Do you remember all those good vibes the Chicago Bears' pass protection had just a couple weeks ago? Yeah, that's all gone now. For the second consecutive week the Bears' pass pro was bad. The poster child in the parade of bad has been right tackle Kyle Long. After some early struggles, I thought he settled into the position switch for a good stretch of weeks there, but these last two games it seems he's regressed.
Here's the thing I'm constantly reminding people about Kyle Long: 2013 and 2014 Pro Bowl Right Guard. From a technical standpoint, he was a very sloppy player his first 2 years. His technique was a work in progress after having so few snaps at the college level. He was able to get by on athleticism and strength on the interior of the line, but out at tackle, often left on an island, he NEEDS good technique.
At tackle his hand punch has to be precise. Not too aggressive or forceful, otherwise he risks getting too far out over his feet. Not too passive, otherwise he risks getting his arms chopped away. The angle on his kick step has to vary depending on the start-point of the defender, and the path the defender takes to get to the quarterback. A tackle has to be constantly altering the direction he retreats in order to match the pass rush. A tackles shoulders, back, arms, hips and feet all have to be moving in unison to maintain a proper pass set.
Long has to maintain a good base while on an island, because he has to be able to mirror an edge rusher that has room to maneuver. Inside pass rushers don't have as much room to start one way then counter to another because there's a center and a tackle on either side to help and there's often too much congestion to move. Also the defensive tackle starts off so much closer to the guard than an edge rusher starts to an offensive tackle, so guards are able to get their hands on their guy quicker.
Moving a "Pro Bowl" guard to tackle, then assuming he'll become a Pro Bowler is great in theory, but when you break down the tape, you see Kyle Long has always been a flawed player.
But even though I was adamantly against Long making the move out to tackle when the Bears moved him -- right before week 1 of the regular season -- I think he should probably stay there now. Give him the proper time to work on his technique at all the OTAs and mini camps in 2016. Let Long head out to one of the offseason training centers like LeCharles Bentley's O-Line Performance to hone his skills.
Long may never have flawless technique, but he has the work ethic, athleticism and strength to get pretty damn close.
Sackwatch after 14 games
2010 - 48 Martz
2011 - 42 Martz
2012 - 42 Tice
2013 - 24 Trestman
2014 - 37 Trestman
2015 - 28 Gase
Sack 24 - First quarter 13:46 Tom Johnson
Pass protection is so much more than just the five offensive linemen working in unison. The play caller has to keep a defense on their toes, a quarterback has to be able to get the ball out on time, the receivers have to be able to get open, and the backs and tight ends have to know when to chip or stay in to block.
This play was Minnesota's 4 against Chicago's 5, and take a look at how long the pass protection holds up.
From tackle to tackle the Bears all do their job, so this sack is on Jay Cutler for holdong the ball too long. Maybe his first couple reads weren't open. Maybe he was trying to buy time for a big play to develop downfield on this 2nd and 17 play. Maybe the Vikings just did a great job in coverage. Either way, Cutler's internal clock has to tell him to take off or to find a safe spot to throw the ball away.
Sack 25 - First quarter 4:28 Chad Greenway
Right guard Patrick Omameh is a little sloppy on this play leading with his head, allowing his upper body to get too far in front of his base, but he's able to stay with his man enough to push him upfield. Cutler felt it, but he has room to step up.
Unfortunately he steps up into the waiting grasp of Viking linebacker Chad Greenway, who slipped the block of Matt Forte. What hurt Forte on this block was him leading with his shoulder. Running backs need to stay square to the blitzer in pass protection, otherwise they are opening a side for the defender to rush. Forte led with his right shoulder, Greenway absorbed the blow, then worked around that side. Forte wasn't in position to slide to the right and cut him off, so this sack allowed goes to Forte.
Sack 26 - Second quarter 10:46 Danielle Hunter
The left side of the Vikings defensive line is running T-E stunt (tackle goes to the outside first, while the defensive end comes around to the inside) and the Bears didn't play it very well.
Right guard Omameh correctly passes his man off to right tackle Long, but then he stops moving his feet and allows his man (#99 Hunter) to clean up the sack. Long wasn't ready to accept the defender from Omameh (#96 Brian Robison) and Robison gets immediate pressure on the QB. Cutler is able to slip the tackle, but not the 2nd man in.
I'm splitting this sack allowed between Chicago's sloppy right side.
Sack 27 - Third quarter 13:57 Brian Robison
The last sack the Bears allowed on December 13th against the Washington Redskins was very similar to this one. Last week I split that sack between both Long and Cutler, but this week I'm more inclined to go with just Long.
On that sack against the Redskins, Cutler holds the ball about a half second longer than this one, and he never cocks his arm to throw. On this one he's about to fire it away when he's stripped by Robison. On the December 13th sack, Long took a terrible angle on his initial kick step, leaving him no way to recover. This time his angle is better, but he hesitates, then he allows Robison to rip under his arms, all while being too far out in front of his feet.
I'm giving this one all to Kyle Long and I think Jay Cutler agrees.
Sack 28 - Third quarter 1:23 Sharrif Floyd and Danielle Hunter
The good thing about this play is Kyle Long receives a thumbs up because his angle, his hands and his base all allow him to thwart the pass rusher.
The bad thing about this play is pretty much everything else.
The Vikings are running a T-E stunt against Chicago's left side, and it appears that left guard Matt Slauson wasn't aware of it. Slauson stays with the DT Floyd (#73) and by doing so he inadvertently picks left tackle Charles Leno. Leno also seems late in realizing there a stunt on too. What really kills this pass protection is the incredible jump by Floyd. Look how quick he's off the ball and into Slauson, he's already splitting the gap before the defensive end (#99 Hunter) comes back inside.
Slauson wasn't able to get his hands up quick enough, then he tried to lean on Floyd to push him past the pocket, but since he was off balance he didn't stand a chance.
I know some people have blamed this sack partly on Leno, but I can't do it. By the time Leno turns his attention to his inside gap, Floyd has already powered through. Leno's only choice was to try and stick with Hunter, but he was caught up by Slauson.
I'm giving this one to Slauson.
But before I wrap up, take a peek at Omameh and Hroniss Grasu. They have a double team on #72 Kenrick Ellis and they let him split the gap.
Here's how I have the Sackwatch after 14 games.
Kyle Long - 6.34
Sacks Happen - 4.5
Charles Leno Jr. - 4.33
Patrick Omameh - 2.5
Matt Slauson - 2.5
Jay Cutler - 2.5
Vlad Ducasse - 2.33
Matt Forte - 1.5
Jermon Bushrod - 1
Hroniss Grasu - .5
What are your thoughts on the Sackwatch this week?