Saturday, July 28, 2007

Anderson vs. Brown: The Prestige

Sometimes I kind of like the stuff David Haugh writes for the Tribune, but a lot of his stuff is just too focused on analyzing the personalities of Bears players. And sometimes his articles leave me wondering if he even watches the games.

His analysis of five position battles to watch in Bears training camp mentions two spots on the line. In discussing the promotion of Anderson to starting right end over Brown, he says, "Anderson did have 12 sacks in limited time as a rookie, and likely will improve against the run. But how will he fare playing every down and being a pass-rusher offenses double-team or chip with a running back?" I've heard a few places that Bears coaches treat the line as more of a rotation than being necessarily about who starts and who's a backup, so this statement coming from Haugh seems really strange to me.

In later discussion of Dvoracek versus Adams, Haugh seems to express skepticism about Smith calling the line a "rotation." I have no idea where I'd find any statistics about the percentage of snaps each d-lineman saw, but from what I remember from the games last season, Anderson did see significant time on the field while he was technically a backup. I mean, it was amazing that he got 12 sacks, but it's not like he was getting a sack every other play he was on the field or anything. I expect that the same will hold for this season, and that Anderson's promotion to "starter" will really mean that Anderson and Brown will come closer to splitting time evenly at the position, with it being more likely that Anderson will play slightly more than Brown.

So, sure, it will be interesting to watch the battle between Anderson and Brown for the starting position, but any close observer of the Bears should know that it's not going be too significant of a thing w/r/t playing time for either player. It's mainly a matter of pride and, eventually, of contracts. So why doesn't Haugh just characterize it as that, instead of trying to drum it up into being about who gets to play and who has to watch all season from the sidelines?

Plus, his article would be way more interesting and informative if it had contained interviews or even quotes from the position coaches who'll be assessing these position battles during training camp. If I were a sportswriter I would be doing whatever I could to get to ask those guys a few questions, especially at this point in the season. Why is there exactly none of that in any coverage of the Bears that I've ever been able to find. Is it that papers think readers will be bored when they see an assistant-level coach quoted or something? Why is sports reporting so consistently shallow and uncurious?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

When Men were (smaller) Men

I think Mike Tomlin is going to be a really effing good coach, and I couldn't be happier that the Stillers scooped him out of the clutches of the evil Vikings, and I can sort of understand the impulse as a new coach to assert your "I ain't goin' soft on nobody" attitude at the kickoff of training camp which apparently has caused Tomlin to run full-contact drills on the first day of camp. I seem to remember Lovie did something like that during his first training camp as coach of the Bears, which pretty quickly backfired when Mike Brown suffered the first of his season-destroying injuries and Brian Urlacher pulled a hamstring that bothered him for most of that season. I guess no one questioned Lovie's toughness, but part of the reason most training camps are not as intense as they apparently used to be is because present-age football players are way the fuck more gigantic and fast than they were back then, so they tend to get hurt more when they are made to run into each other repeatedly. It's not that they're a bunch of pussies. So, y'know, be careful Mike Tomlin.

ESPN is Dumb: Reason 47

And this one isn't even complaining about their Bears analysis. This is just about what they apparently think is the type of sports coverage they should be bragging about. This is from their front page today: "Today is Michael Vick Day on Hashmarks. Pinch-blogger Mike Sando will be live blogging MV throughout the day. And we'll have more than five hours of Vick coverage on ESPN and ESPNEWS." That's supposed to make me want to watch ESPN? Actually it made me glad that I don't have cable or ESPN just because that means there's no way that I might accidentally flip through it and be exposed to any more Michael Vick than I already have. Seriously, ESPN folks, wait until the story's happened, and then write about it. Just because Michael Vick is involved doesn't mean this is actually a sporting event that needs to be covered with play-by-play... Actually, now that I think about it, it would be pretty funny if they had Joe Buck doing play-by-play on Michael Vick's pre-trial hearing or whatever the hell is going on today. You'd probably have to alert the Guinness people because I'm sure Buck would reach new unheard of levels of righteous indignation. At least in this case it would kind of be appropriate...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

At least I'm housebroken

Here's hoping it's true that Briggs signed a deal with the Bears and won't be holding out after all, if for no other reason than that all the members of the Chicago sports media will have to find something else to write about than the impending doom of the Bears defense without Lance Briggs. Now we will get to see if they'll try to stick with their angle and claim that the defense is going to truly drop a notch because of the loss of Terry Johnson, Alfonso Boone, and Ian Scott. Maybe their arguments will go something like this: Much like the Dude's rug, those three average tackles reeeeally tied the defense, which for the sake of this analogy is like a room, together. Now that they're gone, the defense, which is now like the Dude, will embark on some pointless quest which will put them in greater danger of peril before finally realizing after it's too late and Donny (Maybe Babich? No, Rivera!) is already dead that they just didn't need the fucking rug (Scott, Boone, Johnson) in the first place.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Football Outsiders hates on the Bears some more

Football Outsiders just ranked the Bears defensive line at ninth in the league, which makes me pissed off beyond any reasonable level. Of course it's not too surprising to see New England at the top of the list. They're total Patriots homers over at FO, and are at least generally willing to admit that it might affect their analysis of the Patriots, so I'm willing to allow that since the Pats d-line probably does belong in the top five you might as well put them at number one if you're a fan. But ranking the Vikings at sixth? The Vikings are supposed to have a better d-line than the Bears? That is just utter bullshit. They've got two linemen who are worth anything: the Williams fellows. And, sure, because of them, you can't really run up the middle against the Vikes. But Kevin Williams' major selling point is that he shares a last name with the All-Pro playing next to him. The Vikes' ends could be traded out with ends from half a dozen other teams around the league and no one would notice or care. So, if the Vikes are ranked sixth for being Pat Williams and a bunch of mediocre to better than average guys, why are the Bears, who have Tommie Harris playing the Pat Williams roles, not to mention Mark Anderson, Alex Brown, and Adewale Ogunleye rotating in and out on the ends, why are they ranked ninth? Well, according to Mr. Macey's explanation, it seems to be that the Bears have been ranked at the average of where they would be ranked with Tommie Harris and without Tommie Harris, since their line clearly declined with Tommie Harris sidelined during the second half of the season last year. Actually, I think ninth is more like where they should be ranked if you just figure that Harris isn't going to play this year, which would be stupid to figure, but how come the Bears' hypothetical ranking is suffering based on a hypothetical injury? Especially when, say, Carolina, who Macey ranks third and then goes on to describe every single member of their line as being surrounded by injury questions, is ranked where they'd be if their whole line suddenly got way better. So, Chicago's d-line loses rank because their best player was injured last year, but Carolina, whose entire line has problems staying healthy, is given the benefit of every doubt?

Man, I can't wait for football season.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

ESPN is Dumb: Reasons 45 & 46

45:So, I was bored, and I wanted to see some more football coverage, so I thought I'd check out ESPN's Scouts, Inc.'s rankings of teams by position, and the only link anywhere I could find was the one for special teams. Of course the Bears are ranked number one; anyone who would even bother trying to argue just obviously doesn't know what they're talking about. But ESPN's reasoning for why Bears special teams are good mentions three names before they even get to mentioning Dave Toub. Robbie Gould, Brendon Ayenbadejo, and Devin Hester. I suppose there's not too much of a problem with putting Devin Hester in there, since he, at least last season, was playing on a completely different level than any other returner. So, fine. But what I think is annoying about this is that the Bears special teams is so good primarily because of how Dave Toub coaches and how the organization in general treats special teams. A player's ability to contribute on special teams makes a major difference in where the Bears draft him, even for early-round picks. The Bears coaching staff sees special teams as nearly or just as important as defense and offense. ST is not just this afterthought that you let your bench players do so they can feel like they're contributing. So, anyway, the fact that there's not even a mention of the major difference between Bears special teams philosophy and nearly every other team in the league is, I think, a really stupid absence.

46:ESPN is having this sportsnation vote thing about each NFL Team, and in their "Key Additions" column for the Bears, they mention Obafami Ayenbadejo, Dan Bazuin, and Greg Olsen. No mention of Adam Archuleta? wtf? I know he didn't work in Washington's system, but he was great under Smith in Smith's system at St. Louis. No reason to assume he won't at least be an upgrade at the position for the Bears, behind Brown. And given the importance of the Safety position in Smith's defense, Archuleta surely merits mention before Ayenbadejo. Dumb.

Monday, July 09, 2007

re: ESPN's Hashmarks Offseason Power Rankings

Well, I had a dream last night wherein I was reading some misguided analysis of the Bears defense, centering largely on the possible absence of Lance Briggs, which is an interesting variation on the Bears dreams I've had during past summers. But apparently I'm caring about this again. And then while fiddling around on the internet I stumbled across ESPN's little pre-preseason power rankings thing by Matt Mosley. So I'm just going to correct a few things he seems to think.

Not surprisingly the entire entry on the Bears, whom he ranks 6th, 3rd best in the NFC, is concerned only with Briggs and Tank Johnson. No mention of picking up Archuleta, which will allow the Bears to either have the best Safety tandem in the league (Archuleta/Brown), or at the very least, not to have a significant fall-off in that area should either suffer an injury. Smith's whole scheme is built pretty heavily around the safety, so an upgrade like this easily balances out the potential loss of Briggs. Briggs is an amazing player who plays a position that on this defense is largely about being in the right spot. Having Briggs in that spot is actually more gaudy than essential. Which is kind of why I can understand why, from his position, he might want to go play on a different team, where he could make full use of his potential. But, whatever. A potential holdout by Briggs would at worst be a mild distraction for a game or two, until it becomes obvious that he wasn't necessary for the proper running of the defense.

As far as Tank goes. The Bears were totally stacked at the line with Tank, and they're still pretty much stacked at the line without him. None of their tackles are as good as Tank was. Except, of course, for Tommie Harris. Who is the best in the league. So it's not like they're really hurting. No one knows how good Dvoracek will be, but it seems about an even bet that he'll end up being at least as good as Tank going by Angelos track record in drafting defensive linemen. Just like with Briggs, losing Tank merely downgrades the Bears defense at one position from gaudy to easily in the top four or five in the league, and with the type of upgrade they got at safety, I'd say that overall the changes in the defense amount to--at worst--a wash.

They were pretty clearly the best team in the NFC for the majority of the season, and proved it when it mattered. How exactly the Tank and Briggs thing is supposed to be big enough of a deal that they could be moved down below New Orleans and Philadelphia is not exactly clear to me. New Orleans will likely be as good as they were last season; maybe even better. They'll not have the huge emotional boost they had at the beginning of the season, but they'll be able to build on what was obviously a really good team after that wore off. So I couldn't say for sure that the Bears deserve a higher spot than New Orleans, although I'm pretty sure they do. But Philadelphia is three or four years removed from their peak, and have had two seasons in a row killed by a serious injury to McNabb. If McNabb stays healthy for the whole season, they'll be in the competition with New Orleans and Chicago for the top spot, but I think they have to prove it.