A funny thing happened in the midst of all the excitement surrounding the play of the of the offensive line, EVERYONE FORGOT THAT IT'S THE PRESEASON. Okay that's not a completely true statement, because there has been the occasional small reminder mixed in with the overwhelming excitement. Kyle Long and Jordan Mills played great together in the second game against the Chargers and put together an equally solid effort in the third game against the Raiders, or did they?
First things first that no one has logged or taken into account, just how many times have other teams been blitzing the Bears during the preseason. As we know it's easy to look good when five offensive linemen are constantly blocking four, and you only have to set up to block a pass rush to the outside. Despite being pretty piss poor in pass protection over the last five years the Bears have been able to keep upright most of the time when teams don't attack the offensive line with exotic pressure schemes. Mix in pressure schemes and the Bears struggle to pick up blitzes or show any level of cohesiveness as a unit.
With that in mind I decided to go back and watch the tape from the Carolina Panthers game to see how often the Panthers blitzed and what were the result of those blitzes. First off I discovered that the Panthers blitzed the Bears' OL a total of three times, and one I was an extremely poor delayed blitz that I almost don't want to call a blitz because it was so poorly executed.
What I discovered after that first blitz was two other blitzes occurred when Kyle Long and Jordan Mills were in the game and both of those blitzes attacked their areas of responsibilities and both blitzes resulted in sacks. I've taken screen shots from both rushes that resulted in sacks to highlight the failures of the two rookies.
First sack the defensive end attacks Jordan Mills' inside shoulder or the B-gap and Mills reacts accordingly. Kyle Long does not block anyone, but a linebacker who wasn't showing blitz on the play, blitzes at the snap of the football and attacks the C-gap to Mills outside shoulder. Neither Mills nor Long reacts or even notices the blitz and the QB is decked for a sack.
Flash forward to later to the end of the third quarter and another blitz attacking the right side and another sack allowed. Now to be fair this sack could be defined as being on the shoulder of the running back Michael Ford for not picking up the correct blitz, but the blitz still attacks where the two rookies are, and neither one of them is able to pick up the blitz which again results in a sack.
Three blitzes, two sacks and one pressure that flushed Blanchard from the pocket. All three attacking the rookies on the right side, something that will happen every Sunday during the regular season if the rookies don't figure out how to pick up blitzes.
Next we move to the Chargers game and the blitzes in this game and the results of those blitzes. The Chargers like the Panthers were not very aggressive with their rush scheme, The Chargers blitzed four times with the results being one sack and one hit on the QB. Other than that the pass rush scheming was extremely vanilla and ineffective in getting pressure on the QB.
Lastly we come to the Raiders game and a bit more blitzing and scheming involved but the same results still applies to the Bears in blitz pickup and pass protection. The notable difference is the ball is coming out quicker this year than it did last year, but the pressure and hits on the QB are still there. The first five blitzes in this game don't prove to be very effective, but then later on with the starters still in things take a sudden change for the worse.
Blitzes 6,7,8,9,10, and 11 result in four straight pressures, a hit on the QB and then a INT by McCown. The pass protection especially on the right side seems to totally collapse in the face of the blitz.
The final count when the opposing defense blitzes?
The Bears have faced 20 blitzes in the first three games of the preseason and have allowed three sacks, one interception, two QB hits, two holding penalties, and six hurries. Fourteen of the twenty blitzes have resulted in a break down of the pass protection.
So what are we to take away from all of this? The simple answer is despite the seemingly strong play of the offensive line through the first three preseason games, when teams actually scheme pressure either stunts or extra rushers or zone blitzes, those rushers are proving to be very effective and disruptive. There hasn't been a lot of pressure due to the preseason vanilla game planning, but when there is this offensive line has looked remarkably familiar to offensive lines we've seen in the past.
The rookies especially seem to REALLY struggle with the blitz pickup responsibilities or simple stunt and twist pickups. Obviously this is what you would expect from rookies who have been thrown into the fire and are learning on the go, but it bares watching once the regular season starts, to see how long it will take for these rookies to prove effective in stopping exotic pressure schemes and looks from the defense.