Yes, I changed the name from Mitch Please to the Bears Link Film Study. I did this mainly because this video series is no longer just about Mitch Trubisky. In addition to the 2-part episode on the rookies following the first quarter mark, I am going to dive into other topics that stick out to me. This is not to say that there won’t be more Trubisky in these videos, quite the contrary, it just won’t solely be about him.
Also, I know a lot of folks really want a a transcript for mediums that aren’t articles. Well, here you go!
This is….The Bears Link Film Study with Andrew Link.
In this weeks episode, which will be in 2 parts, I am going to take a look at how the Bears rookies have performed through the first quarter of the season.
Since he has been somewhat quiet so far, and the wide receiver position is pretty easy to watch on the broadcast, I am going to omit Anthony Miller from this video.
The first player we are going to talk about is the only offensive player in this episode, and also one that received his first snaps of the season in week 4: left guard James Daniels.
Everything that we saw from Daniels in college, training camp, and through the preseason was evident on film against the Buccaneers. From his hand placement…to his balanced base…to his powerful anchor, it is apparent that this is a well-coached player who has a bright future in the NFL.
He is still a rookie however, and there will be struggles as he learns to grasp the offense–which, lets face it, is a team wide issue right now.
I will touch on his struggles and the reasons why I believe Daniels is a future perennial Pro Bowl guard.
There aren’t many examples of him playing poorly, and honestly, I am forcing myself to be a little bit knitpicky. On some of these plays, Daniels doesn’t necessarily do anything wrong, it’s just the nature of offensive line play. There are things that can be cleaned up if he wants to get to an elite level, which I believe he can.
The Bears are running what appears to be a counter play. The blocking is all flowing to the right side, but Tarik Cohen is going to cut back to the left just after taking the hand off.
You can usually tell what a play’s design was by looking at how a play is blocked. Watch Charles Leno make a down block on the defensive tackle (92) and Dion Sims attempting a reach block to seal off the defensive end (90).
Daniels is trying to chip the defensive tackle (92) on a combination block with Leno, then peel off to the MIKE linebacker (58).
The key block on this play is Sims. He doesn’t get in position to seal off his man and the play fails. Where I want to see Daniels improve is getting to the second level. He gets his arm caught by the defender and cannot get to his assignment because of it. I have seen this on a few other plays as well, so it’s something to keep an eye on.
But as I mentioned, Daniels has done much more right than he has wrong. He excelled in both run and pass blocking against the Bucs.
I mentioned earlier that Daniels is a polished player who knows how to use technique, athleticism, and sheer strength to win. On the majority of plays, he shows all of these attributes, which bodes well for his future.
His base is good, his hand placement is advanced, but the thing you can’t teach is athleticism. The Bears offensive scheme is predicated on offensive lineman that are athletic. They run a zone blocking scheme in the running game and with so many speed rushers in the NFL, offensive lineman need to be nimble in order to keep their quarterback upright.
Here is another counter play to Cohen. The difference this time is that both Daniels and Sims are going to pulling from the backside to the play side to open up the hole. Again, Sims fails in his assignment, he simply gets to the hole too late and Cohen has to bounce this play outside.
But Daniels isn’t late. He pulls across the formation and hit his target square in the chest. The WILL linebacker has this play read and had Cohen in his sights.
Once Daniels makes contact, he controls the WILL and once he feels Cohen bouncing it outside, he turns the WILL seals his block to allow Cohen the corner.
This is a very impressive play for any player, let alone a rookie. It’s plays like this that get me excited for Daniels’ future with the Bears.
Another staple of the Bears offense are screen passes. Daniels was on the field for 3 running back screens in this game. The other 2 were not successful but in both cases, Daniels wasn’t at fault.
On this particular play, however, Daniels makes the key block that gets Cohen extra yardage.
Not only does Daniels hold his initial block long enough to protect Mitch Trubisky, but he sells the pass to the defensive tackle (92).
Daniels also has the quickness and agility to hit a moving target. The MIKE linebacker on this play (54) is playing the left curl.
The MIKE quickly diagnoses the screen and comes downhill hard to bust the play. Daniels hits his target, then gains control and completely drives him out of the play.
Kevin White has the pancake block downfield that springs Cohen for an additional 15 yards.
But this play goes nowhere if Daniels doesn’t make this block.
All in all, Daniels was impressive in his Bears debut. It’s only a matter of time before he is playing full time and the offense will be better because of it.
Staying with the lineman, I am going to take a look at defensive lineman Bilal Nichols, who has flashed several times already this season.
I haven’t been shy about my praise for Nichols. He has played much better than I had thought when he was drafted. My fear was that Ryan Pace and Vic Fangio saw Nichols as more of a nose tackle. While he has played a significant amount of snaps at the nose, he has generally made the most impact at either the 1-technique or 3-technique, when the Bears show a 4-3 front.
Something that I have noticed through 4 games is that Fangio has been showing a lot of 4-man fronts. This isn’t necessarily new, but the amount of the usage of the 40-front is. Fangio has always used this look against the Packers, so that wasn’t a surprise, but in the other 3 games, it was shown at least 50% of the time.
Nichols is as strong as I had thought, he played nose tackle almost exclusively during his last season at New Hampshire. But what has stood out to me the most is his quickness and his football IQ.
Nichols has had several plays that go unnoticed where he doesn’t necessarily make the play, but he is in the correct spot. This play against the screen shows everything that he has to offer in one play.
The Bucs setup a screen to the right side. Nichols is playing nose tackle in the Bears base 3-4 front.
Nichols recognizes the screen almost immediately. Because he held his ground in contain on this play, he was able to peel off of the center (66) easily and follow the running back.
Besides the quick recognition of the play, Nichols is able to run down the running back from behind as the play is developing. The quickness and speed is very impressive from a 300-pounder.
Another great play by a Bears rookie. I have said on multiple occasions that I feel like this draft class was going to be special. Nothing I have seen so far has changed my stance on that.
The future is very bright for these 2 young men, and as they continue to develop, I see big things in their future.
This Bears team is only going to get better in the next few seasons. I cannot wait to see how this team comes together with experience in both the schemes and the league.
That’s going to wrap it up for part 1 of the Quarterly Rookie Report on the Bears Link Film Study.
In part 2, I will take a deep dive into the play of Roquan Smith and I have a bonus for a player that I think has a big upside: Kevin Toliver.
Until next time….Bear down!
As always, your input is welcome in the comments section. This is an evolving process until I find the right way to bring this content to you, the Bears fan!