A look at the process of developing QB Mitch Trubisky
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Adam L. Jahns’ “Inside the Huddle” column appears in game-day editions of the Chicago Sun-Times.
When coordinator Dowell Loggains detailed the Bears’ offensive game plan for the Panthers, rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky immediately noticed the differences.
‘‘Well, it’s a different defense,’’ Loggains said he told Trubisky. ‘‘Baltimore is not Carolina, and Minnesota wasn’t those two [defenses].
‘‘Everything is different. They have a different blitz package. They have a different set of strengths. We can’t let their strengths beat us, and sometimes that dictates how you game-plan.’’
So it goes in the NFL.
The Bears might be a run-first team under coach John Fox, but they’re also a game plan-based offense. It’s how Loggains operates, and the same was true of former coordinator Adam Gase in 2015.
Loggains won’t reveal the changes in the game plan for the Panthers, but Trubisky is being challenged every week. His development is based not only on what he can do successfully but also on what the Bears think their offense can accomplish in a given week.
‘‘We just stretch [Trubisky] as much as we can every week because we learn a little bit more about him,’’ Loggains said. ‘‘Where it’s different from some other guys — [the Browns’] DeShone Kizer and [the Texans’] Deshaun Watson — those guys were competing for a starting job. Mitchell wasn’t. Mitchell was taking reps with the threes. Mitchell went four weeks without taking a snap with the ones [when Mike Glennon was the starting quarterback]. Not taking a snap with our offense for four straight weeks, [it’s] hard.’’
Loggains and his staff have an idea of what Trubisky excels at and what he prefers to do, of course, but there still is a prove-it factor.
Trubisky, though, continues to impress his coaches. He’s not overwhelmed by the information they give him or the situations he’s experiencing for the first time at this level.
‘‘When you really stop and think about it, it’s like, ‘Wow,’ ’’ Loggains said. ‘‘And that’s probably why he took the jump from Week 1 to Week 2 [Vikings to Ravens], and hopefully he keeps getting better and better.’’
Loggains pointed to Trubisky’s ability to handle everything he faced against the Ravens. He adjusted to the changes to the game plan and managed to have success in an environment that can confound even experienced quarterbacks.
‘‘It was the first time ever to see him in a hostile atmosphere on a silent cadence,’’ Loggains said. ‘‘That overtime, it was rocking. It was loud. That’s the first time he’d ever done that in his career. He hadn’t played in that kind of atmosphere in the NFL.
‘‘We’re learning [about] him, and each week will be different. We’ll keep growing what he does and what he feels good about.’’
The Bears still will protect Trubisky. That includes installing what Loggains called ‘‘college-y’’ plays for him.
Against the Ravens, it also meant running a no-huddle offense on third downs in an effort to influence matchups, to limit Trubisky’s pre-snap responsibilities and to enhance his comfort level through speed.
Loggains also will remain on the sideline after calling plays last season from the press box. He wants to be able to interact directly with Trubisky.
‘‘How games are called and how Mitchell is seeing the game, those are challenges that we got to talk to him about on the sideline and adjust,’’ Loggains said. ‘‘That’s probably the reason why I’m on the field this year.’’
In a sense, the Bears are trying to grow their offense as Trubisky grows. It’s a meticulous process that’s affected by those around him, too.
For example, the Bears now are relying on receivers Tanner Gentry and Tre McBride. Neither was on the active roster two weeks ago. It’s not that the Bears don’t believe in them; it’s that they’re young, inexperienced players, too.
‘‘Now they’re starting for us,’’ Loggains said. ‘‘And we’ve got to figure those things out. Everything goes back to how it affects the quarterback. There are some things that we would love to do more that we just can’t right now. It’s making sure that we don’t put a bad play in, understanding how it fits the other 10 guys, as well as Mitchell. That’s a challenge.’’
In time, though, Trubisky is expected to be a player who challenges opponents to stop him.
‘‘It’s just growing in this process,’’ Loggains said. ‘‘Each week is going be huge for us.’’
@LukeSErickson54: Do you believe the Bears will make any changes with how they use Tarik Cohen? So far we have only seen stretch (runs) and screens.
A: Well, we’ve seen him throw a touchdown pass, run the option out of the wildcat and line up in the slot and outside as a receiver. I would say he’s handled a lot in his first season coming out of North Carolina A&T. At times, he’s used as a decoy. Defenses have keyed on him since his breakout start. In the past three weeks, he has 26 carries for 69 yards and six catches for 37 yards. My feeling is that he’ll produce more once he becomes a more patient runner and allows holes to develop for him. But it also will help if other threats are established on offense. Right now, the Bears don’t have many for defenses to respect on every snap.
@OmarTvMusica: Besides the special-teams blunder, Marcus Cooper played well at corner. If he returns, does he get his starting job back?
A: Almost. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio indicated Cooper would play more this week after his back injury limited him against the Ravens. But Cooper’s playing time is now subject to matchups and a rotation. Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara are playing well. And, like you said, Cooper was, too, before his injury. We’ll see this week if Fangio thinks a rotation is best. At 6-2, Cooper might be the Bears’ best matchup against Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who is a force at 6-5.
Veteran Kendall Wright leads all Bears receivers with 20 catches for 236 yards and a touchdown this season. But he never has led the receivers in snaps in any week.
Against the Ravens, undrafted rookie Tanner Gentry was on the field for 76 of the Bears’ 80 offensive plays. Wright officially played 25 snaps.
The closest Wright has come to leading the receivers in playing time was in Week 2 against the Buccaneers, when he had 55 snaps. Josh Bellamy got 59.
Deonte Thompson, who was cut last week, led the receivers in snaps against the Packers and Steelers.
‘‘It’s by design,’’ offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. ‘‘Kendall’s been part of the passing game, even when we throw 17 passes.’’
Loggains said he learned from their time together with the Titans that Wright is at his best when he is used in certain ways and at certain points in the game.
With Loggains as his coordinator, Wright had 95 catches for 1,079 yards for the Titans in 2013.
‘‘He’s a guy, in my opinion, who’s better when he doesn’t play 75 snaps, when he gets to play in that 25-to-35 range,’’ Loggains said. ‘‘He’s fresh and can bring the energy and juice, like he did the last third down [in overtime against the Ravens].’’
Packing a punch
Rookie safety Eddie Jackson’s range and ball skills have resulted in pass breakups in three consecutive weeks. But the sign of his development has been his tackling.
Jackson’s tackling ability and physicality were predraft concerns — ones to which he took exception. Jackson, a fourth-round pick, has made a concerted effort to attack ball carriers and strike with force early this season.
Nickel back Bryce Callahan’s interception against the Ravens is an example of what that force can provide. Jackson struck receiver Breshad Perriman on his catch attempt. Callahan then dived to catch the deflected pass.
‘‘[Jackson is] definitely attempting to be a good tackler out there for us,’’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. ‘‘That’s what we want.’’