Bears

Is Mitchell Trubisky a one-year wonder? UNC teammates say that's an 'unfair' label

Is Mitchell Trubisky a one-year wonder? UNC teammates say that's an 'unfair' label

Among the dings to Mitchell Trubisky's draft profile is that he only started one year at North Carolina, leaving him without the usual experience found in first-round quarterbacks. 

Trubisky was outstanding in that one year, though, completing 68 percent of his passes for 3,748 yards with 30 touchdowns and six interceptions. But despite that eventual success, Trubisky in his first two years on campus wasn't able to beat out Marquise Williams for the Tarheels' starting gig.

In asking some of Trubisky's former teammates why the potential first-round pick didn't start sooner, the answers were clear: It wasn't his fault. And they pushed back on the idea that Trubisky is merely a one-year wonder. 

"I think it's unfair," running back Elijah Hood said at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. "Mitch can play the game. I've been practicing with him for years and he's always been that way, he's always been able to play, he's always been able to throw the ball.

"… (Williams) is one of the best players to ever come through the school, and Mitch pushed him for that starting job throughout his entire career. It just lets you know what kind of player he was and what the coaches really thought of him that he was constantly nipping as this guy's heels who was winning us football games."

[RELATED: 2017 NFL Draft Profile - North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky]

North Carolina went 6-7 with Williams as its quarterback in 2014 — Trubisky's freshman year — but ripped off 11 wins in 2015 and only lost to eventual national runners-up Clemson by eight points in the ACC title game. Williams put up excellent numbers that year: 3,072 yards, 24 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and 948 rushing yards with 13 touchdowns. No matter how good Trubisky may have been, he wasn't beating out Williams as North Carolina finished the season with its highest AP ranking in two decades. 

Williams wasn't an NFL prospect — he went undrafted and was cut by the Green Bay Packers prior to the 2016 season — but he was a good college quarterback. Trubisky probably wouldn't have been only a one-year starter had Williams not blocked him. 

"I feel like a lot of people say (he's a one-year wonder) because he wasn't on the main scene, it was 'Quise a lot," former UNC running back T.J. Logan said. "But I feel like behind the scenes, Mitch was the guy working. He was always coming to practice ready to work, he had the team hyped up."

From a leadership standpoint, Hood said Trubisky brings the right blend of being poised, thoughtful and approachable to an offense. And wide receiver Ryan Switzer, who roomed with him at North Carolina, said Trubisky is one of the brightest football minds he's been around. 

"Anybody that gets Mitch isn't just getting the No. 1 quarterback, they're not just getting a guy that looks the part, they're getting a guy that really loves the game of football, comes from a great background," Switzer said. "I know he's set goals to do great things in the NFL."

Puppy Pick 'Em Puppy Walter makes his Week 7 picks for Bears-Saints

Puppy Pick 'Em Puppy Walter makes his Week 7 picks for Bears-Saints

When the Bears announced their 2019 schedule, we decided to have some puppies reveal the opponents. Now, we have taken it a step further. We have a puppy that will make weekly picks for the Bears games.

It is Week 7!

Walter's choices in Week 7 are a chance to go to Mardi Gras or a celebration of St. Patrick's day in Chicago. Bears fans should be excited about his decision in Week 7... and now we're all looking forward to St. Patrick's Day again!

The 12-week old dachshund was hand-selected by the scouts at NBC Sports Chicago and hails from One Tail at a Time rescue. He came from a shelter in Alabama and was transported to Chicago.  At just 7 weeks old and without his mom, he beat a deadly virus and spent some time in the doggie ER, where he healed and became strong again. 

Now, Walter is ready to rumble between the well-manicured lines of Sweetness Field. He is NOW adoptable via onetail.org and has two adorable sisters named Martha and Millie, who are already adopted. 

Walter will pick the games throughout the NFL season, including the playoffs and we hope that his nose follows the scent to the Bears every week, all the way to that magical game in Miami in February. Narrated by Jason Benetti, play-by-play announcer for the White Sox.  

It is time for Puppy Pick ‘Em presented by Nissan.

To learn more: www.onetail.org

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Saints

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Saints

1. Get production from receivers not named Allen Robinson. 

Robinson can expect to be followed all game by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who’s limited opposing receivers to nine catches on 20 targets in his last three games (a sampling of those receivers: Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, D.J. Chark). So if Robinson isn’t open, it likely will have less to do with his own play and more the play of one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. 

With that in mind, Sunday will be a significant test for the Bears’ other pass catchers. This team’s offensive identity was supposed to be steeped in an ability to spread the ball around to guys like Taylor Gabriel, Tarik Cohen, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson and Trey Burton, but so far this season, the only thing the Bears have proven to do well is get the ball to Robinson. That absolutely has to change on Sunday. 

Miller feels primed for a breakout game after ditching his shoulder harness, while Gabriel is back from a concussion suffered on the final catch of his explosive three touchdown game in Week 3 against Washington. Those two guys need to show up, and the Bears need to better scheme plays for Cohen, who’s averaging 4.5 yards per touch — lower than his average in 2017 with Dowell Loggains calling the plays. 

Robinson still could have a productive day — he’s that good — but the Bears shouldn’t count on it.

2. Hold your own against the Saints’ front. 

The Saints are outstanding at affecting quarterbacks without blitzing, with their 76 pressures ranking second in the NFL — this for a team that’s only blitzing on 22 percent of its defensive snaps. And of those 76 pressures, 63 have come from defensive linemen. 

Marcus Davenport and Cam Jordan have been monsters this year, combining for eight sacks while consistently generating that pressure off the edge. Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie will need need to have their best games of 2019 to keep them away from Mitch Trubisky, but the interior of the Bears’ line will have its hands full, too. David Onyemata, Malcom Brown and Sheldon Rankins all have at least one sack, putting an onus on Cody Whitehair, James Daniels and Rashaad Coward and/or Ted Larsen to keep those guys out of Trubisky’s face.

If not, Trubisky will have a difficult time getting comfortable and going through his progressions, which could lead to some forced/panicked throws...which could be jumped by Lattimore or another one of the Saints' defensive backs.   

3. Get game-wrecking plays on defense.

The thought here is Sunday’s game will be a tight defensive battle, with the game swinging on which team gets a turnover deep in its opponent territory. For the Bears, that means coming up with the kind of game-wrecking play (or plays) we’ve come to expect from this defense. 

Teddy Bridgewater has been sacked on only 16.7 percent of his drop-backs (24th, per PFF), though, with tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead among the best pass blockers at their position in the NFL. It’ll be a fascinating matchup for Khalil Mack, who will need to be at his best to beat the Saints’ best and “sack the football,” as he’s so good at doing. Or maybe Sunday is time for Eddie Jackson to get his first interception of the season (though he’s only been thrown at about two times per game, down from his average of nearly three times per game in 2018). 

However the Bears’ defense does it, they need to do it in a game in which their offense very well could struggle to move the ball. 

Prediction: Saints 13, Bears 9. 

While the Saints will be without future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, star do-it-all running back Alvin Kamara and reliable tight end Jared Cook, this is a team should have the advantage at the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense (the Bears, of course, will be without Akiem Hicks and might start a greenhorn at right guard in Coward). That advantage matters greatly in close games, in which grinding out a few yards here and there will become critical, especially in the fourth quarter.

And too, Sean Payton has built a strong coach of the year case for how he’s guided the Saints to an undefeated record without Brees. The Saints are playing a strong brand of complementary football, with a ball security-based offense and a defense that’s progressively got better this year (punter Thomas Morstead, for what it’s worth, is outstanding and shouldn’t be completely overlooked). 

So the Saints will arrive at Soldier Field undermanned, but with an advantage at the line of scrimmage and on the sideline. And those will be enough for New Orleans to emerge with a win, sending the Bears to 3-3 in the process. 

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