Why this trip to New Orleans may not be the right time for the Bears to open things up for Mitchell Trubisky

USA Today

Why this trip to New Orleans may not be the right time for the Bears to open things up for Mitchell Trubisky

The last four quarterbacks to start against the New Orleans Saints don’t exactly have a pretty track record: Brett Hundley, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler and Cam Newton combined to complete 74 of 131 passes for 730 yards with three touchdowns and eight interceptions. On a per-game average, that comes out to a 56 percent completion rate, 183 yards, less than one touchdown and two interceptions. 

New Orleans’ defense may be prone to allowing yards (5.7 per play, 27th in the NFL), but they’re allowing an average of 22.2 points per game (16th), so this isn’t necessarily a leaky defense. Football Outsiders’ DVOA ranks the Saints’ defense 15th, backing up the traditional numbers: This is about an average defense, but one that succeeds against the pass (6th in passing DVOA). 

It’s also a defense that struggles against the run. Opposing rushers have averaged 4.9 yards per carry against the Saints, tied for the second-highest average in the league. 

And it’s worth noting that the Saints had at least one takeaway in their four wins; in their two losses, they didn’t force a turnover. Worth noting, too: Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen was John Fox’s defensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos in 2011.

So this all begs the question: Is this the game for the Bears to open things up for Mitchell Trubisky?

“Dennis does a good job,” Fox said. “I think they got off to a little bit of a rough start both against Minnesota and then New England, but I think they’ve improved and you see that. I think that’s why their record has improved. They’ve run off four in a row and are playing really good football right now.

“… (They’ve improved) just in assignments, guys playing with better eyes, guys being where they’re supposed to me. We had some of the same ills to start the season, but we’ve improved and so have they.”

The Bears can find a way for Trubisky to throw the ball more than seven times with some safe, quick gain concepts, or try to get him out of the pocket on play-action rollouts if the Saints’ defense allows it. The issue of running the ball is an interesting one, too: Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart is the only running back to face eight or more men in the box on over 50 percent of his runs against the Saints this year. 

If the Saints don’t stack the box, it could allow the Bears to do what they did so well against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. And that could mean Trubisky doesn’t throw the ball a whole lot. 

But as long as the Bears emerge with a win — which, to drive home the point, would get this team to .500 halfway through the season — it doesn’t matter how conservative the plan is for their rookie quarterback. 

“Winning’s the most important thing,” Trubisky said. “I don’t care if I throw zero passes if we win the game. I don’t care if I’m not playing if we’re winning the game. As long as the Chicago Bears are winning, we’re doing something right.”

Bears show interest in Tulsa pass rusher Trevis Gipson

Bears show interest in Tulsa pass rusher Trevis Gipson

It's early (extremely early) in the 2020 NFL draft process, and the Bears' team needs between now and when their first pick (No. 43 overall) is on the clock are certain to change. The general consensus right now is that offensive line, tight end and quarterback will be early draft targets, but edge rusher can't be overlooked.

Leonard Floyd's failure to emerge as the pass rusher the Bears need to complement Khalil Mack is a bigger problem than GM Ryan Pace or coach Matt Nagy want to admit. In fact, Floyd's ineffective style of play could cost Chicago a chance at becoming a truly elite defense and potentially limit the astronomical upside Mack has as a generational talent.

If the Bears decide to pull the fifth-year option from Floyd, they'll have no choice but to attack the position early in the 2020 draft. It appears like they're doing their homework for that scenario, too.

Bears scouts met with Tulsa edge rusher Trevis Gipson at length following Wednesday's Senior Bowl practice, an indication that the position is at least high enough on their wish list that extensive homework on pass rushers is being done.

Gipson helped his draft stock at the Senior Bowl and was an early winner among edge rushers at the game. His practice reps confirmed his tape; the dude knows how to get to the quarterback. He had eight sacks in 2019 and plays with a high-energy style that's certain to entice Chicago's coaching staff. He isn't an elite athlete, but he has an appealing frame (34-inch arms) and powerful hands.

Gipson began the week as a late-Day-3 prospect. He helped his stock and may have jumped a round or two along the way.

Bears' rookie class ranked 8th-best in NFL

Bears' rookie class ranked 8th-best in NFL

The Bears didn't have much of a rookie class in 2019. Last April's draft produced just five picks, two of which didn't appear in a regular-season game for the Bears.

But the production of running back David Montgomery was enough to carry the rookie class to a top-10 ranking, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Bears checked-in at 8th.

The Bears have a strange class. They had only five picks, none before Round 3, with three of those five selections coming after Round 6. As a result, their expected return was low. Running back David Montgomery was really the only Bears' rookie to play significant snaps, and he managed to provide enough return from his third-round selection to land them at No. 8.

It's pretty remarkable that Chicago's 2019 rookie class -- essentially, Montgomery -- garnered this much respect from PFF. Wide receiver Riley Ridley showed signs of life late in the season and cornerback Duke Shelley will be given an opportunity to carve out a role on defense next season, but with running back Kerrith Whyte, Jr. and cornerback Stephen Denmark making no impact whatsoever (Whyte is no longer with the team), the 2019 class won't be remembered as one that laid a championship foundation in Chicago.

Sure, Montgomery has a chance to become one of the NFL's more talented starting running backs (he ended his rookie season with 889 yards and six touchdowns), but if Ridley and Shelley don't turn into legitimate contributors in 2020 or 2021, the class will go down as an epic failure for GM Ryan Pace.

Remember: The Bears didn't have a first-round pick because of the trade for outside linebacker Khalil Mack. That's a win for Pace, but it doesn't change the fact that he had five selections at his disposal and ended up with what appears to be just one impact player after their rookie seasons.