We probably didn’t need advanced or non-traditional metrics to know that the Chicago Bears’ defense was awesome last year. But I bet you’ll feel better knowing the eye test and the numbers match up to confirm what we already knew.
Pass-rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback Kyle Fuller made Cynthia Frelund’s All-Analytics team at NFL.com, because of course they did! Mack and Fuller were Pro Bowlers who also earned first-team All-Pro recognition, so it doesn’t come as a shock that subjective and objective methods of player evaluation agreed that both were great last season.
Mack was hit with the second most extra attention last season (only All-Analytics teammate Aaron Donald received more), and still came up with 12.5 sacks. Beyond that, Frelund notes that Mack came up with 74 disruptions, a metric which I assume details how many times a defender was wrecking things for the opposing offense. Considering Mack did a little bit of everything with 12.5 sacks, 18 quarterback hits, 10 tackles-for-loss, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four passes defended, and a pick-six, that number feels accurate.
Fuller is one of two cornerbacks on the team, joining Patriots standout Stephon Gilmore (who once was a highly sought-after target by the Bears a few offseason ago). Frelund points out that five of Fuller’s seven interceptions (which were tied for the fifth most in the league) came in the second half or overtime. And because the Bears had 10 games decided by one score or less, Fuller’s contributions were key as Chicago won seven of those games. Sure, Fuller should have had one more, but that’s water under the bridge now … right?
So how did Mack and Fuller earn their way here in the first place? I’m glad you asked!
Frelund cooked up an analytics-fueled formula that churned out a list of the league’s top-performing players based on a metric that calculates each player’s contributions to his team’s win. The idea was to come up with something showing what a player adds (or subtracts) from their team’s ability to win. To do so, Frelund digs into game context, score, and play type to get to the bottom of which players are the biggest contributors to their team’s success. And after it was all said and done, it was of no surprise to see a pair of Bears studs representing on the squad.
For the rest of the All-Analytics all-stars, you’ll want to read Frelund’s piece in its entirety.