Game plan: Penetrate Atlanta's O-Line

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Game plan: Penetrate Atlanta's O-Line

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 11:00 p.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
Chris Harris wasnt in the mood for a scary movie when he put in the video of the Atlanta Falcons offense. But thats what he got.

It wasnt Matt Ryan passing to Tony Gonzalez or Roddy White, all three of them Pro Bowl selections and the kinds of individuals that cost secondaries, even a veteran safety, good nights sleep. It wasnt just Michael Turner running his way into the Pro Bowl.

It was the big guys bearing down on and picking on little people. Like veteran safeties.

We put on the tape and the first thing we notice is their offensive linemen 10, 12 15 yards downfield, Harris said, shaking his head. Last season and even in preseason, their line plays hard, very aggressive, and they finish blocks.

Curiously perhaps, the Falcons have not run the ball all that well against the Bears, who have never beaten them since Ryan arrived. But the Falcons may in fact be a case study supporting the kind of offensive game planning that worked for the Bears over the final nine regular-season games of 2010.

And that smash-mouth approach to running the football that was the first thing Harris thought of when talking about the Atlanta offense that ranked No. 5 in scoring.

The Bears have never sacked Ryan in the two games against the former No. 3 pick of the 2008 draft. Part of the reason: The Falcons have turned those offensive linemen loose, 30 times (vs. 30 pass plays) in the 22-20 win in 2008, 23 times (vs. 33 passes) in 2009. If you want to protect the passer, make pass rushers think about the run, and the Bears have.

They run the ball and obviously Matt Ryan is becoming an elite quarterback in this league, Harris said. Hes got the arm, hes a smart guy, and hes smart enough to get it out of his hands and to his playmakers. Theyve been a good running team and now have good skill position players just about everywhere.

The Bears virtually owned the Falcons when Michael Vick ran, literally, the Atlanta offense. In the three Bears-Falcons games of the Vick years, the Falcons scored 3 points twice and 13 once. They have scored 22 and 21 in the two Ryan games.

If it starts up front for the Falcons, it does as well for the Bears on defense, where unprovens Mario Addison and Nick Reed, at 248 and 252 pounds, were kept on the defensive-end depth chart because of their pass rushing. Whether either, if active, can stand up to offensive linemen who consistently get downfield to second and third levels, remains to be seen.

I see a lot of guys that can play, that fill our system, said defensive end Julius Peppers. We have explosive and quick guys, that's what we try and have up front. We're not necessarily big guys, heavy guys, so I see all the guys that we have fit into the system.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Want to be in on Bears QB deliberations? 'Look at the film'

Want to be in on Bears QB deliberations? 'Look at the film'

Back in 1992 the Dallas Cowboys were in draft deliberations around the No. 17 spot of the first round, looking for upgrades on defense. A scout made a suggestion that they target Ohio State defensive end Alonzo Spellman, one of the most physically imposing (6-4, 280 pounds) players and best athletes in that draft.
 
Coach Jimmy Johnson responded, "Tell me about the production."
 
Came back the answer: Three years at OSU, nine total sacks.
 
"Oh, please!" Johnson scoffed, calling in cornerback Kevin Smith and leaving Spellman to the Bears at No. 22. Spellman had several respectable seasons but never more than 8.5 sacks in nine NFL seasons.
 
As investment advisers counsel, past performance is not necessarily a predictor of future results. But past performance can be, and an axiom in NFL personnel rooms is, look at the film.
 
CSNChicago.com is doing that as the NFL Scouting Combine approaches (Feb. 29) along with free agency and the start of the league year and its trading window. It becomes an increasingly relevant exercise to look at the intricacies behind some of the key players and positions the Bears will be addressing through the upcoming weeks. CSNChicago.com previously looked at the need to evaluate quarterbacks from the intangible standpoints first, then the measurables.
 
Using Jay Cutler as an object lesson for how immense physical skills have questionable correlations to immense NFL performance, a look at one aspect of quarterback "film" warrants more attention than the measurables that command a disproportionate share of attention and scrutiny.
 
Ball security.
 
It has been Cutler's single biggest issue through his eight Bears seasons, was a reason why coaches once wanted to stay with Josh McCown instead of returning to Cutler following a Cutler injury absence, and why Brian Hoyer played his way into prominence in the discussion of 2017 Bears plans. Adam Gase went from offensive coordinator to hottest head-coach prospect in no small measure because he managed Cutler into better ball security.

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But the point here is less Cutler – expected to be traded or released within the near future – than the level of ball security in the available options beyond Hoyer.
 
So, look at the film:
 
The widespread drooling over a possible trade with New England for Jimmy Garoppolo. The best thing in Garoppolo's favor is that he has been a Patriots backup to Tom Brady. Garoppolo, drawing distant comparisons to a Matt Flynn, Matt Cassel and other past experience-lite quarterback options, has thrown 94 NFL passes without an interception, which is impressive until matched against Hoyer's 200 last season without an interception, for comparison purposes.
 
But evaluating Garoppolo against the coming chief draft competition – DeShone Kizer, Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson – suggests comparing apples to apples, meaning college ball security, since that's all the kids have to this point.
 
Garoppolo vaulted up draft boards (to New England's second round) on the strength of an Eastern Illinois senior season with 53 touchdown passes vs. nine interceptions, against chiefly FCS opposition. But in his first three seasons Garoppolo threw for 65 touchdowns and was intercepted 42 times.
 
Kizer? In his two Notre Dame seasons, 47 touchdowns, 19 interceptions.
 
Trubisky? 30 touchdowns last season, six interceptions. Including his two years as a North Carolina backup, 41 touchdowns, 10 interceptions.
 
Watson? 90 touchdowns, 32 interceptions in three Clemson seasons, the last two as Tigers starter.
 
Observations:
 
Garoppolo put in four college seasons, but has a little of the Trubisky/Flynn/Cassel, one-year-wonder feel. 
 
Kizer and Watson have more starting seasons, but the Watson intangible of getting his team to two national-championship games speaks to another level of "intangible."
 
GM Ryan Pace will incorporate heavy input from coach John Fox and coordinator Dowell Loggains. Coaches love ball security. Garoppolo? Watson? Trubisky? Kizer?
 
Look at the film.

BearsTalk Podcast: The risk and reward for Bears in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo

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USA TODAY

BearsTalk Podcast: The risk and reward for Bears in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo

In this edition of the BearsTalk podcast, CSN's Chris Boden, Sun-Times Bears beat writer Patrick Finley, and CSNChicago.com's Scott Krinch discuss the Bears' approach to the two-week window opening to franchise-tag Alshon Jeffery again, the risk/reward in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo or drafting a QB (and how high to draft one), Scott's 2.0 mock draft, plus the workers' compensation controversy the team found itself in last week and the club's decision to raise ticket prices.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: