CINCINNATI — The results in his preseason debut weren’t much different for Mitch Trubisky than what was customary in 2017: Two ineffective runs, then a short completion or an incompletion on third down, then a punt.
Trubisky quarterbacked the Bears’ first two drives in their 30-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday evening at Paul Brown Stadium, completing two of four passes for four yards and a passer rating of 56.2. But while the results were shades of his dour rookie year, they weren’t what Trubisky felt like he and the offense had been building toward over the last few days of practice.
And that’s one reason why Trubisky wasn’t willing to write off the sloppiness of the first-team offense as this group shaking off some rust.
“Our standards are higher that we expect to be better,” Trubisky said. “No excuse for first preseason game. We have a bunch of experienced guys from last year, so there shouldn’t be any jitters. Maybe guys were excited, but it’s very simple — come out here, do your job, do exactly what we were doing in practice. We practiced our butts off this week. We just came out here and were sloppy.”
Trubisky added that he thought it was “surprising” the offense was so sloppy. A few examples of what he was talking about: He and Kevin White couldn’t connect on a deep shot on the first play of the game, White dropped a pass, Eric Kush was beaten back by Geno Atkins for a sack and Cody Whitehair was whistled for holding. Those accounted for four of the 10 snaps Trubisky took (only eight were official — there was a roughing the passer penalty that bailed out White’s drop, and then Whitehair’s penalty).
“You definitely want to see a better start out of this offense," Trubisky said. "That was definitely not the way we’d been practicing, and that’s not what this offense is going to be this year."
It was somewhat telling that Trubisky was frustrated with how things went on Thursday. A few thoughts on it: First, he doesn’t have the gravitas of an experienced veteran to say “oh, well, it’s the first preseason game.” Second: Well, it was sloppy, and that kind of play isn’t up to the standard Trubisky set for himself and the Bears’ offense this year.
“It’s going to be changed, because that’s not who we are or who we want to be,” Trubisky said.
From a bigger-picture standpoint, though, this still was only Trubisky’s first preseason game of 2018. The Bears haven’t begun gameplanning for opponents yet as Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich have focused on installing plays on a daily basis. Nagy said he thought Trubisky’s operation of the offense was smooth, and came away with neither a negative nor positive grade on his starting quarterback.
“This is so early right now, it really is,” Nagy said. “… It will be fun as we go here to get them some more snaps, let them get into a rhythm and, really, for all the guys to get into a rhythm offensively. He’s going to have eight snaps to take a look at and see what was right and what was wrong, but it’s hard to judge off of eight plays.”
It’s worth noting, too, that the following players did not participate in Thursday’s game: Jordan Howard, Benny Cunningham, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Dion Sims. Tarik Cohen nominally started, but didn’t touch the ball. So while Trubisky was working with his starting “U” tight end (Trey Burton), a presumptive starting wideout (Anthony Miller) and his entire starting offensive line (for the first series, until Kyle Long came out for the second one), there were plenty of pieces missing that are expected to be ready for Week 1.
From an even bigger picture view, Thursday’s game being sloppy shouldn’t be too surprising, given the installation process of learning had generated some sloppy practices in Bourbonnais to this point even if they hadn't come in the last few days. There’s still a month until the Bears’ season-opening trip to Green Bay, and nobody around these parts is close to worrying about how Trubisky and his teammates are growing into the offense.
But to Trubisky’s credit, he was frustrated. He was disappointed. And that’s probably how the Bears want the face of the franchise to feel after not performing to the level he believes he can reach — even if it was “only” a preseason game.
“You get limited to so many plays, so you go out there and try to do the best you can with it,” Trubisky said. “It’s gotta be better. It will be better.”