What you need to know from Bears-Browns: So, about Trubisky's first half and fourth quarter

What you need to know from Bears-Browns: So, about Trubisky's first half and fourth quarter

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.

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.

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

USA Today

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

When the Bears signed Trey Burton to a four-year contract worth a reported $32 million (with $18 million of it guaranteed), the natural thought was this: So long, Dion Sims. But the Bears are all but certainly going to hang on to the 27-year-old tight end after his $4 million roster bonus became fully guaranteed on Friday, barring a trade. 

“We like Dion Sims, a well-rounded tight end,” general manager Ryan Pace said on Thursday. “We’re excited we got him.”

Cynically — or, perhaps, fairly — Pace’s comments could’ve been interpreted as part of a play to trade Sims, who signed a three-year contract in 2017. The Bears saw Sims as a strong run blocker with pass-catching upside, but still gave themselves an out after one year that would’ve netted $5.666 million in cap savings. 

Sims didn’t show any of that receiving upside last year, though, catching 15 of 29 targets (51 percent) for 180 yards with one touchdown. Crucially, the Bears have the cap space to keep Sims, even with the flurry of signings they’ve announced this week -- and Kyle Fuller's reported four-year, $56 million extension -- and contract extensions looming for Eddie Goldman and possibly Adrian Amos, too. 

So hanging on to Sims means the Bears value his contributions as a run blocker and are willing to shoulder a $6.3 million cap hit for him to primarily be used in that role. The Bears expect Shaheen to be their primary in-line tight end, with Burton and Daniel Brown, who signed a one-year contract Friday, the more pass-catching-oriented “move” guys in Matt Nagy’s offense. But Sims will still have a role as the Bears look to maximize their production from the tight end position. 

“I think we can use all our tight ends,” Pace said. “I think the Super Bowl champions are a recent example of that, of using a lot of tight ends. They’re all valuable weapons. They’re all a little different. I think they all complement each other. It fits together nicely.”