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What Can Riley Reiff Add to the Bears Offense?

Breaking down where Riley Reiff has been, what he has done well, and what he can bring the the Chicago Bears offense.

Bears Left Tackle Riley Reiff
Photo: USA Today via Imagn Content Services, LLC

On Tuesday, the Bears signed offensive tackle Riley Reiff to a one-year contract worth up to $12.5 million. Assuming he earns every cent of that contract, the ten-year NFL veteran is now tied with Charles Leno Jr. to be the 18th highest-paid left tackle in the NFL. The contract, however, is more layered than meets the eye

Riley Reiff Contract
Riley Reiff’s contract details.

Because of the contract structure, Reiff will only cost $3 million against the cap entering the 2022 season. That includes his signing bonus and base salary. Now, if he meets those incentives the Bears will need to recognize those cap charges. But the contract seems to do a good job of protecting against any training camp injuries that could occur. 

Riley Reiff Background

Reiff wins South Dakota Wrestling State Title
Photo: South Dakota Public Broadcasting

Growing up in Parkston, South Dakota, Reiff was an All-State defensive end and tight end in high school. Additionally, he was named the South Dakota Gatorade Player of the Year in his senior season. Along with football, Reiff also participated in golf, track, and wrestling. As a wrestler, he was a 3x state champion and held a record of 121-1. 

Playing his college ball under Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, Reiff became well versed in zone run schemes. After redshirting his true freshman season, he started all over the offensive line in his second season. He saw time at left tackle, left guard, and right tackle. By his third year at Iowa, he was called on to replace recently drafted left tackle Bryan Bulaga. Entering his fourth season with the Hawkeyes, Reiff was named a pre-season All-American. He went on to start all 13 games at left tackle and received All-Big 10 honors in addition to All-American honors from PFW. He decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and entered the 2012 NFL Draft.

NFL Career

Riley Reiff Career Summary
Riley Reiff is a ten-year NFL veteran with significant starting experience.

Widely considered a first-round prospect, Reiff was drafted by the Detroit Lions with the 23rd overall pick. He spent the first five years of his NFL career in Detroit before spending a few years in Minnesota. In 2021, Riley played on a one-year contract with the Bengals, but missed the playoff run with an ankle injury. While Reiff has never been named to a Pro Bowl, he has proven himself to be a capable NFL-level tackle who has never had difficulty finding a starting role.

Riley Reiff in Pass Protection

Going back to his final year in Detroit (2016), Riley Reiff has proven to be consistently above average in pass protection. 

Riley Reiff Pass Blocking Stats
Riley Reiff’s pass blocking stats since 2016.

In the chart, there are three categories:

  • PFF Pass Blocking Grades
  • Sack Allowed %
  • Pressure Allowed %

PFF Pass Blocking Grades

PFF Pass Blocking Grades are shown for Reiff individually. Additionally, I show the team’s overall pass blocking grade, and then the percent better (or worse) that Reiff graded out in pass protection for each given season. According to this method, Reiff has been one of the better pass protectors on his team in each of the past four seasons, despite being below average in 2016 and 2018. Most notably, from 2018-2020 Reiff was one of the best pass blockers on his team. 

Sack Allowed %

Similarly, Reiff’s sack allowed percentage is shown for his single-season stats. Then, we see a category called “Expected Sack Allowed %”. The easiest way to explain this is through an example. For the 2021 season, Reiff played RT for the Bengals. So, I went through all of the Bengals opponents Reiff played against in 2021, and calculated the Sack % Allowed by their opponent’s right tackle. This generates a figure that tells us the rough sack % we should expect an average right tackle to allow against these opponents. 

A negative percentage is a good thing here, meaning Reiff allowed a lower sack rate than average. Over the past two years, Reiff has been above average here, but he was slightly below average in 2019. I could only go back three years here because it is a time-intensive exercise. 

Pressure Allowed %

Along the same lines, Reiff’s pressure allowed percentage is shown for his single-season stats. Then, we see a category called “Expected Pressure Allowed %”. This calculation is the same as the “Expected Sack Allowed %” but replaces sacks with pressures. A negative percentage is a good thing here, meaning Reiff allowed a lower pressure rate than average. Over the past three years, Reiff has been above average here. 

Riley Reiff’s Run Blocking

Going back to his final year in Detroit (2016), Riley Reiff has been erratic in run blocking. 

Riley Reiff Run Blocking Stats
Riley Reiff’s Run Blocking stats since 2016.

In the chart, there are three categories:

  • PFF Run Blocking Grades
  • Reiff’s Team Ranks in multiple advanced rushing stats
  • Run Success Rate Over League Average when RBs run to his side of the field

PFF Run Blocking Grades

PFF Run Blocking Grades are shown for Reiff individually. Additionally, I show the team’s overall run blocking grade, and then the percent better (or worse) that Reiff graded out in run blocking for each given season. According to this method, Reiff has been above average three times and below average three times in the last six seasons. Most notably, in 2018 he was one of the best-run blockers on a poor run-blocking unit. Meanwhile, in 2017 he was below average on some middle of the road run blocking units. 

NFL Team Ranks

The PFF OL Rank is representative of the total OL rank for the team at the end of the season, according to PFF. Reiff has not been part of an OL that ranked in the top half of the NFL once in the last six seasons. Next, in looking at his team’s EPA per Run, Reiff has been part of two high-end rushing attacks (2019 and 2020), while his teams have ranked in the lower half of the league in the other four years. Similarly, he has only been a part of one high-end rushing attack when looking at the success rate. And it appears that the best years here are closely tied to explosive run rates. This means that run blocking consistency has not been a strong suit for Reiff’s teams.

It is notable that after Reiff left the Lions, they dropped three spots in EPA/Run and Run Success Rate. Additionally, they dropped two spots in Explosive Run Rate. More notable is his exit from the Vikings. When he left Minnesota, the Vikings dropped 16 spots in EPA/ Run, 25 spots in Run Success Rate, and seven spots in Explosive Run Rate.

Run Success Rate Over Average

This category looks at directional rushing success rates when running to Reiff’s side of the football. That means that when he played LT, we are looking at rushes to the left. When at RT, rushes to the right. Largely, runs to Reiff’s side off the end and tackle has been underwhelming in success rate. However, in other research, I did notice an above-average explosive play rate off the end to Reiff’s side (wide zone fit). On runs off the guard (between the OG and Reiff), there is a little more upside, but we see largely similar results.

Riley Reiff Bottom Line

Bears Left Tackle
Photo: Getty Images

In Riley Reiff, the Bears are getting a left tackle who is an above-average pass protector and a good enough fit in a wide zone run scheme. While he is not a mauler in the run game, he can hit blocks to spring explosive plays when flanked by a tight end, pulling blocker, or fullback. It is not likely that you will count on him to pave the way up the field unless he is pulling out into space. There is some health concern with Reiff, as he has missed time with injury in two of the last four seasons. He is not getting any younger at almost 34 years old, but he is still a plus pass blocker with a lot of experience in wide zone schemes.

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I like spreadsheets and football. I aim to take an analytical approach to my football research while also realizing the physical nature of football and how that impacts the numbers. While my main focus is Chicago Bears, I also write about the NFL as a whole.

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