Bears’ desperation on offense should lead to more Mitch Trubisky runs
The Bears got a significant contribution from Trubisky’s rushing ability last season, but seem averse to utilizing that skill this year.
It’s time for Mitch Trubisky to make a run for it.
What’s the point of having all this athleticism and speed at quarterback if the Bears aren’t going to use it? It’s part of why they drafted him second overall, and Matt Nagy believes it’s an element of his game feared by defensive coordinators around the NFL.
So use it.
The predominant argument against this idea is that it’s physically reckless, which is doubly concerning as Trubisky tries to play through a non-throwing shoulder injury. But Nagy has said if Trubisky plays against the Saints on Sunday, which appears likely after he was a full participant in practice Thursday, he’s going to be fully available for whatever the job demands.
For Nagy, though, the directive to view running as a last resort is his conviction that there’s far more to be gained through the air.
“Be a passer first,” Nagy said. “And then if you have the opportunity to run, based off of what they’re giving you, do it... It’s all predicated, basically, off the defense.”
Essentially, Trubisky’s runs happen organically, not by design. On read-option plays, there’s no insistence on him keeping the ball. If a defense has eight men back in coverage, that might naturally open a running lane.
But that approach hasn’t been working. Trubisky struggled in the first two games before erupting against the 25th-ranked Redskins’ defense and has an 81 passer rating. ,Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota got benched with a 91.7.
With his passing numbers down across the board from 2018, it’s shocking that Trubisky hasn’t run more. He has five carries for 21 yards, an output that is 25th among quarterbacks.
He ranked sixth in rushing attempts and averaged 30.1 yards per game last season. That might not seem like much, but it’d make a big difference for a Bears team that sits 30th in total offense and 27th in yards rushing.
Nagy isn’t necessarily wistful for Trubisky’s dual-threat days, though. He seems disinclined to force that into the game plan.
“Just let it naturally happen,” Nagy said. “If it’s going to get us a first down, and he’s not going to get hit, run all the time. I don’t care. That’s good. That means we’re moving the football.
“But be a thrower first. Be a passer. Be a quarterback. And then if your legs come into play, that’s the next part of playing that position that some other people don’t have.”
It’s the only thing that makes Trubisky special right now. He’s shown other qualities in the past and the Bears think he has others in development, but running is his strongest skill in the present.
Running more also might improve Trubisky’s passing numbers. Any defensive player in the league will admit they can’t be quite as aggressive and sure of their decision-making when the opposing quarterback is a threat to take off. A moment of hesitation in the secondary is all it takes to pop a big play.
“You have to be careful,” Bears safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “A guy who can scramble and get out there like Trubisky, it gives you pause. You have to keep somebody like that contained.”
Giving opposing safeties one more thing to think about can only help.
For his career, Trubisky has averaged 6.1 yards per carry and 6.9 per pass attempt. He’s at 5.5 per throw this season, which is 37th out of the 38 quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts this season.
Running quarterbacks inevitably get hurt, but if preservation is at all a factor in the Bears’ aversion to running Trubisky, his current production isn’t worth preserving.
Certainly it’s worthwhile to protect Trubisky the player, and there’s still hope he’ll develop into something better than this, but there’s little value in the Bears eliminating a potential avenue for success in order to ensure they keep getting this version of him.