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Will the Bears be healthier in 2015?

Last season the Bears were undone by a tsunami of factors, one of which was the health of key players. Injuries are an unavoidable part of contact sports, but can the team get healthier?

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

I came across an article last week that was actually first published in March of this year. How it slipped past me I don't know but it was full of interesting information i thought was worth digging into.

Football Outsiders has an Adjusted Games Lost metric which can determine how teams were affected by injuries. They do this by accounting for players on the injury report who played, and give more weight to starters and key contributors than to injured benchwarmers.

Before I jump back to some of the trends, I'll get you the Bears' ranks. The Bears finished last season 27th in AGL with 101.6, a steep drop from their 14th ranked AGL in 2013 of 62.4. The vast majority of those AGLs were on defense (60.6 AGL, ranked 26th in the league) while they actually ranked worse for offensive injuries (27th) with fewer AGLs (41.0).

The Bears lost Charles Tillman early in the year and Lance Briggs at the midway point. Kyle Fuller played through a couple of injuries. They also lost games from Jeremiah Ratliff, Chris Conte and Jared Allen, among others. On offense they missed Kyle Long, Matt Slauson, Jordan Mills, Jermon Bushrod and Roberto Garza at various points. Alshon Jeffery played through an injury, as did Brandon Marshall before landing on IR late in the year.

Now, the first thing that jumps out to me is that many people would say that injuries are a matter of being lucky or unlucky, because one year a team can get a rash of injuries to a bunch of starters and it just sinks their season; then there are years where teams, for whatever reason, don't suffer those debilitating injuries and remain healthy. took FO's metrics and put them into some awesome easy to read charts. For starters you will notice that there is a degree of randomness or luck to injuries because in 2013 the Denver Broncos scored 83.6 AGL, ranking 25th but last season finished first with only 36.9 AGL. The Broncos overcame a lot of injuries on their Super Bowl run but last season, when healthier, still managed to be one-and-done in the postseason.

On the other end of things, the Green Bay Packers of 2013 were second-to-last in AGL with 103 AGL, but rebounded last year to finish third with 41.9 and then they went on to the NFC Championship Game. So clearly injuries can factor in to a team's season, but not always to the detriment fans and analysts believe.

Then there is the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles lead the league in health over the past two years. Eagles coach Chip Kelly is noted for bringing sports science to Philly with him and it seems to be paying dividends. From FootballOutsiders:

Philadelphia, noted for Chip Kelly's foray into sports science last year, had the best AGL in 2013 and ranked fifth this season. They are only the third team since 2002 to lead the league in AGL and finish in the top five the following season. Maybe this team is onto something with preventing soft tissue injuries. The big problems for the Eagles were focused along the offensive line, plus a broken collarbone for Nick Foles and a torn Achilles for DeMeco Ryans. Sometimes bones are going to break in tackles regardless of how much prep work goes into each week.

In a copycat league with more and more teams turning to sabermetrics like AGL, if Kelly keeps his team in the top five in AGL, look at other teams to turn to sports science and hiring "sports science coordinators."

As for the Bears, the new regime was concerned about the number of soft tissue injuries under the Phil Emery/Marc Trestman regime and brought wholesale changes to the program this offseason. There are a couple of charts on the Smart Football Analysis link that illustrate the regression the Bears took as their AGL spiked last season. It's ironic too that coach Fox overhauled the conditioning department, seeing as former GM Emery actually was a conditioning coach at one point in his career.

Ideally the team will immediately reap the benefits of these changes and be healthier this season. SFA does list the Bears as a team that should improve based on the law of averages:

Some specific teams of interest who theoretically "should" be healthier in 2015, who were well below league averages in 2014, include:

49ers - were at 82 AGL in 2013 with 12 wins, but dropped to 102 in 2014 and registered only 8 wins

Bears - dropped from 8 to 5 wins while moving from 62 AGL down to 102 in 2014

As is the case with most advanced stats, they tell only part of the story; health goes a long way in determining success but who is healthy and who is not goes a long way too, as does coaching and players, etc.

What catches your eye about the Bears' injuries and their outlook for 2015?