Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky won’t play another preseason snap. Neither will most of his fellow starters.
Coach Matt Nagy told the team Friday that he will sit the starters in the Bears’ second-to-last preseason game Saturday, typically considered the ‘‘dress rehearsal’’ for most of the league. Nagy had planned to make the move if he was pleased with the quality of the Bears’ practices this week, a team spokesman said. He gave his starters extra snaps to make up for the potential lost work.
Nagy considered the fact that the Bears have trudged through the NFL’s second-longest preseason slate. Only the Ravens, whom the Bears played in the Hall of Fame Game, began training camp earlier. Add in the fact that the Bears received extra offseason practices as a result of hiring a new coach, and no team has practiced more since the end of the playoffs last season.
The move certainly won’t please the fans who enter Soldier Field for the game against the Chiefs, the Bears’ first home game of the Nagy era. Still, the Bears hope being conservative with their starters’ playing time means fewer injuries, not only Saturday but in the long run.
The starters won’t play in the team’s fifth preseason game Thursday, either. When the Bears take the field for the regular-season opener Sept. 9 against the Packers, it will have been 22 days since most players had faced another opponent, dating to last Saturday against the Broncos.
Nagy, a first-year head coach, has opened himself up to criticism if the Bears struggle in their opener. His use of Trubisky, whom the Bears hope becomes a franchise quarterback, stands in stark contrast to how Trubisky was used last preseason. Then-coach John Fox started Trubisky, then the backup, in the team’s final preseason game — typically considered meaningless, except for back-of-the-roster battles. Trubisky handed the ball off on his first nine snaps but finished 2-for-5 for 10 yards, in part because he came off the bench to replace injured Connor Shaw in the fourth quarter.
Nagy apparently has seen enough from Trubisky in what amounts to barely more than a half of preseason football. Trubisky attempted only 18 passes in two preseason games, completing 11 for 94 yards. He threw a touchdown and an interception and finishes the preseason with a passer rating of 70.1.
After sitting out the Hall of Fame Game, Trubisky played only 10 snaps in the Bears’ second preseason game against the Bengals, going 2-for-4 for four yards. Against the Broncos, Trubisky took 30 snaps and was 9-for-14 for 90 yards and a touchdown. His final pass was an interception.
With 6:26 left in the first half against the Broncos, Trubisky’s pass over the middle to running back Tarik Cohen was intercepted by safety Justin Simmons. Nagy said after the game that the pick was a result of Cohen’s imprecise route.
Since Nagy’s arrival, the Bears have been open about how they taught Trubisky the offense. Nagy said he wanted to force-feed the scheme during offseason activities to see what he could handle, then taper off as the team drew closer to games.
Nagy spent all week leading Trubisky through the Bears’ game plan against the Chiefs, the first time all offseason they had prepared specifically for an opponent.
‘‘It’s been a lot different,’’ Trubisky said Wednesday. ‘‘I get to know a lot more about my opponent, a lot more preparing going into it. . . . It’s been fun just learning how coach ‘Nags’ game-plans throughout the week.’’
The Bears hope Trubisky can apply some of the lessons he learned this week, even if he’s not playing. His health is the most important ingredient to the team’s success. Backup Chase Daniel has started only two games in eight seasons. The most
recent came at the end of the 2014 season.
Daniel figures to work alongside the Bears’ second-string offense against the Chiefs. It will be telling to see whether receiver Kevin White, who played into the second half last week, earned a day off. Those who don’t play figure to make the team.
Sitting the starters would have made for a great opportunity for rookie linebacker Roquan Smith, who missed the first 29 days of training camp because of a contract dispute. But Smith felt tightness in his left hamstring Tuesday and was limited in practice all week. While Nagy wouldn’t make it official Thursday, he admitted Smith was unlikely to make his debut.