Pre-camp depth chart
1. Mitch Trubisky
2. Chase Daniel
3. Tyler Bray
1. How much of Matt Nagy’s offense can Trubisky handle?
Matt Nagy, Mark Helfrich and Dave Ragone threw a lot at Trubisky during OTAs and minicamp, turning the practice fields at Halas Hall into a sort of offensive test kitchen. The goal was to not only challenge Trubisky’s ability to understand all that information, but to see what worked and what didn’t for the second-year quarterback. That led to some hit-or-miss results during team activities, though a positive sign was how fast the offense played during June’s veteran minicamp when Nagy pared things back and focused less on installation.
Backup Chase Daniel estimated the Bears had installed 10 times the plays Kansas City did back in 2013, when Andy Reid, Doug Pederson and Nagy developed the first iteration of this offense. And by all accounts, Trubisky handled the learning process well — teammates complimented his ability to spit out lengthy play calls in the huddle, and when he got the verbiage wrong, he didn’t get frustrated.
Training camp will be another difficult test for Trubisky in terms of installation and learning, but that’s how the Bears want it. So you might see Trubisky make some mistakes in Bourbonnais, especially with the defense entering its fourth year running Vic Fangio’s scheme. But the most important thing for Trubisky isn’t eliminating those mistakes — it’s learning from them and not making them again.
“We have to set a foundation, we have to set something that all guys are comfortable with, and we’re going to rep the crap out of all those plays, all those protections, everything like that because if we don’t, we’ll never really have a solid foundation to build off,” Daniel said. “When we get into Week 1 (of the) preseason, then we can start adding some more flavor.”
2. Is Chase Daniel the right backup?
Here are two facts about Daniel: He’s thrown a grand total of three passes since 2014, and he has extensive knowledge of Nagy’s offense.
The Bears signed Daniel to, yes, be the guy to come off the bench in case something were to happen to Trubisky. What the Philadelphia Eagles did with Nick Foles after Carson Wentz tore his ACL last year put a spotlight on the importance of backup quarterbacks (think some teams, like the Houston Texans, could’ve used Colin Kaepernick?). Daniel has never attempted more than 38 passes in a single season in his career, and while he’s confident he could do well if called upon, ideally for the Bears the 31-year-old doesn’t have to play much this year.
What Daniel was brought here for was to provide another resource for Trubisky. Not only does Daniel know Nagy’s offense well from spending 2013-2015 with him in Kansas City, but he spent four years with an up-close look at one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Drew Brees while with the New Orleans Saints. So far, the pairing of Daniel and Trubisky has been beneficial beneath the Nagy-Helfrich-Ragone trio: During OTAs, Daniel’s knowledge of the offense meant he could show Trubisky checks and reads he may not have seen yet within a play, for instance.
“I think just having experience in the offense and knowing hey, this route is going to come open for this coverage or hey, I know my checks versus certain coverages,” Daniel said. “This offense is very quarterback-centric, it puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback to get in and out of the right play at the right time, and to make the right decision post-snap. I think Mitch is learning that and doing a really good job.”
3. How good can Trubisky be?
This isn’t the only question that matters for the 2018 Bears, but it is the most important. When all the hype about the offseason moves made by Ryan Pace is stripped away, what matters the most is if the Bears have a good quarterback or not.
The Bears are, of course, confident they have a good one in Trubisky. But Trubisky completed only 59 percent of his passes as a rookie and threw as many touchdowns as interceptions (seven) while winning only four of 12 starts. Granted, those numbers came while working with a sub-optimal coaching staff and a sub-optimal group of teammates (though you’d never get Trubisky to say that — he impressed everyone at Halas Hall with how he handled all that losing last year).
We won’t know the answer to this question until sometime this fall, after we see Trubisky operate Nagy’s offense for a few weeks or months. But like OTAs and minicamp, training camp and preseason games will be critical for building Trubisky’s foundation for the 2018 season.
So should you watch for in Bourbonnais and then in the five preseason games (only three of which Trubisky will likely play in)? Keep this general frame around those games and practices: If Trubisky makes a mistake, that’s okay, so long as he doesn’t make the same mistake twice.