Bears

Mitchell Trubisky is learning how to take care of the ball in the NFL, and why that’s big in his development

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USA TODAY

Mitchell Trubisky is learning how to take care of the ball in the NFL, and why that’s big in his development

Since 1997, only three rookie quarterbacks have attempted at least 200 passes with a completion rate below 50 percent: Donovan McNabb (49.07 completion percentage, 216 attempts), Ryan Leaf (45.31 completion percentage, 245 attempts) and Craig Whelihan (49.79 completion percentage, 237 attempts).

Mitchell Trubisky is on pace to attempt 240 passes, and enters the Bears’ off week having completed 47.5 percent of his passes. If those numbers hold up, that’d be an odd group to join — one of the NFL’s most notable quarterback busts (Leaf), a future Hall of Famer (McNabb) and an anonymous former sixth-round pick (Whelihan). But Trubisky is nowhere near statistical path taken by Leaf, who threw 15 interceptions his rookie year and was out of the league within four years of being drafted thanks largely to his inability to take care of the football.

If Trubisky’s interception rate of 2.5 percent holds up and he throws 240 passes, that would equal six interceptions in his rookie year. There have been seven rookie quarterbacks to attempt at least 200 passes with an interception rate at 2.5 percent or below in the last 20 years: Dak Prescott (0.87 INT%), Carson Wentz (2.31 INT%), Derek Carr (2.00 INT%), Mike Glennon (2.16 INT%), Nick Foles (1.89 INT%), Robert Griffin III (1.27 INT%) and Charlie Batch (1.98 INT%).

How sustainable have those interception rates been?

Prescott: 0.87 percent (rookie), 1.2 percent (career)

Wentz: 2.31 percent (rookie), 2.2 percent (career)

Carr: 2.0 percent (rookie), 1.9 percent (career)

Glennon: 2.16 percent (rookie), 2.6 percent (career)

Foles: 1.89 percent (rookie), 2.1 percent (career)

Griffin: 1.27 percent (rookie), 2.1 percent (career)

Batch: 1.98 percent (rookie), 3.2 percent (career)

These aren’t without their extenuating circumstances, like Griffin’s serious knee injury or Glennon barely playing in 2015 and 2016 before struggling with the Bears this year. But the thought here is that learning to take care of the football as a rookie is generally a good thing, and good quarterbacks won’t see that percentage slide as their careers go on.

So far, Trubisky has shown he can do that. He hasn’t shown he can operate a complete offense yet, either due to the limitations of only starting 18 games since high school (13 at North Carolina, one in preseason, four in regular season) or because the pieces around him aren’t conducive to opening things up. But Trubisky’s natural ability is there, and isn’t going away no matter how conservative the gameplan is.

And if/when the Bears are ready to open up the offense for Trubisky — this year, next year, etc. — having that ability to take care of the football should greatly benefit him.

“I think some of it’s innate,” quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone said. “Some of it’s understanding hey, my progression, there’s nothing there, or there’s something wrong within the timing of the play and it’s time to move on. And when I move on and I break the pocket, I don’t have to force a ball on a second and seven call in the second quarter. It’s not a must-have situation.

“And for him to already understand that, and we do take as much pride as an offense with coach (Dowell) Loggains on down to talk about situations with him and the offense in general and constantly talk about it, but he does have the ability to understand hey, live to play another play here. And he’s very aware of the surroundings of the game, what’s going on, the situations of the game and again that’s to the fact that the guy obviously, it means something to him, this game and you can tell in his actions and his words.”

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot. 

Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

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Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin are joined by NBC Sports Philadelphia Eagles reporter Dave Zangaro to offer an encouraging connection between Carson Wentz’s growth and that of Mitchell Trubisky.

Check out the entire podcast here: