Cameron Meredith

How Jared Goff’s rookie year could be a cautionary tale for Mitch Trubisky

How Jared Goff’s rookie year could be a cautionary tale for Mitch Trubisky

Without Cameron Meredith, perhaps the biggest question facing the Bears entering the 2017 season is who, if anyone, can step up to fill the production void left by that brutal injury he suffered in Tennessee.

But Meredith’s injury opened up another question: Might it mean Mitch Trubisky won’t see the field as quickly as we might’ve thought based on his excellent preseason?

If the answer to that question is yes, it may have less to do with Trubisky’s own development and the desire to put him in the best possible situation when he makes his regular season debut. And while Trubisky very well could be a guy who makes receivers around him better — which would be the best-case scenario — it’s worth considering the worst case here.

And the closest thing we’ve seen to that worst case happened to Jared Goff last year.

Goff sat out the Los Angeles Rams’ first nine games before coach Jeff Fisher, faced with a 4-5 record and a struggling Case Keenum (9 TDs, 11 INTs), anointed last year’s No. 1 overall pick as the team’s starting quarterback. The Rams lost their next four games, leading to Fisher’s firing, and then finished out the year with three more defeats. Goff’s stats were horrendous: A 54.6 completion percentage, 1,089 yards, 5 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and a rating of 63.6 to go along with an 0-7 record.

Benny Cunningham had an up-close look at how bad things got last year in Los Angeles, and said the problem wasn’t necessarily Goff, but the rest of the offense not helping him.

“I would say that the situation with Jared Goff was kind of unfair to him because I feel like as a whole offense, we struggled,” Cunningham, who signed with the Bears in March, said. “As a quarterback, being drafted high, you take most of the criticism. But I feel like if the guys around him can help — that’s any quarterback — if the guys around you can execute and help, it makes your job a lot easier.

“… I just felt like in general we all struggled as an offense. I wouldn’t say he struggled by himself. It’s different when you’re on the inside looking out, you can see exactly what’s going on the depth of a receiver, a missed block by a running back — you see everything. And then in the paper you read the quarterback had two interceptions, so you really don’t get to see the whole detail of it. I feel like everybody played a part in what happened last year.

“… I feel like we failed as an offense. If you look back to the points we put up, the yards per game, as a whole, I just feel like we failed. I feel like the quarterback position in this league, in a lot of places, they take the criticism.”

The Rams’ offensive line was shaky, and while Kenny Britt turned in a 1,000-yard season, Goff lacked a speedy target who could stretch a defense. As a result, opposing defenses continually stacked the box, limiting the effectiveness of running back Todd Gurley (3.2 yards/carry).

As a result, the Rams were last in the NFL in points per game (14) and yards per play (4.4).

[RELATED: Rams radio broadcaster J.B. Long on the Bears Talk Podcast]

The parallels aren’t perfect between the 2016 Rams and 2017 Bears, of course. This year’s Bears have a better offensive line, for one. Trubisky in his first three preseason games has thoroughly out-performed what Goff did in his 2016 preseason, too:

Trubisky: 34/48 (70.8 completion percentage), 354 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 2 sacks

Goff: 22/49 (44.9 completion percentage), 232 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 4 sacks

More than anything, though, Trubisky and Goff are different quarterbacks. Trubisky may be able to make a bad situation better. But Goff’s struggles are worth noting as the question of when, not if, Trubisky plays continues to be asked.

Bears Talk Podcast: The best- and worst-case scenarios for Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky and the Bears' offense

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USA TODAY

Bears Talk Podcast: The best- and worst-case scenarios for Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky and the Bears' offense

Can the Bears' offense be successful with Mike Glennon — and without Cameron Meredith?

Vinnie Duber, Scott Krinch and JJ Stankevitz discuss that question and more on the latest edition of the Bears Talk Podcast.

Plus, Los Angeles Rams radio play-by-play announcer JB Long joins the pod to discuss Jared Goff and how his 2016 could be a worst-case scenario for Mitch Trubisky.

Listen to the podcast below:

Bears react to gut punch of Cameron Meredith’s injury: ‘It sucks’

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USA TODAY

Bears react to gut punch of Cameron Meredith’s injury: ‘It sucks’

NASHVILLE — The gigantic video boards at Nissan Stadium showed a replay of nearly every play during Sunday’s preseason game, no matter how inconsequential it was, or if it cast the Tennessee Titans in a negative light.

One play, noticeably, was not shown on the video board. And that’s a good thing, because Cameron Meredith’s gruesome, brutal knee injury didn’t need to be shown again.

The Bears suspect Meredith has an ACL injury, though the third-year receiver hadn’t undergone an MRI as of John Fox’s postgame meeting with the media. Not only did the Bears lose their leading receiver from 2016 (66 catches, 888 yards), they lost one of their best, most feel-good stories: A local kid from Berwyn who attended St. Joseph High School, went on to help Illinois State nearly win an FCS Championship, clawed his way onto the 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent and looked primed for an even more productive 2017.

“It was definitely tough — he was playing so well,” quarterback Mike Glennon said. “He had the catch on the first drive and then the catch obviously right then. It’s just all Cam. He’s been one of our go-to guys. Again, I know we talk about it, but a guy who was on the incline, always getting better. It’s unfortunate at some point that would happen.”

That catch Glennon referred to was a 28-yarder on the Bears’ 96-yard scoring drive in the first quarter, on which Glennon — while under pressure — found Meredith, who was blanketed in man coverage, for an impressive reception. Meredith was injured when he went across the middle for a 16-yard reception later in the first quarter, and was carted off with an air cast on his left leg.

“We’ll miss Cam, we love Cam,” fellow wideout Kendall Wright said. “He’s a warrior out there.”

“Cam’s a great guy, a great teammate,” added wide receiver Kevin White. “He works his butt off. It’s always a little sad, a little emotional when a good guy like that goes down.”

Football players are conditioned to think in terms of “next man up” given the frequency of injuries in this sport. The impact of losing Meredith will be significant on the Bears’ offense, which now has a void to fill with guys who haven’t proven themselves yet (like White) or were productive, but a few years ago (like Wright, Markus Wheaton and — if he makes the team — Victor Cruz).

The circumstances and potential severity of Meredith’s injury, though, are best summed up by left tackle Charles Leno: “It sucks, man.”

“He’s been working hard this offseason, had a great camp, been a great competitor for us,” Leno continued. “It’s just tragic, man. Young player, too. We all gotta rally behind him and keep building him up because he is a big focal point for our offense. It sucks.”