Bears

Mitch Trubisky's next developmental step is adjusting to NFL defenses

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USA TODAY

Mitch Trubisky's next developmental step is adjusting to NFL defenses

Mitch Trubisky is no longer an NFL secret (well, maybe a little one, after only two games). Now the real intrigue shifts in significant measure to what the rest of the NFL is going to do about him.

Because while the Bears have/had a plan to bring his development along at a measured pace, the rest of the league, beginning with the Carolina Panthers this Sunday, has quite a different plan in mind.

What do the Panthers (and others) have waiting for Trubisky?

The Baltimore Ravens presented a Cover-2 look on 40 or so of the Bears' 75 snaps, something “on film we really didn't see any of that at all, so it was really surprising for them to come out in that two-high shell,” Trubisky said. “Our plan was just to run them out of it.”

A simple NFL operating philosophy is to find out and understand what an opponent likes to do and does best, and then take that away from him. Trubisky is very good on the move; colleague JJ Stankevitz uncovered the fact that Trubisky against the Baltimore Ravens had the longest average time in a play of any NFL quarterback, meaning he works well out in space and extends plays.

The math from there isn’t especially complicated: A quarterback who is accurate and comfortable getting outside the pocket, extending and improvising plays, is someone to be kept inside the pocket, ideally one collapsing around him. By using a mush-rush, for instance, a controlled assault on the pocket without edge rushers selling out for max pressure and focusing on lane integrity, a defense potentially takes much of Trubisky’s mobility out of play. This is a common strategy against Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, and mobile quarterback who is as or more dangerous when flushed from the pocket as he is in it.

A “Chico Plan” then?

Panthers coach Ron Rivera has done bad things to Bears quarterbacks and comes from an attack-dog mindset as a member of the 1985 Bears. He learned from then-coordinator Buddy Ryan that a prime directive of the defense is to simply get to the quarterback.

Rivera and then-coach Lovie Smith differed on the use of blitzing, with Rivera on the side of crying havoc and letting slip the dogs of war. After Rivera was excused from his job as Smith’s defensive coordinator, he went to San Diego as Chargers linebackers coach and opened the 2007 season against the Bears blitzing, sacking and harassing Rex Grossman in a 14-3 San Diego win.

The next time the teams met, in the 2010 preseason opener, Rivera was by then defensive coordinator, and he had the Chargers blitzing Jay Cutler from the outset on the latter’s only series, sacking Cutler with a corner blitz on just the seventh play of the game. Not exactly gentlemanly conduct for preseason openers.

But if the past is prologue, Rivera’s past should be revealing to Trubisky.

Scouting Trubisky

But how do the NFL and the Panthers in particular scout Trubisky with a body of work consisting of just two regular-season games?

Rookies with little pro time on tape are scouted from their college play. The Bears took looks at Carson Wentz’s North Dakota State play before they faced Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles in game two last season. That was out of some necessity, since Wentz played 39 snaps in the Eagles’ first preseason game and not again until opening day after he’d been installed as the starter following Sam Bradford’s trade to Minnesota.

Predictably perhaps, Wentz powered the Eagles to a 3-1 start with 100-plus passer ratings in three of his first four games. Teams progressively adjusted and Wentz had only two games with ratings in the low 90’s the rest of the season, none better. He had seven TD passes and one interception through the first four weeks, then nine TD’s and 13 INT’s the rest of the way.

“You go back and look at his college film if you don’t have much film from the NFL,” said linebacker Sam Acho. “You may see that he moves well in the pocket or likes to move outside or whatever. But Mitch played in the preseason and now has played a couple games. It wasn’t like Wentz which was the first game or two of the season.”

Attention is indeed less likely to be paid to Trubisky’s college body of work for the simple reason that he did play extensively through the preseason, with 126 snaps and 53 pass attempts, the most of either for any of the Bears’ four quarterbacks through preseason. But Trubisky happened to play his college football at the University of North Carolina, down the road from Charlotte, so “we remember Mitch mostly because of what he did when he was here at UNC-Chapel Hill,” Rivera said. “We got to watch all 14 games and we were impressed. We think the young man has got what it takes. We like who’s he’s gonna become. We do. We think the future can be bright for him. We are big fans here.”

Guessing that Chico wasn’t including next Sunday.

Kyle Long knows he messed up, and is ready to do what it takes to put the fighting incidents behind him

Kyle Long knows he messed up, and is ready to do what it takes to put the fighting incidents behind him

Kyle Long understands the position he’s put himself in. 

It wasn’t a week to remember for the Bears’ starting guard, who got into two separate fights over the span of three practices. Despite the relatively small likelihood he would have played, as punishment, Long was subsequently left off the team flight to New York for their preseason game against the Giants. 

“Obviously, what I did was absolutely unacceptable,” Long said after Tuesday’s practice. “As a human being, as a teammate, without question what I did was uncalled for. It was so far over the line that it was on me to handle that internally, and speak to the people that I needed to speak to.” 

Everyone around Halas Hall chalked up Long’s first scuffle with Akiem Hicks as nothing more than training camp frustrations. “Let’s clarify this: Everybody has a temper,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘Everybody gets upset. If somebody spills their coffee, you’re gonna get upset.

It was the second fight — one that saw Long remove undrafted rookie defensive end Jalen Dalton’s helmet, hit him with it, and then toss said helmet off the field — that forced the Bears’ hand. 

“It reflected poorly on the organization, the city, and the offensive line room,” he said. “That was never my intention. Moving forward, I intend to make living amends.”

Long wouldn’t go into much depth about the reason behind either fight, only mentioning that he “got a little frustrated, and it boiled over.” Talking with media after practice, he stressed the importance of publicly clearing the air before he, or the team, could move forward. 

“I think it's important and I know that the fans have a very close eye or touch on the pulse of the team of what's going on,” he said. “If I’m a fan, the last thing I want to hear about is a fight at practice. It's a distraction from what we're trying to do, which is go out and get ready for the Packers eventually and go put together some wins in the football season.” 

Before the whistle, Long’s had one of the best camps of a career that’s now going on seven seasons. The three-time Pro Bowler said that he hasn’t been this healthy since his rookie year, and that he’d “put this camp up there with any of them [he’d] be apart of.” With the air cleared and all parties on the same page, both Long and the Bears consider the fights a closed case. 

“We’re past it,” Matt Nagy added. “Now it’s not about talking anymore. For us, it’s about everybody showing what we can do. It’s showing by your actions, whether that’s being a good football player or being a good person. 

“I always tell my kids, ‘Don’t talk about it; be about it.’ So it’s time to start being about it.”

Bears now tied for best odds to reach Super Bowl from NFC

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USA TODAY

Bears now tied for best odds to reach Super Bowl from NFC

The Bears haven’t shown what their 2019 starters can do yet this preseason, but the oddsmakers in Las Vegas seem to be on board with Matt Nagy’s plans for the upcoming season.

The money is coming in on Chicago to win the Super Bowl, and the most popular sportsbooks shifted the odds for the Bears to win the conference.

They’re now tied for the best chances to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC at both MGM and Westgate, according to CBS Sports.

Both books see the Bears and Saints as favorites at 5/1 odds, while Westgate views the Rams and Eagles as equally likely.

MGM is much higher on the Packers’ chances, and both have the Vikings in the top seven.

The path to a Super Bowl berth is never easy, and Chicago will have as difficult a path as any team with two other contenders in the division.

Every single team on the odds list appears on the Bears 2019 regular-season schedule.