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:
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."