NASHVILLE — Mike Glennon, in completing 11 of 18 passes for 134 yards with a touchdown Sunday afternoon against the Tennessee Titans, ended any discussion of who the Bears’ starting quarterback will be Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons. It’s him.
Does that mean Glennon is guaranteed to be the team’s starting quarterback for the entire season? No. But Glennon was confident and poised in the pocket early, assuredly leading a first quarter 96-yard scoring drive which included a trio of third-down completions to Kendall Wright. It was the kind of drive, with the kind of passes thrown by Glennon, the Bears envisioned when they signed him back in March.
Glennon’s production waned after Cameron Meredith’s gruesome leg injury, though, with just three completions in eight attempts for 34 yards. He missed linking up with Deonte Thompson at the end of the first quarter for what could’ve been a touchdown (Thompson was open), but didn’t make any egregiously bad throws, as was the case against the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals earlier this month.
Said Glennon last week of his Week 3 goals, which he went on to accomplish: “I think ultimately, be kind of the commander on the field. Get the ball in the playmakers’ hands. Get a lot of completions. Protect the football. And put together a few scoring drives.”
If Glennon’s first half was the best-case for him, that’s fine — not great, but fine. And if this is the Glennon that shows up Week 1, the Bears can feel confident in their plan to let Mitch Trubisky slowly develop and ultimately force his way into a starting job.
Mitch Trubisky showed his age
This sequence of events during Trubisky’s second drive with the first-team offense was a reminder that the rookie quarterback still is, well, a rookie: The Bears burned a timeout to avoid a delay of game, Trubisky tripped and put the ball on the ground (the Bears recovered), and then nearly was picked off. He completed a 13-yard pass to Thompson on third-and-long, but then took a delay of game penalty on fourth-and-short to back the Bears into a punt.
That came on the heels of a three-and-out to begin the second half on which Trubisky sailed an incompletion to Wright and threw high to White (the ball tipped off White’s fingers, for what it’s worth).
But the physical talents of Trubisky weren’t marred by his early sloppiness: He found undrafted rookie Tanner Gentry off play action for a gorgeous 45-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter (against the Titans’ backup defense, but it still was an outstanding connection). His final line was good, too: 10/15, 128 yards, 1 TD.
The bigger issue, though, was with Trubisky’s operation of the first-team offense. That’s the kind of stuff on which he still needs to improve, and it was apparent on Sunday.
Cameron Meredith’s injury is a massive blow
Meredith’s torn ACL, as reported by Pam Oliver on the Fox broadcast of the game, is a significant blow to a Bears offense that already needed to see more out of its pass catchers. Meredith showed the most reliable connection with Glennon in practice from Day 1 of training camp, and looked to be ascending a year after leading the Bears with 66 catches for 888 yards.
During Glennon’s prior preseason struggles, the Bears stressed the entire offense needed to do better in addition to Glennon. Someone has to catch the ball on this team. Kevin White, the former seventh overall pick who’s still working his way back from a pair of debilitating injuries, will be under more pressure to produce.
Getting back Markus Wheaton, who hasn’t practiced much due to an appendectomy and broken finger, will help, as would reliable play from veterans Kendall Wright and Victor Cruz (if Cruz makes the team). Deonte Thompson probably has a better chance of making the team now, too, as does Zach Miller, though Adam Shaheen’s inclusion on special teams was probably a signal his spot was fairly safe already.
The Bears have two weeks to see if someone can step up to fill Meredith’s production. Otherwise, even if Glennon proves to be reliable, the offense may not be without help around him.
— Once again, the Bears’ defense put together a solid game. Akiem Hicks and Willie Young notched sacks, and Tennessee’s first-team offense didn’t score against the Bears’ first-team defense. The only blemish was Eddie Jackson, Quintin Demps and Cre’von LeBlanc failing to tackle Taywan Taylor on a third-and-31 the Titans wound up converting. While the secondary still has some question marks, that’s now three good games by the Bears’ defense this preseason, which backs up the low-key optimism that’s came from this group for the last few months.
— Jeremy Langford, playing his first preseason game of 2017, played a little better than his final stat line showed (five carries, 18 yards; two receptions, 19 yards). He’s probably not on the roster bubble with Ka’deem Carey undergoing wrist surgery, but could’ve been in trouble if he didn’t show much on Sunday. He did, and remains a valuable backup to Jordan Howard.
— Cruz caught a pass with the first-team offense after Meredith’s injury, but while with the backups dropped a pass from Trubisky — who impressively evaded pressure and scrambled outside the pocket — that hit him in the chest. He’s one to keep an eye on next weekend when rosters are reduced to 53.