Playing devil’s advocate
The biggest thing Mitch Trubisky still has to work on is his pre-snap operation of the Bears’ offense. So what better way to get him reps doing that — and protect him in the process — in the fourth preseason game than by handing the ball off nine consecutive times?
That’s what the Bears did on Thursday night to a scattering of boos as the offense went three-and-out on three consecutive possessions. Trubisky wound up getting a fourth series and completed two of four passes for 10 yards, and Josh Rounds and Adam Shaheen dropped catchable balls on those two incompletions.
"(I was) calling the plays coach was calling," Trubisky said. "It’s above my head. I’m just doing what I’m told."
The operational stuff is an area in which Trubisky needed improvement, especially after struggling with that against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. He showed all he could throwing the ball during his first three preseason games and didn’t have much left to prove working with backups/third-stringers against a backup/third-string defense. So properly running the offense may have been the thing the Bears wanted to see the most from Trubisky tonight.
Coach John Fox said in a short week for the final preseason game, there wasn't necessarily a set strategy that dictated those consecutive handoffs, though.
"When you’re getting ready for the season opener, it’s not like you gameplan every game," Fox said.
And it’s worth noting that when the Bears did open the game up for Trubisky to pass, he was shoved out of bounds (for a penalty) that resulted in him nearly getting accidentally clotheslined by a Cleveland Browns assistant coach. That’s not something you want to see happen to your quarterback of the future.
But what about the fourth quarter?
Here's where the protection argument breaks down: Why were the Bears having Trubisky attempt passes when he entered the game for a banged-up Connor Shaw in late in the fourth quarter?
Trubisky was shoved to the ground after attempting a screen pass, and he was sacked on the final play of the 25-0 loss while trying to get the Bears into the end zone. The Bears are lucky to have put Trubisky in that spot and have their quarterback of the future come out of it unscathed.
"Any time you go out there it’s a risk, truth be told," Fox said "… Football’s a rough game, no doubt. You never want to see people get hurt. But it is part of the game. So I don’t know that we exposed Mitch a whole lot, but I can also say any time you trot between those lines you’re exposed.
... I think it’s going to be fair to say it won’t be the first time he’s been hit and it won’t be the last."
Trubisky didn't back away from the challenge of tagging in and out for Shaw, which makes sense given how competitive he is. But the Bears could've done more to protect him, like having him hand the ball off or attempt a field goal (with new long snapper Jeff Overbaugh) on fourth down.
"If I was in there, I wanted to score," Trubisky said. "Just kind of feel bad for the fans because we want to put on a show but we really didn’t get to do that. I’m never worried about injury — you go out there, you’re playing football. When you start to worry about those things, that’s more when they happen — playing timid or keeping it in the back of your mind. But I’ll do whatever this team asks of me. It was kind of fun being in there at the end, a little exciting, got the adrenaline back going. Too bad we didn’t get score."
Tough injuries for a few on the roster bubble?
Wide receiver Victor Cruz and linebacker Lamarr Houston both were taken to the locker room after suffering knee injuries in the third quarter, and safety Deiondre’ Hall also suffered an injury in the second quarter.
Of that group, Houston and Hall had the best shots of making the Bears’ initial 53-man roster given the Bears’ need for depth at outside linebacker and the versatility Hall, a former cornerback, provides.
Houston has suffered two serious, season-ending knee injuries in the last three years and was ruled out for the rest of the game after going to the locker room, so there’s some concern there. We’ll know more later tonight.
Cruz was on the bubble coming into this game, and left with two catches (on four targets) for nine yards. He finished the preseason with six catches for 28 yards with a touchdown and didn’t make much more of an impact in practice. An injury, depending on the severity — he was deemed questionable to return late in the third quarter — could damage his already-shaky chances of surviving cut-down day on Saturday.