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. 

A fan's guide for how to watch the NFL Combine

A fan's guide for how to watch the NFL Combine

The 2020 NFL Combine will go a long way in determining the final draft grade for each of the 337 prospects participating in on-field drills. General managers and scouts want to see whether their athletic testing matches the traits noted on film. If a player runs faster than he plays, scouts will question his on-field instincts and overall football IQ. In the alternative, if he runs slower than he plays, questions about level of competition and the ability to 'win' on the NFL level will be raised.

But in order to understand whether or not a prospect is having a good performance, you first have to know what the NFL is looking for as its minimum time/result required for each position and drill.

NFL Hall-of-Fame executive Gil Brandt, one of the legendary draft minds in the sport, shared what has become the standard breakdown each team uses when assessing a player's 40 time, 3-cone drill, broad jump, vertical jump and more.

Check it out:

Keep this page bookmarked this week and refer back to this chart as your favorite Bears prospects try to run and jump their way to Chicago. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

2020 mock draft sends Bears OL, CB in 2nd round

usatsi_13940655.jpg
USA TODAY

2020 mock draft sends Bears OL, CB in 2nd round

The 2020 NFL Draft is front and center with the NFL Combine kicking off this week in Indianapolis. The week-long underwear Olympics represents the real start of draft season for the casual fan. Two months from now, we'll find out who the next class of Bears will be, and many of those players will make their case to GM Ryan Pace and the rest of the team's decision-makers over the next several days.

With the unofficial start of draft season comes the need to review the 2020 mock draft landscape. Pace has a chance to add two starters in the second round, and it's important to get a feel for which players could be within reach when Chicago picks at Nos. 43 and 50.

In Joe Marino's latest mock draft for The Draft Network, the Bears add a legitimate starting interior lineman and a cornerback who can challenge to do the same.

At No. 43, Marino sends Chicago Matt Hennessy, the standout center from Temple who can serve in the same capacity for the Bears if Nagy decides to kick Cody Whitehair back to guard. Hennessy was arguably the most impressive offensive lineman at the 2020 Senior Bowl. He routinely won his one-on-one reps and looked every bit the part of a decade-long starter in the middle of an NFL offensive line. 

What makes Hennessy so appealing is his ability to play either center or guard. We saw last season what a position change can do (both good and bad) along the interior of Chicago's offensive line, so depending on what the long-term outlook is for James Daniels and Whitehair, a player like Hennessy can fit any outcome. He'd be a great selection.

At No. 50, Chicago takes Mississippi State cornerback, Cameron Dantzler. This is the first mock draft that has Dantzler pegged to the Bears and it probably won't be the last that has Pace using one of his two second-rounders on a cornerback. The release of Prince Amukamara last week will move cornerback higher on the team's priority list.

Dantzler started 22 games for Mississippi State and totaled five interceptions over the last three seasons. At 6-2, 185 pounds, he brings good height and length to the pros. He projects like a fit in almost any defensive system and could come off the board much higher than the average fan is expecting at this point. How he performs in the athletic testing at the NFL Combine will be critical in his final evaluation. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.