View from the Moon: Defense says Bears getting 'Pretty Boy Assassin' in QB Mitch Trubisky


View from the Moon: Defense says Bears getting 'Pretty Boy Assassin' in QB Mitch Trubisky

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.

Bears' roster moves create a looming roster hurdle for Kevin White


Bears' roster moves create a looming roster hurdle for Kevin White

Questions have been hanging over Kevin White ever since GM Ryan Pace opted to invest the No. 7 pick of the 2015 draft on a wide receiver with one outstanding college season on his resume. Given Pace’s strike for a quarterback with a roughly similar body of work last draft, this may qualify as a Pace “strategy,” but that’s for another discussion closer to the draft.

But in the wake of signings at wide receiver by Pace and the Bears over the start-up days of free agency, a new and perhaps darker cloud is forming over White. This is beyond the obvious ones visited on the young man by his succession of three season-ending injuries, and by a nagging belief in some quarters that White is a bust irrespective of the injuries.

The point is not that White will never amount to anything in the NFL. Marc Colombo came back from a pair of horrendous leg injuries to have a career as a solid NFL tackle, albeit with the Dallas Cowboys, not the Bears.

The problem facing White now, assuming he comes back able to stay healthy in a competition with Cameron Meredith for the spot opposite Allen Robinson, is whether there is reasonably going to be a roster spot the Bears can use for him.

This would be on top of whether Pace and the organization could bring themselves to cut ties with a quality individual in a move that would amount to admitting a failure in what was supposed to be a defining initial top-10 pick by a regime committed to building through the draft.

White is still under his rookie contract with its $2.7 million guaranteed for this season, so there is little reason to simply give up on him, even assuming an offset if White then signs on somewhere else.

But Robinson and slot receiver Taylor Gabriel account for two of the starting three wideout spots. For the other wide receiver job, Meredith, also coming off season-ending knee surgery, rates an early edge on White based on Meredith’s 66-catch 2016 season.

If White does not start, he then becomes a backup, and backups are expected to contribute on special teams. It’s what has kept Josh Bellamy in the NFL, and what new Bears tight end Trey Burton points to as his ticket to making it through his first years with Philadelphia.

White doesn’t cover kicks, doesn’t return them, doesn’t block them. The Bears have typically expected special-teams participation from their No. 4-5 receivers, although the fact that Meredith and Robinson are coming off knee injuries, and chances that the Bears will keep six wide receivers in the West Coast offense of Matt Nagy, all could tilt a decision in favor of White simply as insurance/depth, even with his own injury history.

It is difficult not to have a spot of rooting-interest in White, a young guy trying so hard to get a career dream off the ground. It’s just also difficult to see a clear fit in the new Bears world that began forming in earnest in the past several days.

Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?


Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?

Not all that long ago, back in the seemingly promising Dave Wannstedt days, something of an annual narrative began around the Bears. All too frequently since then it has been the refrain of more offseasons than not, including last year’s. And if there is a cause for very, very sobering realism in the wake of the heady wave of free-agency signings in the first days of the new league year, it lies in what has so often transpired to put the lie to that optimism.

The mantra then, and now, has been various iterations of, “If these three (or four, or six, or 12) things work out, the Bears are gonna be good this year.” Because the reality is that all those what-ifs seldom, if ever, all come to pass, whether because of injury, mis-evaluated abilities or whatever.

Look no further than this time last offseason, just considering the offense:

If Kevin White can come back from (another) injury, if Markus Wheaton flashes his Pittsburgh speed, if Dion Sims takes that next step from a promising Miami stint, if Kyle Long is back from his lower-body issues, if Cameron Meredith comes close to those 66 catches again, if Mike Glennon has the upside that led the GM to guarantee him $18.5 million, and hey, Victor Cruz, too, if… and so on.

And exactly zero of those “if’s” came to pass, with the result that John Fox and Dowell Loggains became idiots.

The point is not to a picker of nit or sayer of nay. But the fact is that a lot of the offseason moves and player development ALL need to come down in the plus-column for the Bears to be even as good as they were back in, say, 2015, when the offense had Martellus Bennett at tight end, Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver, Eddie Royal coming in at slot receiver (with 37 catches in an injury-shortened season), Kyle Long at his Pro-Bowl best, and Jay Cutler about to have the best full season of his career. And a new (proven) head coach and defensive coordinator, and an offensive coordinator with head-coaching talent.

All those things “worked” for a team that would wobble to a 6-10 year.

Now consider 2018:

The current top two wide receivers are both – both – coming off season-ending ACL injuries;

The incoming slot receiver has never had a season as reception-productive as the one (Kendall Wright) he is replacing (59) or as many as Royal had in just nine 2015 games (37);

The new tight end has never been a starter and has fewer career catches (63) than Bennett averaged (69) in three supremely disappointing Bears seasons;

The best offensive lineman (Long) is coming off missing essentially half of each of the past two seasons with injuries, and the co-best (Sitton) is gone from an offensive line that was middle of the pack last year and has high hopes for two linemen (Hroniss Grasu, Eric Kush) who’ve been largely backups, and a third (Jordan Morgan) who missed his rookie season with an injury;

And the quarterback (Trubisky) upon whom the franchise rests, who needs to overcome any so-called sophomore jinx and improve from a rookie level (77.8 passer rating) that was barely better than Cutler’s worst NFL season (76.8).

All of which sounds negative, but it really isn’t, just a perspective. Offseasons are about hope, but realism isn’t all bad, either.