Much has been made of the Bears additions on the defensive line and rightfully so. The additions of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, and Willie Young instantly give the Bears a new found legitimacy on both edges that the Bears have missed since 2012. The addition that has largely gone under the radar has been Safety free agent addition, Ryan Mundy. The little understood prospect is on his third team in three years. Is this a bad omen or is the player a worthy journeyman?
Ryan Mundy comes from a New York Giants team that was flush with three quality safeties last year: Antrel Rolle (+7.4PFF), Will Hill (+15.7PFF), and Ryan Mundy (+0.2PFF). Antrel Rolle was entrenched as a starter just by contract distinction alone, with a 2013 cap hit of $9.25M and Will Hill
is was a rising star in the NFL. (Will Hill, the reason the Giants didn't attempt to re-sign Mundy, was arrested for drugs and faces his third suspension from the league) Ryan Mundy played very well in relief of Will Hill (FS) in the first four weeks notching PFF grades of +3.5, +0.5, +1.1, -1.7. After Will Hill returned, Mundy struggled to break into the defensive lineup in any consistent way until weeks 15 and 16.
In 2012, Ryan Mundy sat behind the Safety duo of Polamalu and Ryan Clark. While both safeties are aging, the fit for both the Steelers and Mundy seemed ill-fitting. Mundy was looking at the prospect of sitting behind Clark or Polamalu for another year with the eternal shame of allowing Tebow to throw a game winning TD in the playoffs. NY represented a Matt Slauson prove it contract and fresh start.
The sum total of Mundy's departure from Pittsburgh looked promising, especially when it became apparent that Will Hill would miss four games for a criminal count of marijuana possession. Mundy did not disappoint playing a very solid game with key stops in open space against wide receivers and playing his zones exceedingly well. Mundy notched a positive grade in his first three matchups according to PFF and suffered a -1.7 in week 4, due to a negative run grade of -1.7 against Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs imposing ground game. Then, Will Hill returned and picked up where he left.
Will Hill took an increasing number of snaps from Mundy, but by week 8, he assumed full responsibility of Free Safety duties and notched impressive grades. While Mundy played impressively at FS, there was little chance that he would dethrone Hill or supplant the expensive and technically sound Rolle.
An interesting thing happened in weeks 15 and 16, however. In an attempt to capitalize on the Giant's three better options, Perry Fewell and Tom Coughlin started playing formations with 3 safeties, moving one of the safeties into a Nickel formation, with plenty of pre-snap movement.
Ryan Mundy was scored a glaringly uncharacteristic -4.3PFF grade against the week 16 matchup against the Detroit Lions. The chief culprit? Missed tackles. With such a glaringly bad game, perhaps this game can serve as an adequate case study for the risks associated with starting Ryan Mundy.
Fringe benefit: we get to evaluate a soul crushing Detroit loss.
Week 16 Detroit Lions PFF Grade (-4.3)
Having watched the All 22 Film from NFL.com, I can say that Mundy played better than his -4.3 tape indicated. Some observations are interesting to note for Mundy's future in Chicago.
- Mundy played quite a few zone coverages in the win over the Detroit Lions. Early in the matchup, when the game was still even and the Lions were trying to impose themselves running, Mundy played a lot of the game in the box with Rolle and Hill playing a more traditional 10-15 yards off the line of scrimmage. When Detroit gained the lead and started running more, Mundy was back in the box playing the run.
- Mundy struggled at times to fight off the strong stiff arm of Joique Bell, who was a force in this game. This might say more about Bell than Mundy as there were a total of 11 missed tackles in this game by the Giant's defense, 5 of them caused by Bell.
- Mundy is very technically sound in the way he attacks the run. By that I mean that he doesn't play erratically and overpursue. He puts himself in an optimal position to limit big plays and make a solid stop.
- Mundy is a good tackler on most plays, squaring up and using his shoulder and chest to make stops. He didn't make any Boom Bostic-esque hits, but rather focused on taking down the opposing player with solid form.
- When playing zone in Cover 1&2, Mundy let nothing beat him over the top.
- Mundy played with good instincts, sniffing out a screen in what looked like a Cover 1 Robber formation, with Mundy playing man against the runningback.
- When Mundy made mistakes, most came with Mundy being in a great position to make a play, but failing to make difficult tackles, while a few tackles have to be made.
- When playing on the line, Mundy struggled to win match ups against Tackles (go figure) and the blocking tight end, Dorin Dickerson.
Let's further isolate two good plays and two negative plays to judge Mundy's day against Detroit.
Ryan Mundy's grade is directly derived from his run defense, which was a stinker of -4.6. Let's look directly at two plays ran at Mundy that resulted in touchdowns.
3rd and Goal 3rd QTR 9:12 Remaining
This is a defensive meltdown that begins with the defensive coordinator and here's why:
- The defensive linemen are all shifted away from the strong side of the Lions offensive formation.
- Ryan Mundy is lined up in a gap between Corey Hilliard (T) and Dorin Dickerson (Blocking TE). This is a tough matchup for 270 pound defensive ends, much less the smaller safety.
- Despite being strong on the left side of the defensive formation, the defensive linemen still crash left, leaving Mundy isolated against two blockers with Beason behind him. The person that comes from the right end of the frame is the corner that released from his receiver.
If Mundy finds himself in a similar situation, we can safely assume that retaining Tucker was the wrong choice. He's a Safety, keep him on the edge or attacking a gap from behind the LOS. This is the only time that I saw this kind of tomfoolery from Fewell this game.
4th Quarter TD Run
This is a missed tackle that had to be made. Mundy comes in unblocked on a runningback dive that is designed to put the halfback in the paydirt before Mundy can crash. Mundy makes an exceptional play crashing and finding the runner, but makes a technical mistake in his tackling by putting his right shoulder on the runner instead of his left and keeping his helmet in between the runner and six points. Mundy bounces off Theo Riddick (awesome name) while the Detroit Lions Interior OLinemen continued their dominance over the Giants DTs.
Detroit takes the lead without having to resort to Stafford's haphazard arm.
1st and 10 2nd Quarter 14:09 Remaining
This is an example of Mundy playing very sound Cover 1. He makes an exceptional break to the receiver as soon as Stafford releases the ball. The window, that was small to begin with, quickly closes for Stafford and his WR Kris Durham.
4th Quarter Run Stop
Not everything was bad for Mundy in run defense this day. While he missed a few tackles, he was constantly in position to make a good run stop. In this example, Mundy makes a clutch run stop, chasing down the runner behind the LOS.
Mundy struggled at times during this matchup against the Lions, but not by much. He imposed himself at times in both the run game and the pass game. What his PFF grade doesn't reflect, was Mundy's very disciplined approach to his coverage and maintaining his gaps in run defense. The play that sticks out from this win is his missed tackle in the 4th Quarter. For the Bears, this might be a benefit as he might never make that mistake again. This leads me to my last takeaway, his place on the Bears.
Ryan Mundy and the 2014 Chicago Bears
Whether Ryan Mundy is listed as the FS or SS might be a formality. While a FS is traditionally known for his play high (deep zones) and the SS for his play low (in the box), Mundy is a player that has shown the ability to do both. He did learn behind Troy Polamalu!*
Ryan Mundy might be the free agent acquisition that delivers the most value this offseason. While Houston and Allen will probably continue to garner most of the headlines in 2014, it might be Mundy that helps to bring continuity to the defensive backfield.
Ryan Mundy is undoubtedly not only a starter, but a potential bright spot for the Bears roster in 2014. There are plenty of risks associated with a safety that can't seemingly find a home, but Mundy does the best to put himself in a position to make plays.
*Disclaimer: Of course no one expects him to be Troy at this point in his career.