Bears

Just Day 1 of minicamp, but did Bears coaches see what they needed to from QB Mitch Trubisky?

Just Day 1 of minicamp, but did Bears coaches see what they needed to from QB Mitch Trubisky?

Random (and not-so-random) thoughts on the new kid running the Bears’ huddle on Friday…

John Fox is rarely given to strong positives, let alone superlatives, over his two seasons as Bears coach – which made his take on rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky after just one no-pads, no-contact, limited-work practice at least a little worth noting.

“I think we put a lot of work into the evaluation and again saw a lot of the reasons why we decided to pick him where we did today,” Fox said after Friday’s opening practice for the Bears’ weekend rookie minicamp. “He’s very accurate, very smart, he’s got good football character, as far as transferring things from the meeting room to the field. And I think we saw that today.”

Whether he would say if he DIDN’T see the reasons drafting him high in the first round, hard to say. Maybe not. Maybe it would have been evident in his face (pout-face?), or by damning with faint praise.

This weekend Trubisky is with fellow rookies or fringe vets on tryouts, so if he looked “good,” he absolutely better have, and assigning it any kind of significance would be silly. He’ll still have to learn proper footwork under pressure, what “open receiver” really means at the NFL level, all of the little things that seem insignificant until one of them isn’t done right. Trubisky mishandled a couple of direct-snaps, not what he did much at North Carolina, but he also wasn’t working with anyone he’d ever taken a snap from before.

“Just getting with the new centers, getting that rhythm, getting that timing and chemistry,” Trubisky said by way of summary. “It’s all about getting better every day and working under center.”

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Whether trading up from No. 3 to No. 2, and whether Trubisky was the right guy to trade up for, will remain simmering what-if’s for some time to come.

Two AFC scouts revealed that they had the highest grade on Trubisky that they’d had on any quarterback over the past six years. That means: higher than Jameis Winston; higher than Marcus Mariota; higher than Cam Newton; higher than Russell Wilson; higher than Andrew Luck; higher than Derek Carr; higher than Carson Wentz.

The evaluation of one NFC regional scouting team was that “Trubisky is an almost perfect quarterback prospect” and that 'the Bears should count their lucky stars he only started 13 games because if he was a two-year starter, he goes 1/1 [overall No. 1] without hesitation.”

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The things that can be learned from watching a minicamp, particularly a rookie one, are minimal if for no other reason than some of the things that actually matter you really have no way of assessing.

Like how well, fast and thoroughly do these guys learn?

The Bears put Trubisky through a number of drills during their evaluations of him, not for purposes of teaching him anything specific, but rather to see how he reacts to new stuff, being made uncomfortable. “We had confirmation that he would be able to handle that stuff,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, “and he would be able to get it quickly.”

Coaches altered the practice structure Friday expressly to put Trubisky in more passing situations, meaning making drops, reads, throws and all the rest. They again saw what they needed to, beyond the actual execution.

“We're having two 7-on-7 [passing sessions], so he's getting more reps that way,” Loggains said. “We gave him a big install, and he handled it. We wanted him to feel stressed a little bit and understand how different the game is and to this point right now he's responded well… .

“The expectations for him is to come in and develop as fast as possible. He gets a great opportunity to sit behind Mike Glennon; the guy’s a pro. [Trubisky] gets a chance to learn and grow in the system. Those are the only expectations, that he gets better every day.”

Ryan Pace says Bears are 'exploring every avenue' to upgrade tight end

Ryan Pace says Bears are 'exploring every avenue' to upgrade tight end

Bears general manager Ryan Pace didn't come across as a guy willing to go down in flames with his decision to sign tight end Trey Burton back in 2018 when he met with the media at the NFL Combine on Tuesday. Instead, he confirmed the Bears will be heavily invested in the tight end market this offseason, both in free agency and the 2020 NFL draft.

"We’re looking at it in free agency and the draft," Pace said of this year's available tight ends. "It’s deep in different areas. That’s an area of focus for us, I don’t think that’s a secret. This offense, a lot of it goes through the tight end, so we’re exploring every avenue."

It's hard to envision a scenario where Pace would be willing to travel down the big-money free-agent path again, but Falcons pass-catcher Austin Hooper could be too tempting to pass up.

Atlanta confirmed on Tuesday Hooper will be allowed to test the open market, and if he ranks high enough on Pace's wish list, we could be setting up to see a $10 million per year offer. It may seem like a waste of resources to tie that much money up in the tight end position (he and Burton would cost the Bears close to $20 million in 2020), but they experienced just how limited Matt Nagy's offense is without a capable playmaker at the position. Hooper would fix that.

The cheaper alternative for Pace to upgrade at tight end would be the draft, where several quality prospects will be on the board when the Bears pick at No. 43 and No. 50 overall. Players like Purdue's Brycen Hopkins, FAU's Harrison Bryant and Notre Dame's Cole Kmet could all be available when the Bears are on the clock, and all three of them would represent a marked uptick in talent for the depth chart.

Pace is being logical and rational when it comes to his evaluation of the tight end group. It's especially impressive considering the top two options currently on the roster -- Burton and Adam Shaheen -- were hand-picked by him and cost Chicago a top-of-the-market free-agent deal and a high draft pick (second round, 2017). 

Pace has a great opportunity to right his wrongs at tight end over the next couple of months.

How Matt Nagy's 'urgency' could foreshadow a Bears quarterback change

How Matt Nagy's 'urgency' could foreshadow a Bears quarterback change

INDIANAPOLIS — The Bears don’t look likely to sign or trade for a true starter to replace Mitch Trubisky, and Ryan Pace made clear he expects the 2017 No. 2 overall pick to be his starter in 2020. 

Let’s add an addendum to that, though, based on something Matt Nagy said: Just because Trubisky begins 2020 as the Bears’ starting quarterback does not mean he’ll hold on to that gig for the whole season, or even for half a season. 

In talking about the need to find an offensive identity in 2020, Nagy offered a response that leads you to believe job security won't be close to where it was in 2019:

“We got to figure out what our identity is and that's going to be an objective for us,” Nagy said. “And then last year you heard me say, sometimes it takes five or six weeks. I feel like personally that's always the case, but there's a sense of urgency for us going into this year. It needs to happen sooner.”

It needs to happen sooner. What happens if Trubisky doesn’t show any improvement through the first three or four games of 2020, and the Bears’ offense is lacking an identity at the end of September?

If there truly is a sense of urgency to find solutions on offense, then the Bears should consider something they didn’t last year: Changing quarterbacks. 

Chase Daniel was not on the roster to push Trubisky for playing time. He was brought in for his knowledge of the offense as “a little bit of an assistant coach,” as Nagy put it. The Bears figured surrounding Trubisky with as many resources as possible would help him thrive in Nagy’s complex offense. 

What the Bears need — and have indicated they want — is more competition in their quarterback room. That does not necessarily mean, again, luring someone like Teddy Bridgewater to Chicago to start. 

But it does mean adding someone to the roster who at least has a chance to be a better option than Trubisky, if Trubisky doesn’t show any improvement. 

Case Keenum could be that guy. Marcus Mariota, too (although Mariota sharing agents Bruce Tollner and Ryan Tollner with Trubisky could complicate any interest in him the Bears might have). Maybe there’s a trade to be made for Andy Dalton after all, if the Cincinnati Bengals are willing to bend to make the money work. 

A free agent signing along those lines and/or a draft pick — it doesn’t have to be a second rounder, either — would put someone on the roster who could be viewed as a legitimate replacement for an ineffective Trubisky. 

“If you're not creating competition around your whole roster, you're not pushing your own guys,” Nagy said.

The Bears didn’t do that at quarterback the last two years. 

But all signs are pointing to that changing in 2020. And while that may not mean an immediate change at starting quarterback, it means a switch during the season could become a real possibility. 

“If we all think that that’s what we want from (Trubisky), from last year, we’re fooling ourselves,” Nagy said. “He knows that and we know that. 

“But at the same time, we need to be real. What’s around him? And that’s where we’re at. I know it’s hard sometimes for all of us to understand that, and you see what’s going on with the instant gratification now, but there is a process for us. I do know that Mitch is very hungry. 

“He understands that we want him to play better, he understands that we want to coach better. So now we cannot worry and dwell about what happened last year. If you do that, you get stuck in the mud. We can’t do it. 

“It’s a clean slate. Now we’ve gotta get better for this year.”

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