Ryan Pace placed a big bet on Trey Burton in March, guaranteeing $22 million to a guy who’s only played 697 offensive snaps in his career (Travis Kelce, for comparison, played 872 snaps in 2017 for the Kansas City Chiefs). But the Bears liked Burton’s upside as a “U” tight end in Matt Nagy’s offense, which is cut from the same cloth as the one Burton won a Super Bowl with in Philadelphia under Doug Pederson.
More on those comparisons in a moment, but first: Nagy has seen that upside play out not only with how Burton has practiced during the offseason program, but with how he’s fit into the team’s locker room.
“It’s so easy to feel his leadership,” Nagy said. “It’s not one that’s a rah-rah, always hear him talking type leader. He just leads by example. The guys see that and feel that because of the team he just came from. How he handled himself in Philadelphia, he brought that here. He’s really smart.
“So, he understands this offense and what to do, so there’s not a lot of mistakes. When guys see that you’re a player that has experience in this offense and does things the right way, they really gravitate towards that style of leadership. It’s been everything and more with what we thought with Trey.”
There are a couple of players sprinkled into the Bears’ offense who know it — or, at least, a version of it — as the team works through the lengthy process of installing it. Burton is one of those guys, even though Pederson’s offense evolved differently in Philadelphia than Nagy’s will in Chicago. But plenty of the Andy Reid-based concepts are “pretty similar,” Burton said.
For Burton, though, that’s not where the similarities end. He’s getting the same vibe from Mitch Trubisky that he got from Carson Wentz a year ago, too.
“Really similar,” Burton said. “There’s just so many similarities between the both of them — a lot more similarities than opposites, (like) the way he takes command, he’s a natural leader, his arm strength, his ability to run, his elusiveness in the pocket. There are a lot of things that are similar.”
That’s all good for now, when the Bears are running around in their “underwear,” as one assistant coach put it. The most important takeaways in terms of those similarities would be Trubisky’s command of the huddle and his leadership — essentially, players wouldn’t be following him if he didn’t consistently display a good understanding of the offense and weren’t eager to take on that role as a team leader. They're two different players with two different skillsets, but gaining teammates' trust is critical for a young quarterback.
There’s still plenty of work for Trubisky to put in if he’s even going to come close to the MVP-type level of success enjoyed by Wentz before his season-ending torn ACL. But showing some of those signs in May certainly isn’t a bad thing.
“I love the way that they just threw Mitch out there last year and he had the fight not really understanding what to expect in the NFL,” Burton said. “He did a great job and (I’m) looking forward to this year.”