John Mullin

Assessing misperceptions about Bears' Mitch Trubisky – the young QB is trending where Bears want him

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USA TODAY

Assessing misperceptions about Bears' Mitch Trubisky – the young QB is trending where Bears want him

First things first, getting some ancient history out of the way but also looking at it in a different light….

Turns out Dowell Loggains may not have been an idiot or John Fox an offensive restrictor plate, either, in the matter of using and developing Mitchell Trubisky. They in fact appear to have known some things that Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich are finding out about one young NFL quarterback: that Trubisky simply isn’t particularly accurate or effective going downfield with his passes. At least, not yet.

The Bears did their ongoing due analytics through Trubisky’s rookie year. In the requisite pursuit of putting a player in the best chance to have success, they determined what he wasn’t good at, and trimmed back much of the field from his scripting and play rolodex early. The sense now is that Nagy also may be doing just that with Trubisky.

Something never made complete sense, that Loggains, had thrown the ball around Soldier and other Fields more than 61 percent of the time with Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. Yet with a talent like Trubisky, he was calling only a more-balanced 53 percent passing. The accuracy reality helps you understand some of the reason why; The young QB just hadn’t really thrown accurately down the field, or anywhere, for that matter, looking at his 59.4-percent completion rate even with the top of the field dialed back.

Downfield accuracy can be a quirky thing. Rex Grossman, for instance, was quixotically more accurate when passes were directed longer than 15 yards, yet maddeningly scattershot on, say, bubble screens. Trubisky is not that, most quarterbacks aren’t, but positive plays are the objective, wherever they lie for the particular thrower.

But all of that’s not really important now, just looking at Trubisky with some perspective; the downfield accuracy that’s a true work in progress wasn’t there then. And best guess is that Fox, Loggains and the rest of the staff weren’t going to tell Charles Leno, Bobby Massie, Cody Whitehair or anyone else on offense to get their bodies pounded just so the kid could learn how to throw deep. The point was, and is, to win the game (thank you, Herman Edwards).

More to matters of more recent perspective….

Using the right evaluation scales

One simple (well, maybe not completely simple) fact is that Mitch Trubisky is improving, and in many respects, substantially, even as frustration and dissecting continue.

First, a note of explanation: Evaluating Trubisky against expectations, even for a No. 2-overall pick, isn’t useful. Neither is evaluating him strictly vis’a’vis other young quarterbacks.

What is useful is evaluating Trubisky vs. Trubisky, No. 1, and No. 2, more important, is the team winning with him?

The answer to No. 2 is “yes.” Two wins in three games, being within on defensive stop of having his team 3-0—that’s a “yes.” He had his team 2-1 last year after three starts, albeit against better competition (Minnesota, Baltimore, Carolina), so he is at least as win’ish as he was as a rookie.

As to No. 1, the footwork isn’t where he or his coaches want it. Neither is his decision-making. Nor the accuracy thing.

But evaluating Trubisky against Trubisky and not Allen, Mahomes, Watson or anyone else, the point is signs of improvement. Consider:

In his first three starts last season, Trubisky barely qualified for “inaccurate” or “productive.” In his first three starts this season, he’s earned both, even with his distance issues:

 

                           2017                                    2018

 

                  Cmp.     Yards                    Cmp.      Yards

 

Gm 1         48.0%       128                    65.7%       171

 

Gm 2         50.0%       113                    73.5          200

 

Gm 3         57.1%       107                    68.6          220

 

Even with a couple of untoward throws and interceptions, his INT rate is still a respectable-if-not-great 2.9 percent.

Trubisky’s meaningful arrows are pointing up when compared to where he finished that rookie season, when he went out 1-2 with declining performances:

Gm 14      67.4%       314

 

Gm 15      60.9%       193

 

Gm 16      55.6%       178

Putting a final assessment of Trubisky is still quite some weeks off for 2018, and quite sometime longer for what he is big-picture. But in the meantime, comparing Mitch Trubisky ’17 to Mitch Trubisky ’18, the new one is better.

Bears takeaways from NFL’s week 3 – end of “Fitzmagic?” Leading NFCN without a leading QB, and Dowell Loggains

Bears takeaways from NFL’s week 3 – end of “Fitzmagic?” Leading NFCN without a leading QB, and Dowell Loggains

After he threw three interceptions in the first half of the Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh game on MNF, Ryan Fitzmagic has reverted to just plain Ryan Fitzpatrick. The result is that the Bears likely should expect to see Jameis Winston at quarterback when the Buccaneers show up in Soldier Field next Sunday.
 
This would not necessarily be good news for the Bears, even with Winston starting this season with a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy.
 
Last-place finishes in the standings by the Bears and Bucs have had Winston facing the Bears each of his three NFL seasons, all three in Raymond James Stadium. After the Bears escaped with a victory in Winston’s rookie (2015) season, the Buccaneers outscored the Bears by a combined 65-17 in Winston’s last two meetings with them.
 
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Needing deeper thoughts
 
No surprise really, but the Bears are leading the NFC North with the lowest-rated quarterback in the division:
 
No.   Player                         Rating
 
8       Aaron Rodgers         104.5
12     Kirk Cousins             98.8
23     Matthew Stafford      83.4
25     Mitch Trubisky          77.8
 
Trubisky does rank ahead of rookies Josh Allen of Buffalo and the Jets’ Sam Darnold but he does stand 26th in yards per attempt at a very underwhelming 5.68
 
But Trubisky and the offense produced produced only six plays of 12 yards or longer at Green Bay and six against Seattle. Against the Cardinals, the Bears had nine, but those included three on runs, by Tarik Cohen (21 and 17 yards) and Jordan Howard (17), plus four short completions with yards after catches.
 
The irony is that the offense is getting a completion rate from Trubisky – 69.2 – that is axiomatic for success with West Coast offenses. But his overall accuracy continues to inconsistent: His completion percentage is its lowest (51.16) in the red zone, and he has established zero deep threat based on accuracy on throws longer than 10 yards.
 
“Those are important to have and we need to start connecting on those,” said coach Matt Nagy. “It's great to take the opportunity of going deep, those are great, but they're way better and they mean a lot more when you connect on them… .
 
“I thought that there were some good ones and I thought there were some he could get better at. That's where we're at. He'll be the first to tell you that. We'll do everything we possibly can each week to make sure we limit those inaccuracies.”
 
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Remember him?
 
Funky stats and factoids aren’t all that difficult to find in the NFL; all the teams that could’ve drafted Tom Brady or Joe Montana, that sort of thing.
 
So isn’t there something at least lightly amusing about the Miami Dolphins, the Bears’ opponent on Oct. 14 coming out of the off week, sitting at 3-0 and sharing the No. 1 spot in the AFC with the Kansas City Chiefs?
 
Behind quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the NFL’s No. 3 passer (121.8 rating)?
 
Under offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains?

Bears defense bends, then snaps back and breaks Cardinals in third straight dominant performance

Bears defense bends, then snaps back and breaks Cardinals in third straight dominant performance

In a Bears championship season a long time ago, one in which the Bears’ defense ruled the NFL, that unit was trotting off the field after a stop and the offense coming on, when defensive end Ed O’Bradovich snarled at the offense, “Just try to hold ‘em.”

Matters are far from that in 2018 but while the Bears offense struggles to find its stride and identity, the other side of the football has established both, underscored in a 16-14 win on Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals in which the Bears defense allowed first-quarter mistakes and 14 Arizona points, then shut the Cardinals down with 120 yards over seven scoreless possessions, four ending in Bears takeaways.

“They feel like they can be in a different league of their own,” coach Matt Nagy said after his defense held a third straight opponent to fewer than 300 yards of offense.

As readers of this space know, the ancient James Bond axiom on occasion is invoked: once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.

So it was in Sunday’s win that the Bears defense for the third straight game generated at least four sacks and linebacker Khalil Mack delivered a sack and forced fumble. For the third straight game the Bears allowed less than 75 rushing yards, holding Arizona to 53 after giving Seattle 74 and Green Bay just 69.

“Three weeks in a row now, they’ve done some special things,” Nagy said.

Enemy action indeed. With an arrow squarely pointing in an upward direction.

The defense that collapsed in the fourth quarter against Green Bay and allowed the Seattle Seahawks back into last Monday’s game with touchdown drives of 75 and 99 yards in the fourth quarter closed down on the Cardinals. Arizona rolled to 101 yards in the first quarter.

“Our defense was not used to that,” Nagy said. “We haven’t been giving up those plays.”

Then… nothing.

“We just rallied the guys together,” said Mack, with four sacks on the season, tying for team-high with five solo tackles, one for a loss and a forced fumble. “In those situations you just know you can’t let the offense score any more points.

“The way we rallied was very positive.”

The unit had little to no impact pressure on Bradford in the first quarter, during which he beat the Bears for TD passes of 35 and 21 yards, both times exploiting coverage mismatches and mistakes. Bradford found tight end Ricky Seals-Jones running loose in what appeared to be a breakdown five plays into Arizona’s first possession and Seals-Jones completed the 35-yard play untouched. The score came two plays after wideout Christian Kirk turned a short toss into a 30-yard gain.

One play after the Arizona defense had forced a Mitch Trubisky fumble, the Cardinals got running back David Johnson in space against linebacker Danny Trevathan. Bradford’s touch pass to Johnson for 21 yards gave Arizona a 14-0 lead and their final points of the game.

The defense sacked Bradford twice in the second quarter, including one in which defensive lineman Akiem Hicks forced a fumble that the Cardinals recovered. It also allowed zero net yards while forcing three punts.

The group was just getting started. On Arizona’s first four possessions of the second half:

  • Safety Eddie Jackson intercepted Bradford at the Chicago 33, from where the Bears offense scored a touchdown on a Jordan Howard run
  • Cornerback Sherrick McManis, pressed into service at nickel back in a shuffle necessitated by Prince Amukamara’s hamstring injury, intercepted Bradford at the Arizona 44, from where the Bears scored on a Cody Parkey field goal
  • Mack forced a Bradford fumble, recovered by linebacker Danny Trevathan at the Chicago 16
  • Cornerback Bryce Callahan intercepted rookie Josh Rosen, the latter making his NFL debut as Arizona made a change looking for a final spark

Jackson “added” a pick-six with 22 seconds remaining but the interception was nullified by an offside call on Mack.

The offense was able to score 13 points off the Arizona turnovers, opportunities not lost on members of a unit looking to catch up to teammates currently in that “different league of their own.”

“They have our back,” said wide receiver Allen Robinson.