Bears

What's the solution for fixing Mitchell Trubisky's high sack rate?

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USA Today

What's the solution for fixing Mitchell Trubisky's high sack rate?

A common theme of Mitchell Trubisky and Dowell Loggains' mid-week press conferences has been that opposing defenses are throwing looks at the Bears' rookie quarterback they haven't shown on film before. That presents a problem for a young quarterback trying to study the tendencies of his opponents. 

Trubisky doesn't have a lot of experience at the NFL level, and will make his sixth career start on Sunday. Without that bank of experience on which to draw, he's struggled at times to identify coverages, and that's led to him getting sacked at a high rate. 

"The more snaps, the more reps you take the better you get," Trubisky said. "So just go back to the library and you start to see patterns in what they're throwing at you and what you've seen before, so it all helps. The more reps the better."

Historically, though, it's not unprecedented for a rookie quarterback to have some growing pains in terms of identifying what opposing defenses are doing, leading to that player taking a fairly heavy load of sacks. In the last 15 years, there have been 18 first-round quarterbacks to average more than two sacks per game, with Trubisky currently tied for the fourth-highest total:

 QB  Year  Sacks/Game
 David Carr  2002  4.8
 Blake Bortles  2014  3.9
 Jared Goff  2017  3.7
 Alex Smith  2005  3.2
 Marcus Mariota  2015  3.2
 Mitchell Trubisky  2017  3.2
 Paxton Lynch  2016  3.0
 E.J. Manuel  2013  2.8
 DeShaun Watson  2017  2.7
 Jay Cutler  2008  2.6
 Andrew Luck  2012  2.6
 Blaine Gabbert  2011  2.5
 Matthew Stafford  2009  2.4
 Cam Newton  2011  2.2
 Ryan Tannehill  2012  2.2
 Ben Roethlisberger  2004  2.1
 Sam Bradford  2010  2.1
 Carson Wentz  2016  2.1

This isn't a perfect measurement -- sacks per drop-back would be better, but for historical context would require film review of every snap each of these players took as a rookie, a task for which we don't have enough time. This total doesn't factor in the quality of the offensive line playing in front of the quarterback (Joey Harrington, for example, was sacked only 0.6 times per game in 2002). 

But it does back up what offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains brought up about Trubisky taking so many sacks.

"He's just gotta keep playing," Loggains said. "When you go back and look at it, look at Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith, those guys took a lot of sacks early in their career. The part of what we're going through right now with Mitchell, and he is playing now, he has a knack for not turning the ball over and he's doing a good job with that. That's a huge plus. The next part of his game that will grow as he plays more is he'll start to take less and less sacks because he'll start to understand where check-downs are. A lot of young guys do this and he's learning a great lesson while taking care of the football."

(Rodgers took 2.1 sacks per game in 2008, his first year as a starter.)

Smith, since his rookie year, is averaging 2.5 sacks per game. Maybe the more encouraging example here is Mariota, who like Trubisky averaged 3.2 sacks per game his rookie year, but in 2016-2017, is averaging 1.4 sacks per game. Goff has only been sacked 1.4 times per game in his second year in the NFL. Even Bortles, despite a league-leading 51 sacks in 2015, is down to averaging 2.4 sacks per game since his rookie year. 

The point being: These things take time, but can be corrected with the benefit of experience seeing different NFL defenses. Trubisky not only knows he's taking too many sacks, but he knows why he's taking too many sacks. And that's at least a good starting point for improvement, too. 

"Ball security is very important so I'm just trying to take care of the football, but at the same time you want to stay aggressive and you could say the sacks are a result of that," Trubisky said. "I think the O-line has been playing their butt off and they've done a really good job in protection, so the sacks are more so me holding on to the football than a breakdown in protection. So they've been doing an awesome job, and I just have to continue to go through my progressions, get the ball out and find the check downs, and the more and more I play within the offense, I think you'll see growth and me getting the checkdowns and getting the ball out of my hands."

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.