For the first time as a head coach, Matt Nagy will be able to run practices this week during a voluntary veteran minicamp from Tuesday through Thursday at Halas Hall. He’ll do so with a careful eye on Mitch Trubisky, not only in how the second-year quarterback plays during practice, but how leads his teammates.
That Nagy-Trubisky relationship is the most important aspect of 2018 for the Bears. All the hype over Ryan Pace’s free agent class — and all the frustration over letting Cameron Meredith sign with the New Orleans Saints — carries far less importance than how Nagy successfully develops Trubisky.
The point: If the Bears get their quarterback right, plenty else wil fall into place.
“The expectations for us are that we’re going to always push him,” Nagy said last month. “We’re going to give a little bit more to him to see what he can handle, but you got to be able to balance that with other 10 guys and what’s too much. So you have that balance of what you can give him.”
The structure Nagy and Pace put in place around their franchise quarterback — offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone and backup quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray — is designed to provide help for Trubisky at every turn as he is tasked with learning more and more of the Bears’ offense.
But it’s also incumbent upon that structure — specifically Nagy, Helfrich and Ragone — to tailor the offense in some ways to Trubisky’s game. Nagy’s spiced-up west coast offense already incorporates run-pass options and a quarterback’s ability to use his legs, though, all while demanding flexibility from the skill players around him. So that's a good start, at least better than the conservative, predictable offense Trubisky was tasked with running in 2017.
We’re probably getting ahead of ourselves in trying to picture what Nagy’s offense could look like, though. This week is the first time players will be able to practice with a ball with their coaches, and the real heavy lifting won’t start for another three months when the Bears report to training camp in Bourbonnais.
But these minicamps and OTAs that’ll take place over the next two months will provide an opportunity for Trubisky to assert himself as a leader, which will carry plenty of weight once training camp begins in July. And for Nagy, these practices at Halas Hall are important for figuring out how hard he and his coaching staff can push their players, with Trubisky being the most important one in that group.
“The part that we’ll have to keep a balance on is within practice, when we’re in practice, how you coach him and how he understands,” Nagy said. “OK, we’re going to give you all these plays, these install plays on Day 1, how does he digest that? Can he take it all in? Can we give him more? Where is he at with his progression? Where is he at with his footwork? Where is he at with his mechanics? Where is he at with his actual throws? So we’ll balance that out. We won’t know that until training camp. And then once we get to training camp, now we’ll really start loading him.”