Tennessee Titans

Victor Cruz reportedly cut as Bears seek solutions at wide receiver

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AP

Victor Cruz reportedly cut as Bears seek solutions at wide receiver

Before Mitchell Trubisky put together an outstanding preseason, Victor Cruz was the most well-known player on the Bears. He still might’ve been even as Trubisky picked up some national attention over the last month.

But Cruz didn’t produce like the salsa-dancing Pro Bowler he was with the New York Giants. On Friday, his fate was sealed: The receiver-strapped Bears will release the 30-year-old Cruz, according to multiple reports. Cruz suffered a knee injury during Thursday’s preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns.

Cruz didn’t flash much in practice, and he only caught six passes for 37 yards with a touchdown in four preseason games. And that Cruz played all four preseason games, almost exclusively with the Bears’ second/third/fourth-string offense, makes the team’s decision to cut him not all that surprising.

He was solidly behind Kendall Wright on the team’s slot receiver depth chart and, because of that, only saw a handful of first-team reps. In the all-important third preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, he dropped a pass from Trubisky that hit him in the chest.

Ideally, the Bears would’ve had a reason to keep Cruz and his sage-like wisdom around their receiver room. Kevin White — who, after Cameron Meredith’s injury, became one of the most important players on the Bears — praised Cruz’s presence during July and August.

“He’s a good vet, so he sees a lot of things that other people don’t see,” White said. “We talk one-on-one off the field so for a guy like that to be around is tremendous for me.” 

Despite failing to break free of the backup/third-string offense during training camp, Cruz remained confident he still had “it” after missing 26 games in 2014 and 2015 due to a serious calf injury. Whether he gets another chance to prove it remains to be seen, but being unable to make a roster of a team that desperately needs receivers doesn’t seem like a good sign.

“I still feel like the quickness is there,” Cruz said on Tuesday. “I still feel like the play-making ability is there. Now it’s just to continue to show that each and every time I’m on the field whether it will be practice or on game day.”

Mitch Trubisky takes first-team reps in Bears practice, but 'no change' in QB depth chart

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USA TODAY

Mitch Trubisky takes first-team reps in Bears practice, but 'no change' in QB depth chart

Mitch Trubisky took reps with members of the Bears' first-team offense on Wednesday, the first time the No. 2 overall pick worked with the team's top unit in practice since being drafted in April. 

The Bears have, to this point, been steadfast in giving all first-team reps to Mike Glennon, who signed a three-year, $45 million contract in March. But while Trubisky received those first-team reps Wednesday, Glennon will still be the team's starter against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. 

Coach John Fox said there's been "no change in our quarterback depth chart."

Trubisky will play with the first-team offense in the all-important third preseason game this weekend, though. Glennon will play the first half, while Trubisky will begin the third quarter with the rest of the first-team offense. 

Fox said the Bears want to get a "true evaluation" of Trubisky and added this plan is something the team discussed for a while. Mark Sanchez remains the Bears' backup, per Fox. 

Kendall Wright draws a line between Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky: They 'can do it all'

Kendall Wright draws a line between Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky: They 'can do it all'

Kendall Wright saw two years ago what the transition for a quarterback, picked second overall and coming from a college spread offense, can look like. Marcus Mariota made that move smoothly and now looks poised to join the ranks of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this year with the Tennessee Titans. 

Can Mitch Trubisky make a similarly successful transition? Wright, so far, has liked what he’s seen.

“His overall progression from OTAs to training camp to now, his overall everything he’s done in every area has gotten better,” Wright said. “The work he puts in, it helps him.” 

It’s not a perfect comparison, of course, given the offense Mariota so effectively operated at Oregon didn't resemble the look and feel of the one Trubisky ran at North Carolina. Mariota started far more games than Trubisky, too. They’re two different quarterbacks with different skillsets. And Mariota was given the opportunity to be a Week 1 starter from the moment he was drafted, while Trubisky — for now — remains behind Mike Glennon. 

“Marcus was in a different position where he came in and he was the quarterback,” Wright said. “I think it’s different. Once Mitch starts playing, whenever he starts playing, he’ll start progressing a lot more because he’ll actually be out there in game-like situations.”

But consider why the Titans were so confident Mariota could start immediately and make a successful transition to the NFL from that flashy Oregon offense:

“I don’t think the system he had in Oregon, I don’t think that held him back when he came into the league,” Wright said. “I think he was good at making his progressions, decisive. He’s like one of those players, it doesn’t matter what system he’s in, you put him out there and he’s a guy that’s a difference-maker.”

After espousing Trubisky’s accuracy back in April, Bears general manager Ryan Pace quickly pointed out this trait: “His ability to process and see the whole field jumps out right away. 

“… All these top quarterbacks, it’s just their ability to quickly process defenses, process coverage, find open targets, not panic under pressure, deliver accurate throws when there’s a noisy pocket – things are collapsing – those guys all have those traits. And Mitch has those traits, Drew (Brees) has those traits and those are things we value.”

The point being: No matter the system, both Mariota and Trubisky have good football intelligence, and are more than what Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians once bemoaned about college spread quarterbacks. 

“They hold up a card on the sideline and he kicks his foot and throws the ball,” Arians said in 2015. “That ain’t playing quarterback.”

Trubisky, of course, still has to improve with his pre-snaps reads, calling out protections, identifying coverages, learning the playbook, etc. But he seems to have the football intelligence to make those strides and marry them with his impressive physical skillset. 

And as was the case with Mariota, Wright doesn’t see a reason why Trubisky can’t succeed in the NFL. 

“(Trubisky) can do it all too,” Wright said. “He’s still learning, he’s still getting better, he’s never complacent. He has the ability to get better and he’s willing to get better. He’s a young guy that listens. He’s just a baller. You put him out there and he makes plays.”