Bears

Bears grades and needs: The clock is ticking on Mitch Trubisky

Bears grades and needs: The clock is ticking on Mitch Trubisky

2018 depth chart

1. Mitch Trubisky
Usage: 14 games, 86.4 percent of offensive snaps
2019 status: $7,917,933 cap hit

The Bears spent last offseason building the best possible structure around Trubisky, from hiring Matt Nagy to signing Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and Chase Daniel to drafting James Daniels and Anthony Miller. There don’t appear to be many more moves to be made now, outside of finding a solution to a lagging running game. 

So that puts the Bears’ necessary offensive growth squarely on Trubisky. His overall 2018 numbers were fine, completing two-thirds of his passes for 3,223 yards with 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 95.4. Those made him roughly an average quarterback league-wide, with his rushing ability (68 carries, 421 yards) a sneaky asset. 

The optimistic view is Trubisky’s 2018 season — his first running Nagy’s offense — built a solid foundation on which he can build. Teammates noted Trubisky’s mastery of the “football 101” concepts by the end of the season, which should allow Nagy to move on to more advanced facets of his scheme. Having a full year of OTAs and training camp to build on that baseline knowledge, likely, will be beneficial for Trubisky and the entire offense. 

“I think it was just good to see the natural growth just in the offensive scheme as he gains more comfort and also more comfort with the players that are around him, that chemistry that developed,” general manager Ryan Pace said last month. “I was just talking to Mitch today about that, just the excitement about going into an offseason with the pieces in place around him and then year two in the same offensive scheme and how much growth can take place. So I just felt like you saw him playing more with his instincts because he was more comfortable in the system.”

The Bears are confident that growth will take place, but the team doesn’t have years upon years for him to develop — it has to be soon. His cap hit of just under $8 million in 2019, followed by about $9.2 million in 2020, means the Bears’ best window to win will be in the next two years. If the Bears pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option for 2021, he’d likely cost somewhere in the range of $22 million, depending on what various extensions look like for the league’s top quarterbacks over the next two years (Jameis Winston’s fifth-year option for 2019 will cost the Buccaneers $20.922 million). 

The point is this: The Bears only have two years left of a cheap Trubisky before he gets expensive (or, if things go poorly, the Bears have to start over at the position). If Trubisky were to earn a salary around $22 million in 2021, he and Khalil Mack could combine to take up a rough estimate of 20 percent of the team’s salary cap. That doesn’t mean the Bears’ window to win will close after the 2020 season — it’ll stay open as long as Trubisky develops into the player the team thinks he can be. 

“Last year, he was so focused in on what do we do on offense,” Nagy said. “… Now he knows. He knows it all. And now he can take that next step of figuring out, okay, here they come. They have got a saw blitz, cover zero, now I know what to do or I know how to check to (a) protection, all that. That's going to be the big one for him.”

2. Chase Daniel
Usage: 5 games, 13.8 percent of offensive snaps
2019 status: $6 million cap hit

Daniel deftly quarterbacked the Bears past the Lions on Thanksgiving but was sloppy in an overtime loss to the Giants a week later, leaving him with a 1-1 record in the two games he started in place of Trubisky. Those games, combined with his extensive knowledge of Nagy’s offense and a good relationship with Trubisky, were likely enough to earn him a spot on the 2019 roster. It’s unlikely the Bears could find a better fit in a backup quarterback for less than the $3 million in cap space they’d save by releasing Daniel. 

“That’s why we have Chase,” Nagy said, tellingly, after Daniel led the Bears to that win over the Lions. 

3. Tyler Bray
Usage: 0 games, 0 percent of offensive snaps
2019 status: Unrestricted free agent

Bray fit with the Bears in 2018 as an additional voice with knowledge of Nagy’s offense, having spent an injury-plagued career in Kansas City prior to coming to Chicago. The Bears could look to retain him as a practice squad player and for depth in case of an injury, but perhaps Pace will explore bringing in an undrafted free agent or even a late-round quarterback as a third-stringer. 

2019 level of need (1-11, with 11 being the highest): 2

The only thing that matters is Trubisky’s development in 2019. That’s the Bears’ all-in bet for this year; if Trubisky makes the kind of improvement the Bears need to get back to the playoffs, they’ll be set. If not, serious questions will need to be asked a year from now about if Trubisky truly is worthy of being the Bears’ franchise quarterback of the future. 

Bears add interior line depth, agree to terms with former Ravens and Titans DL Brent Urban

Bears add interior line depth, agree to terms with former Ravens and Titans DL Brent Urban

Monday afternoon, CAA Football announced that the Bears and DL Brent Urban have agreed to terms on a contract:

Urban, 28, was a fourth round selection of the Ravens in the 2014 NFL Draft and spent the first five years of his career in Baltimore, starting 16 games for the team in 2018. At 6-foot-7, 300 pounds, Urban profiles as a wide-framed, run-stuffing interior lineman, but is probably no more than a depth signing at this point. The Bears front seven was shredded by Latavius Murray on Sunday to the tune of 119 yards on 27 carries, and Akiem Hicks is still expected to miss at least another seven weeks with an elbow injury.

In 45 career games, Urban has 52 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss, as well as five passes defended. He appeared in four games for the Tennessee Titans in 2019 (only playing on 16% of their defensive snaps) before being released on Saturday.

The Bears will have a chance to right the ship against a bumbling Chargers team this Sunday at Soldier Field.

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Matt Nagy on critics: says “friends” won’t pull Bears down, but Bears having trouble putting on “horse blinders and earmuffs”

Matt Nagy on critics: says “friends” won’t pull Bears down, but Bears having trouble putting on “horse blinders and earmuffs”

Sifting through the rubble that was the Bears’ 36-25 pounding by the New Orleans Saints… 

Matt Nagy said Sunday night with some forcefulness that his advice to his players was to don “horse blinders and earmuffs,” his way of saying to tune out all outside forces when things turn difficult. Neither he nor his players seem able to do that very well.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson got into a Twitter spat after the game with a follower who gigged the wide receiver for talking trash with his team trailing by 20 points. Tarik Cohen did a Twitter-scoff over Saint players poking fun at the running back’s short stature.

And then there was Nagy himself, who ended his post-game press conference by starting off the podium before glaring at this writer, who had shaken his head (privately, to myself, back a few rows from Nagy’s lectern) a couple times while taking notes on some of Nagy’s more puzzling utterances.

Nagy angrily asked, “You all right?! You all right?!” or something like that. He really wasn’t asking about my health or well-being.

The head coach of an NFL team taking umbrage at a couple of small head-shakes, with no idea what any issue might have been, doesn't set an impressive example.

Nagy’s message Monday was head-scratching. “You [media] guys are friends,” he said. “I look at you all as friends. I don't see you as critics.”

Then, in the next breath, a different tack with his “friends:” “First of all, you will never pull me down,” Nagy said. “That's No. 1. Never. You won't do it. Second of all, you'll never pull our team down. It doesn't matter what we're going through. It'll never happen. Not under my watch. That's just not how we roll.”

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