Bears

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 14 - Trey Burton

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 14 - Trey Burton

When the Chicago Bears announced Matt Nagy as the team’s head coach, they officially introduced a new era of offensive football to the Windy City. 

Out are the days of predictable and safe play calling. In its place, Nagy will implement a wide-open attack that’s willing to challenge defenses downfield as much as it will churn out yards on the ground. But for his offense to reach its apex, he needs an athletic playmaker at tight end. 

And that’s why Trey Burton is so important.

RELATED: 15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 15 - Taylor Gabriel

Burton will assume the Travis Kelce role in Chicago, one that could result in a number of targets that rivals No. 1 receivers. Kelce had 122 targets with the Chiefs last season compared to 105 for Tyreek Hill, Kansas City’s most explosive weapon at wideout.

No one is expecting Burton to out-target Allen Robinson, but he could push Taylor Gabriel or Anthony Miller for second in Mitch Trubisky’s pecking order. Burton has the necessary skill set to stress defenses on seam routes and can make plays like a big running back after the catch. While he may not be the overall player that Kelce is at this point in his career, he should set new career highs in receptions and yards in 2018.

But with all the positives on Burton’s scouting report comes the unavoidable and dangerous label that best describes him right now: Potential. 

Burton has never been a starter in the NFL since joining the league as an undrafted free agent with the Eagles in 2014. He’s sat behind Zach Ertz and has produced when given a chance, but he’s never had more than 37 catches or 327 yards in any season of his career. He had a career-high five touchdowns in 2017.

That said, success in the NFL is often based on situation. In Burton’s case, his path to a starting job has been blocked by a very talented and productive player in Ertz, but that doesn’t mean Burton can’t be a productive starter. The Bears certainly believe he can be, as evidenced by the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in free agency. His contract makes him the 10th-highest cap hit on the roster this season.

In many ways, Burton is the real X-factor on offense. He should be in favorable matchups more often than he’s not, and that will give Trubisky an ideal security blanket if his downfield targets are well covered. He’ll also give Trubisky the ability to check from a run play to a pass if the on-field matchups are to his liking. Bigger, more lumbering players like Adam Shaheen don’t quite offer that same luxury.

Burton was one of several offseason moves made by general manager Ryan Pace in an attempt to transform the offense from a middling and unproductive group to an explosive pack of point scorers. As a result, pressure is on the 26-year-old to come through in a big way in 2018.

Bears are only slight favorites over Lions on Thanksgiving

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USA TODAY

Bears are only slight favorites over Lions on Thanksgiving

The short week has Las Vegas oddsmakers less optimistic about the Bears as they head to Detroit to take on the Lions.

Even after an impressive win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night, Chicago still opened as only three-point favorites for their Thanksgiving matchup, according to Vegas Insider.

This comes only two weeks after the Bears were favored by nearly a touchdown over the Lions back on Nov. 11.

Playing on the road instead of at Soldier Field may be a factor in the betting line, but the tighter spread is still surprising considering Chicago’s last few results.

Perhaps even more surprising is that the number hasn’t moved even with the unknowns surrounding Mitchell Trubisky’s shoulder injury.

Either Las Vegas doesn’t think he’s going to miss the game, or they don’t think there will be much of a dropoff with backup Chase Daniel in his place.

The over/under of 44 points is also a little bit on the low side compared to other lines in Week 12, especially since these two teams combined for 56 points just two weeks ago.

The short week of preparation will have both teams scrambling, likely with neither at their best, so maybe the matchup does have potential to be a little more close with a little less scoring.

 

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Donovan McNabb’s advice for Mitch Trubisky: ‘You have to slide feet first’

Donovan McNabb’s advice for Mitch Trubisky: ‘You have to slide feet first’

Donovan McNabb spent a dozen years as one of the best rushing quarterbacks in the NFL, finishing his standout career with 3,459 yards on the ground with 29 touchdowns. 

So when he saw how Mitch Trubisky went down to the ground on the play on which he injured his throwing shoulder Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, McNabb had some advice for the Bears’ quarterback. 

“You have to slide feet first,” McNabb said in an appearance on SportsTalk Live Tuesday. “Like, you’re nowhere near getting the first down. Just slide feet first. And when you do that, now that takes everything out of the question. No one’s coming down to spear you, no one’s coming down to make the tackle. But if you go face first, then they’re going to go after you. So I think for him, either utilize the out of bounds or get down.”

McNabb’s right about the down and distance — the Bears had a first and 10 on their own 44-yard line when Trubisky took a zone read handoff moving to his left. It was sort of an awkward run — as Trubisky crossed the line of scrimmage he was already falling forward. Committing to a slide, as McNabb said, would’ve lessened the risk of being awkwardly (and illegally) hit by Smith. 

Bears coach Matt Nagy, though, didn’t criticize Trubisky’s sliding ability or feel for when to do it. 

“I think you see it in every game with quarterbacks that can run, that’s a part of the risk-reward,” Nagy said. “You’ve got to make sure they understand how to not put their body in harm. To me, what happened the other night when he got hit, there’s nothing he could’ve done different. He’s playing the game of football and got a late hit.”

One thing both McNabb and Nagy mentioned is teaching quarterbacks how to slide by using a summer backyard favorite.

“What (coaches) used to do is bring you the slip-n-slide,” McNabb said. “They teach you how to slide because most of these guys, they’ve never played baseball, these guys they were always the biggest guy on the football field so they would try to run everybody over.”

Only four quarterbacks — Cam Newton, Lamar Jackson, DeShaun Watson and Dad Prescott — have totaled more rushing attempts in 2018 than Trubisky (51), who enters Week 12 as the NFL’s leading rushing quarterback (363 yards, nine more than Newton — on 26 fewer attempts). But as we saw Sunday night, those attempts can be dangerous if a quarterback exposes himself to hits, even if they’re deemed illegal. 

“He's good at (sliding),” Nagy said. “Because he's running more often than others, there's different times that he slides and different ways that he slides. I've been around some bad sliders, including Michael Vick, and he'd laugh at it. He couldn't slide to save his life. We used to go out and put the slip n' slide out after practice and try to teach him and he couldn't do it. 

“Then you've got these baseball players that have played baseball in high school that know how to do it. Mitch knows how to do it. He knows how to slide. Sometimes you'll see him slide certain ways because of angles of where you're at on the field and when you're trying to get down or not get down. Again, it comes with territory.

“… He is good at it. I don't think it, I know he's good at it.”

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