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1st-and-10: Time for Bears to turn to Mitch Trubisky, again

With protection issues mounting and Nick Foles unable to light a spark, Trubisky’s mobility gives the Bears the best chance to win. Not a great chance, just a better chance. If healthy, he should start.

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) has rushed for 90 yards on nine carries (10.0 avg.) this season.
Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) has rushed for 90 yards on nine carries (10.0 avg.) this season.
Leon Halip/Getty Images

The decision should be an easy one for coach Matt Nagy: If Mitch Trubisky is healthy enough to play, he should start against the Packers next Sunday night.

Not that Trubisky would be a solution to the Bears’ offensive issues, let alone a savior. At this point, he just gives the Bears the best chance to win. With pass protection breaking down since left guard James Daniels suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 4 against the Colts, Trubisky’s mobility is more valuable than Foles’ quick release.

In a better offense, that wouldn’t be the case. In a better offense, Foles’ ability to combat pressure with quick hitters would be ideal. But those opportunities are rare because the Bears’ offense just doesn’t provide productive safety-valve options often enough.

And Foles just hasn’t been good enough. He has proved the point that was made when he was signed: He can make a good offense better, but he can’t make a bad offense good. He faced tougher defenses than Trubisky did, but the Vikings were vulnerable, and he still couldn’t take advantage.

The timing is right. The Bears finish with six games against defenses that rank 15th or lower in points allowed — the Packers (15th), Lions (29th), Texans (26th), Vikings (23rd), Jaguars (31st) and Packers.

The Bears’ quarterback situation heading into the 2020 season was predicated on the offense lifting the quarterback more than the quarterback lifting the offense. And it hasn’t happened. Coaches always talk about going with the guy “who gives us the best chance to win.” Under the current circumstances — with opponents taking advantage of a weakened offensive line to take dead aim at the quarterback — it’s clearly Trubisky. It might be their last chance to salvage a once-promising season.

2. Neither quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo nor passing-game coordinator Dave Ragone was going to be lured into the Trubisky-Foles debate when they spoke with the media on Wednesday.

“I know Mitch has done a great job of trying to get back from his shoulder,’’ DeFilippo said. ‘‘He’s progressing. So we’ll leave it at that.”

Ragone, the only coach on the staff who has been with Trubisky since 2017, acknowledged Trubisky’s advantage in mobility.

“Anytime you talk about the ability of the quarterback to extend a play, in my mind, there’s a lot of advantage to that,” Ragone said. “When you look at the defense, they know when you have a quarterback that can move or is mobile and can get first downs or extend plays. The defense has to play it differently. Their rush lanes probably have to change. They can’t be aggressive due to the fact that the quarterback does leave the pocket, the coverage has to stay longer or he can hurt you on third down and get a first down.

“That doesn’t mean quarterbacks who cannot move like that can’t be effective and win Super Bowls. Obviously, that’s been proven. But there are advantages when a quarterback can move that help the offense. That’s definitely a positive [for Trubisky].”

3. Roquan Smith, emerging weekly as one of the best linebackers in the NFL, already is general manager Ryan Pace’s best first-round pick (No. 8 overall in 2018) and one of his best acquisitions in his six seasons with the Bears.

But would the Bears be better off if Pace could’ve drafted Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, who went two picks earlier to the Colts? Would the Bears be better off with Nelson at guard and Nick Kwiatkoski at linebacker — or Smith and Germain Ifedi? As a two-time All-Pro already, Nelson has had an immense impact on the Colts’ otherwise standard-issue line. The Bears need that kind of across-the-board boost on their offensive line for Nagy to have any chance here.

4. Why is that even a question? Because using the eighth overall pick to fortify a defense that already ranked ninth in scoring has helped create a disparity between offense and defense that again is at a dangerous level — and could be Pace’s undoing.

The Bears are 31st in the NFL in scoring and seventh in scoring defense — a minus-24 differential that has marked the Pace era. Last year, the differential was minus-25 (defense fourth, offense 29th). In 2017, it was minus-20 (defense ninth, offense 29th). Even in the glorious 2018 playoff season, it was minus-10 — the defense leading the league and the offense 11th when you subtracted six defensive touchdowns.

5. Remember the Broncos’ beleaguered Garett Bolles, who committed four holding penalties against the Bears in Week 2 last year — and nine holding penalties in the first seven weeks and 12 for the season? He’s now the highest-rated offensive tackle in the NFL by Pro Football Focus and getting strong Pro Bowl endorsements, including one from coach Vic Fangio.

Bolles has not allowed a sack in 619 snaps this season, according to PFF. He has been called for three holding penalties — only one in the last six games. That’s the kind of improvement the Bears need on their line. And after the Broncos declined his fifth-year option after last season, Bolles will be a free agent after this season.

6a. This week’s indictment of Nagy’s offense: The Bears are the only team in the NFL whose offense has been outscored by its defense or special teams in a game this season. And, dubiously, the Bears have been outscored by each — by the defense against the Rams (7-3) and by special teams against the Vikings (7-6).

6b. The Bears have scored 92 points on offense through three quarters this season — an average of 9.2 per game that ranks last in the NFL. It’s their lowest offensive scoring through three quarters in their first 10 games since 1994 (83) and second-lowest since 1975 (70).

7a. Former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer, who worked out for the Bears this week, already has a place in team history. He was the main victim of Khalil Mack’s legendary debut with the Bears in 2018.

After the Bears knocked Aaron Rodgers temporarily out of the Week 1 game, Mack had a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery against Kizer, then returned an interception of a Kizer pass 27 yards for a touchdown as the Bears took a 17-0 halftime lead.

7b. Believe It Or Not Dept.: When Raiders general manager Mike Mayock was NFL Network’s head draft analyst, his initial quarterback rankings in 2017 listed Kizer No. 1, ahead of Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and North Carolina’s Trubisky. Mayock adjusted it to Watson-Trubisky-Patrick Mahomes-Kizer in an April update.

8. Malik Willis Watch: The 6-1, 215-pound Liberty junior quarterback threw for 306 yards and completed 14 of 19 passes (an amazing 21.9 yards per attempt). He also rushed for 97 yards on eight carries in a 58-14 rout of previously unbeaten Western Carolina. Willis threw touchdown passes of 83, 44 and 40 yards and scored on runs of 43 and 11 yards.

Willis has thrown 15 touchdown passes with only one interception for 8-0 Liberty.

9. Josh McCown Ex-Bear of the Week: Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd had three sacks and a fumble recovery in a 23-16 victory over the Seahawks.

Floyd has as many sacks (seven) in nine games with the Rams as he had in his last 33 games with the Bears. He also has 15 quarterback hits. He had 12 in 16 games for the Bears last year.

10. Bear-ometer: 7-8-1 — at Packers (L); vs. Lions (W); vs. Texans (W); at Vikings (L); at Jaguars (T); vs. Packers (L).