Imagine, for a moment, what this Bears team would be like if it had Aaron Rodgers under center, leading the offense, with a defense captained by Khalil Mack. It seems nearly impossible to picture it, but according to Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, it wouldn't have been as difficult back in 2017 when Trubisky was a highly-touted draft prospect.
Lynn, during his conference call with reporters Wednesday, said Trubisky reminded him of the future Hall of Famer back when he was coming out of North Carolina.
"He made throws. He had a quick release. He reminded me sometimes of Aaron Rodgers," Lynn said. "The way he moved around. If he ever got in a bind, he could create. I just thought he had the total package."
Trubisky's final season as a Tar Heel feels like ancient history, but Lynn's assessment isn't far off. Trubisky completed 68% of his passes for 3,748 yards with 30 touchdowns and only six interceptions. His 5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is an elite stat, and his ability to create with his legs made him that much more appealing to NFL general managers. He was so desired that GM Ryan Pace infamously traded up one spot (from No. 3 overall to No. 2) to draft him.
What may have been overlooked, however, was the offense Trubisky operated in at UNC. It was a very basic, quick-hitting system that didn't require much "quarterbacking" from the now-struggling pro. And while it's still too early to say Trubisky will never become a franchise passer, it's pretty clear he isn't destined to be in the elite tier.
Through five games (four if you factor in his early exit against the Vikings in Week 4), Trubisky's completed 64.4% of his passes for 839 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Sadly, more than 250 of his yards and two of his touchdowns came in what Matt Nagy admitted was garbage time in Week 7's loss to the Saints.
General managers, coaches and scouts will often hold onto scouting reports way too long. Maybe it's a pride or ego thing. Maybe it's a failure to accept reality. But with Trubisky, it's pretty clear his college scouting report was flawed, and it's on Pace and Nagy to make sure they know if his issues are correctable. If not, they can't hold onto hope that a Rodgers-like breakout will suddenly (and miraculously) occur.
It’s wild to think about how, only two months ago, Bears’ linebacker Roquan Smith was wrapping up a month of training camp where – on more than one occasion – he looked like the best player on the team. Hyperbole reigns in Bourbonnais, but given his stellar rookie season, expectations for Smith’s second season were through the roof.
Fast forward six games, and Smith’s season has looked far closer to a worst-case scenario than the All-Pro campaign that many (including yours truly) had him locked in for. Personal issues aside, Smith’s performance on the field hasn’t lived up to the standard he set last year, when he led the team in total tackles (122).
“He can definitely play better,” Matt Nagy said on Tuesday. “And he knows that. That’s where we’re at right now. And he’s gonna. I think he will. We all know exactly what we’ve all done together in the last couple weeks.”
Nagy wouldn’t speculate on whether Smith is still finding his form after missing some time with an off-field issue that was never disclosed. Last Sunday he was only on the field for 54 of 78 snaps, and seemed to be subbed out on 3rd down more frequently than in the past. When he has been on the field – especially in the last two games – the tape hasn’t been kind.
Per Pro Football Focus, here’s how Smith graded out, and where it ranked among all linebackers, after his rookie season:
Overall Def: 65.0 (71)
Run defense: 55.1 (137)
Tackling: 73.9 (69)
Pass Rush: 72.8 (28)
Coverage: 67.8 (41)
And now, this season:
Overall Def: 48.0 (117)
Run defense: 50.3 (113)
Tackling: 77.5 (31)
Pass Rush: 47.2 (131)
Coverage: 50.7 (95)
“He’s doing everything he can,” Nagy added. “None of it is because of lack of effort or want or any of that. And none of it is because of the lack of couldn’t. We all look at each other. We all want to help each other out. And we feel like we all can coach and play better.”
In some ways, Smith’s issues are a good microcosm of what’s plagued the Bears’ defense over the last month. Eddie Jackson said that side of the ball has lost some of their swagger, and even a casual eye test can see that the team isn’t playing with quite the same physicality that became their calling card under Vic Fangio.
“Well, I would agree with that,” Nagy added. “There hasn’t been that physicality. They know that. Again, none of it is because of a lack of want. A lot of it just comes down to there are certain plays and certain parts of the game that it’s not getting done, and it was before.”
Losing Akiem Hicks obviously doesn’t help. The Bears’ defense still has plenty of talent at all levels, however, and no one inside Halas Hall (and certainly no one outside it) is feeling sorry for themselves.
“I think it’s preparation,” Nagy replied when asked how the defense could get back to an elite level. “Then there’s reactionary skills, of when it happens, you’re prepared, you saw what happened and you can react. That’s probably the biggest thing. That’s something you would have to ask each and every player because they’re all different on how much they prepare and how well they prepare.”