What are the Bears getting in Mitch Trubisky? It depends a little on who you talk to.
A smile crept over Leonard Floyd’s face as the outside linebacker reflected on what the Bears had installed as their new starting quarterback. Since the end of training camp, Floyd and the defense has seen Mitch Trubisky running Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Atlanta plays against them as quarterback of the scout team. And Floyd had a name for what was moving in under center for his team’s offense.
“You can call him ‘The Pretty Boy Assassin,’” Floyd said. (And since all quarterbacks are “Pretty Boys” to defensive guys, consider this high praise.)
Like Aaron Rodgers once did as Brett Favre’s backup in Green Bay, taking the No. 1 defense to the shed occasionally in his role as scout-team quarterback, Trubisky did run the upcoming-opponent’s plays as drawn up on the cards. But a predator gene periodically kicked in and Trubisky pushed the envelope at the defense’s expense, with a throw or mobile play that was beyond what the cards called for.
And he didn’t mind letting them know it.
“He’s competitive, really competitive, but with a smile on his face.,” said Floyd, shaking his head. “He’ll beat you, then be walking back to the huddle, look over and just smile at you. He’ll beat you with a smile on his face.”
Trubisky’s work as scout-team quarterback accelerated his development. And didn’t do any damage to his confidence, either.
“He’s got a lotta [swagger]. I like his swag’, his demeanor,” Floyd said. “He’ll rip you but he’s got control of the offense. He’ll switch cadences, do stuff you’re not expecting, make plays.”
The result has been a quarterback developing even outside of his own offense. And the defense, which has faced four teams with a combined 11-4 record for 2017, three of which (Atlanta, Green Bay, Pittsburgh) ranked in the top 10 in scoring last season, stands No. 8 in yardage allowed per game.
“It’s pretty advantageous for a defense to have a scout-team offense that’s willing to compete and make you better,” said defensive end Akiem Hicks. “That’s why the guys are there, to give you good ‘looks’ and push you as well as help you prepare.
“So anytime somebody’s being competitive against you, that’s a great thing.”
With a touch of “assassin” sprinkled in.
“[Trubisky] is not being nice,” Floyd clarified. “He’s got a smile on his face but he’s really trying to beat you.”
Pit bulls have a “smile” on their faces, too.
“Exactly,” Floyd said.
All that is attitude. But beyond practice swag’, can he play?
What the Bears are getting with Trubisky in terms of quarterback skill set is arguably unlike any quarterback they have fielded in the last 30 years, maybe longer. Not automatically better, just…unlike.
None of the No. 1’s over the past three-plus decades – Rex Grossman, Cade McNown, Jim Harbaugh, Jim McMahon – have come with the mix of athleticism, arm strength, footspeed and overall command. Include Jay Cutler in that batch, with many of the physical skills that have distinguished Trubisky, particularly the arm strength but command-lite. Down the draft list – Kyle Orton? Craig KrenzelMosesMorenoWillFurrerNathanEnderleDanLeFevourDavidFalesPaulJustinPeterTomWillis? Nope.
Two specifics here:
First: Defensive players have remarked that Trubisky’s ball comes out “hot” – not so much in terms of just speed, but more in terms of sudden. Where Cutler’s decision-making was (and still is) an issue, waiting a split-second longer to throw believing the arm strength would make up the time, Trubisky has impressed with decisiveness. Accuracy at the NFL game level, where the receivers and defensive backs move at speeds Trubisky hasn’t experienced live yet, will of course be a work in progress.
Second: The combination of footspeed and quick-twitch projects to mobile pockets, rollouts, read-options and so forth. But there’s a possible catch.
Trubisky’s quickness within and escaping the pocket with buy time and extend plays, adding time to his protections. He was sacked 20 times in 467 pass plays last season. But he also averaged 7.2 rushes per game last season. The obvious question is, when he gets flushed or breaks the pocket, is he still looking downfield a’la Aaron Rodgers? Or is he Michael Vick and mentally a runner at that point, which gets rushing yards but not big completions on broken plays?
At this point, he has the right answer. “When things break down, I’m able to make plays and again get the ball to my playmakers. Because I’m not the best athlete on the field. There are other guys who do that. But when things can break down I can maybe make something happen.”
And really, that’s the idea here.