Bears grades: The good and bad of Mitchell Trubisky, and a lot of bad for the coaching staff

Bears grades: The good and bad of Mitchell Trubisky, and a lot of bad for the coaching staff


Mitchell Trubisky’s final line was the best of his career: 21/35 for 297 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers. He found Josh Bellamy on an outstanding throw for a 46-yard touchdown, and showed good chemistry with Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright throughout the game. But too often did Trubisky look tentative, leading to him being sacked five times (not pulling the trigger on a throw to an ostensibly open Bellamy looked rough). Even if that total was due to a lack of trust with his receivers or pass protection, Trubisky needs to be more consistently decisive. It’s all part of the learning process for the rookie quarterback.


Why Tarik Cohen only had one run and two targets may be a better question for the Bears’ coaching staff, but if he’s only going to be on the field for 13 snaps (22 percent of the offense’s total), the team needs to find a way to make those limited snaps count more. Jordan Howard rushed 15 times for 54 yards but was dropped far too frequently at or behind the line of scrimmage. Benny Cunningham looked to provide a spark in the second quarter when he rumbled toward the goal line on a screen, but he lost the ball while stretching for the pylon, leading to that challenge that brutally backfired. Cunningham, after the game, said it was a “bad decision” to try to stretch the ball for the pylon in that situation. 


Inman was solid in his first game with the Bears, catching six passes for 88 yards on eight targets, though he did have a drop on the final possession of the game. He was as advertised — a savvy, lengthy target who can play on the outside, which Trubisky hasn’t had since taking over for Mike Glennon in October. Wright (five catches, 46 yards) benefitted from Inman’s presence in that the Bears went to more three-wide sets, allowing him to wriggle into open space from the slot. Bellamy, though, struggled outside of separating on his 46-yard touchdown, dropping a few passes and committing a holding penalty away from what would’ve been a Cohen run into the red zone. Curiously, Bellamy played two-thirds of the Bears’ offensive snaps, while Tre McBride (who had three catches for 92 yards against New Orleans before the off week) only played seven snaps. 


Adam Shaheen caught two passes for 39 yards early in Sunday’s game, then wasn’t targeted again the rest of the way. He wasn’t consistent in taking over for Dion Sims as the Bears’ No. 1 run blocking tight end, which might explain why he only played 31 snaps (a little over half of the Bears’ offensive total). Daniel Brown, who had two catches for 23 yards on three targets, played 38 snaps. 


Hroniss Grasu was pushed back far too frequently by Mike Daniels and the Packers’ defensive line, and Green Bay was able to have fairly consistent success stuffing Howard. Not all of Trubisky’s sacks were on this group, though, and Charles Leno and Bobby Massie (outside of a false start on Massie) played well. 


It looked like there may have been some miscommunication between Pernell McPhee and Mitch Unrein on Brett Hundley’s 17-yard scramble on third down in the fourth quarter — McPhee made an inside pass rush move, leaving yards of green grass exposed for Hundley to scramble into. After the play, McPhee seemed to look toward Unrein, who was lined up to his left, wondering why he didn’t make an outside move to contain Hundley. The Bears’ defensive line generally did a good job in limiting Packers running backs — Jamaal Williams had 67 yards on 20 carries — but wasn’t able to get off the field as much as we came to expect in October. 


Leonard Floyd did well against the run and teamed up with Sam Acho for a sack, while Nick Kwiatkoski delivered a sack and a team-leading 10 tackles. But Christian Jones, who was tasked with communicating the defensive calls, struggled in that role Danny Trevathan took on in recent weeks. McPhee didn’t register much of an impact (one tackle, one hurry), either. 


We’ll start with the good: Adrian Amos made a nice play in the box to stop Ty Montgomery short of a first down on third and one, Cre’Von LeBlanc hit home on a free run at Hundley for a sack, and Kyle Fuller began his day with a nice pass break-up. But this unit lacked the kind of big plays it was able to deliver against the Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, with Fuller dropping a possible interception on the Packers’ first drive and the Bears not really coming close to an interception or forced fumble after. Fuller struggled on Sunday, missing some key tackles and getting beat by Adams for 1) the Packers’ first passing touchdown since Aaron Rodgers’ injury and 2) a backbreaking 42-yard completion just before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. Prince Amukamara jumped a gap too early on Montgomery’s 37-yard touchdown run, too, while Hundley finished with a passer rating of 110.8. 


Connor Barth, who was just seven for 11 on field goal attempts entering sunday, hit all three of his tries from 44, 45 and 49 yards. Kudos to him for making an adjustment during the off week and holding up his end of things on Sunday. 


The Bears were flagged 11 times in the first half (only seven were accepted), a total that looks even worse coming out of an off week. That lack of discipline — especially in a game against a Packers side that looked deeply flawed without Aaron Rodgers — doesn’t reflect well on John Fox and the coaching staff. There were some odd personnel decisions, like using Bellamy so much, Cohen so little and Jones in a communication role. And while Fox, fairly or unfairly, took a lot of the blame for the challenge flag that led to Benny Cunningham’s fumble out of the end zone, the decision to throw the flag and the lack of foresight by anyone to realize the possible negative outcome of it falls on this group’s grade, too. 

What do the Bears hope to accomplish in joint practices with Broncos?

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What do the Bears hope to accomplish in joint practices with Broncos?

DENVER — With Roquan Smith finally in tow, the Bears headed to Denver on Tuesday for a pair of joint practices with the Broncos leading up Saturday’s preseason game at Mile High Stadium. 

The Bears last held joint practices with the New England Patriots in 2016, and for coach Matt Nagy, this week will be his first experience with practicing with and against another team. For Bears players, the opportunity to practice against opposition — instead of their teammates, as has been the case for nearly a month — will inject some life into the dog days of the preseason. 

“It’s a great opportunity to compete against other guys and you get to go out there, and you’ve been beating on your guys all year long and all training camp long,” defensive end Akiem Hicks. “It’s an opportunity to have some other type of competition. And then to finish it up and play them at the end of the week, it just works well.”

Nagy said on Sunday he doesn’t anticipate Wednesday and Thursday’s practices will be live, and Broncos coach Vance Joseph said on Tuesday he spoke with Nagy about working to prevent the kind of fights that have popped up in some other joint practices this month. Washington and the Jets, most notably, had an all-out brawl earlier this week in a joint practice. 

“It’s always good the biggest thing when you do these team scrimmages together, you just want to stay away form the fights,” Nagy said. “As long as guys do that it’s definitely a benefit for both teams.”

The main benefit lies in the boost players should get from competing against another team's players instead of their teammates. That competitive jolt is beneficial, especially for a team that’s been practicing longer than anyone else besides the Baltimore Ravens thanks to participating in the Hall of Fame Game Aug. 2. 

“It’s a different defensive scheme all week,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “We are lucky to go against a great defense in practice, but it will be nice to go against someone else (with) different styles and different coverages.

“It’s going to be competition all week, so we definitely have to bring it. It will be a great week for us to get better and compete and see who wants to win every single snap — not just a game, not just practice periods, but every single snap, every single rep.”

For Smith, Wednesday and Thursday will be a head-first dive into the Bears’ defense. Even if coaches try to ease him into things — which won’t necessarily be the case — it will come against an offense not controlled by Nagy and Mark Helfrich. These two practices will be a good early test for where Smith is in terms of knowledge and football shape after his four-week holdout. 

And for the rest of the Bears, these two practices represent an opportunity to compete against someone different while breaking up the monotony of preseason practices. That’s generally a good thing — even if you’re, say, a tight end who all of a sudden has to try to block Von Miller. 

“I know they have some good edge guys,” tight end Adam Shaheen said with a bit of a grin. “… I think once we saw the schedule, all the tight ends were looking at those guys. it’ll be a good challenge and a good chance to get better.”

How soon will Roquan Smith start? The Bears are ready to figure out the answer

How soon will Roquan Smith start? The Bears are ready to figure out the answer

Roquan Smith signed his rookie contract Tuesday morning and took part in a light walkthrough practice shortly thereafter at Halas Hall, but his coaches are still a ways away from anointing him as a contributor, let alone a starter, for Week 1 of the regular season.

In a more narrow scope, coach Matt Nagy said he wasn’t sure if Smith would be available for Saturday’s preseason game against the Denver Broncos, but did say that the eighth overall pick would be in uniform for Wednesday and Thursday’s joint practices with the Broncos in Colorado. The first step for Nagy, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, inside linebackers coach Glenn Pires and the Bears’ training staff will be to determine what kind of football shape Smith is in, which will become apparent in the coming days. 

Nagy said he might have an idea in a week or 10 days whether or not Smith will be able to contribute in Week 1, but not only does he have to prove that he’s in the right physical and mental shape to do so, he’ll have to prove he’s a better option than Nick Kwiatkoski. Chances are, the eighth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft will be able to prove he’s better than Kwiatkoski, who is a solid player in his own right. But if Smith can't, that would say more about him than it would about Kwiatkoski (who, again, Bears coaches already trust). 

“I’ve seen him out here with no pads on for an hour and a half,” Nagy said. “I’ll be able to stay in touch with Vic and we’ll ask, we’ll see how that goes and obviously you hope (he’ll contribute Week 1), right? That’s one of the benefits of him being here now but we just have to see. And I don’t think it’s fair to the other guys as well that have been out here battling each and every day, so again, go back to you have to earn it, and come out here and show it.”

Pro Football Talk reported the Bears and Smith’s camp reached a compromise to end the 29-day holdout. You can read the specifics here, but it boils down to this: Smith received ample protection for on-field disciplinary incidents, while the Bears retained their ability to void the guarantee on Smith’s money in an extreme case (think like if Smith becomes the next Vontaze Burfict). 

Smith declined to get into the specifics of his holdout, frequently deferring to “my agent and Mr. Pace” when asked for specifics. Nagy said he didn’t want to dwell on the past, now that the “past” of Smith’s holdout is over. 

But Nagy did say Smith was getting close to the point in his holdout where his availability for Week 1 would’ve been in doubt. So while the timing of Smith’s deal wasn’t ideal — ideal would’ve been mid-July — the opportunity is there for him to prove to his coaches and teammates that he’ll be ready for that curtain-lifting trip to Green Bay. 

“That’s up to the coaches, to decide on, you know, when they feel that I’m ready,” Smith said. “I’m just going to do whatever I can do to prepare myself to get ready. I’ve got confidence in my coaches in there to catch me back up to speed.”

Smith’s level of participation will be closely watched in the coming weeks, starting with these two joint practices against the Broncos on Wednesday and Thursday. Will he already be swiping first-team reps from Kwiatkoski, who had a solid camp while Smith was away? Will all the positive things he put on tape (without pads on) during OTAs and minicamp show back up? Or will he look a little lost early on and need some more time to get up to speed?

These joint practices will be an interesting introduction for Smith into the preseason, though, given the practices he has participated in — OTAs, minicamps and Tuesday’s walkthrough — have consisted of controllable, relatively low-intensity reps. 

“What’s going to happen is in practice that we go against each other there’s a normal consistent pace every day, and now it’s going to naturally pick up when you go against another team,” Nagy said. “But I’m not worried about it with Roquan. I know that he’ll be ready for that, as the rest of our guys will.”

While the Bears will want to give Kwiatkoski a fair chance to keep his job, come Sept. 9, the two best inside linebackers the Bears have will be on the field together against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Danny Trevathan and Smith could be those guys — and, realistically, they should be those guys. The Bears didn’t draft Smith to sit on the bench against Rodgers in a game against a historic rival they’ve only beat three times in their last 19 meetings. 

The process of getting on the field began Tuesday for Smith. It will continue this week — even if he doesn’t play Saturday in Denver — and then next week leading up to Aug. 25’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. When Nagy said he’ll have a good idea in a week or a week and a half if Smith will be ready for Green Bay, that hints at Smith’s role in the Chiefs game being telling for what he’ll do at Lambeau Field 15 days later. 

To figure that out, the Bears are going to put a lot on Smith’s plate. There’s no time for a slow introduction into things. 

And if the team’s evaluation of his skillset, football intelligence and work ethic is correct, he’ll handle that accelerated workload well and, ultimately, earn the starting gig for which he’s been destined since late April. 

“If you take too many baby steps  and you don’t test him enough then you don’t know what his limit is,” Nagy said. “So I think you go ahead  and you throw stuff at him. I think right now we have to make sure physically you don’t overdo it. Mentally he’s fine. We can pull back on that but physically don’t over do it.”