skill level of their backup. In any event I think that it is safe to say that if Jay Cutler can stay healthy this year the line will show improvement.

Reason #3 - Offensive Line Injury / Continuity

Once again everyone knows that injuries to starting players are BAD. Everyone also knows that no continuity for an offensive line is BAD, and if I have to hear the word gel one more time I am going to puke. The Bears have not had continuity due to injury which is a BAD BAD thing. Ever since Mike Tice arrived he has been trying to get the best five guys on the field and build continuity. However since we have had guys going down like bowling pins (really really big bowling pins) he has been forced to shift around people willy nilly. I tried to get all of the line shifts, but I am sure I missed some, feel free to gather the torches and come find me ... Shall we take a look?

Starting Lineup 2010

LT LG C RG RT

C. Williams Garza Kreutz Louis Omiyale

C. Williams injury

Omiyale Garza Kreutz Louis Shaffer

Shaffer um ... poor play and benched to put it nicely

Omiyale Garza Kreutz Louis Webb

Garza Injury, but C. Williams gets healthy

Omiyale C. Williams Kreutz Louis Webb

Garza Back

Omiyale C. Williams Kreutz Garza Webb

Starting Lineup 2011

LT LG C RG RT

Webb C. Williams Garza Louis Carimi

Louis ankle sprain injury week1

Webb C. Williams Garza Spencer Carimi

Carimi kneecap sublimation injury week2

Webb C. Williams Garza Spencer Omiyale

Omiyale um ... poor play and benched to put it nicely, but Louis healthy

Webb C. Williams Garza Spencer Louis

C. Williams wrist injury week 10

Webb E. Williams Garza Spencer Louis

Ok ... so over the last two years the offensive line players have had to be in a system that put them at a disadvantage, have had to learn a new blocking system, and not a single lineman has stayed in the same pure position over the two years with many moving between Tackle, Guard, and Center. Also, while we will never know for sure, a case can be made that only Shaffer and Omiyale were moved based on play alone. Last year we had a new center, had a rookie on the line as well as a second year seventh round pick LT, two season ending injuries to offensive line starters, and an injury to our starting quarterback in week 10. I have no idea how to evaluate this, so instead let's take a look at a real world example from cobbled together news reports. (Ditka forgive me for this)

The 2009 Bills had a new starting center, two rookies on the offensive line, lost two offensive line starters, and had their starting quarterback injured for the season in game eight. (Sound familiar?) They finished the 2009 season giving up the 5th most sacks.

The 2010 Bills got all of their injured players back. The rookies had a year of experience. The line played together all year. There was a minor quarterback controversy that ended in week 2, but no season ending injury. They finished the year in the top half of the league giving up the 19th most sacks.

The 2011 Bills had to deal with injuries on the line, most notably to a certain Mr. Demetrius Bell people are clamoring for, but managed to give up the least sacks in the league.

So if the Bears offensive line can stay healthy, stay put in a single position, gain some continuity, and gel (urp) maybe they can improve like the Bills (yak... gonna need some new shoes).

Again if they can simply stay healthy the line will show improvement which should be helped by the availability of an offseason strength and conditioning program.

Reason #4 - Simmering in the League / Marinating in Tice - a total non statistical look

There is a reason that draft classes are not judged until after the third or fourth year. It takes time for rookies to figure out NFL speed, NFL strength, work on their conditioning, or simply gain playing time. Our offensive line players for this year include:

Carimi - Second Year player that might as well be his first

Webb - Third Year player

Louis - Fourth Year player

C. Williams - Fifth year player that might as well be his fourth

E. Williams - Third year player

Some old guys (Garza and Spencer)

There has been a good amount of youth here and stupid mistakes should have been and were rampant. I expect to see growth from these guys this year and improvement from within our existing group.

This also will be the third year Mike Tice has been around to coach up the line. I have to think that by the third year players will get what he has been teaching. It may have taken this long because these guys are not the brightest bulb in the box or it may be that they have had to learn and relearn and relearn since they have been shuffled around so many times, but somebody has got to improve .. right?

So the way I see it ...

We could use a draft pick on the line since it is still our weakest position group, but by the end of next year, if we get even some of the cards to fall out way, the Bears offensive line will be league average or better in sacks.

Prediction Time: Bears will give up 16th most sacks.

Mike Tice is so smarter than you.

<em>This FanPost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member, and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.</em>

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