The Panthers’ Cam Newton, last year’s rushing leader among NFL quarterbacks, averaged 47.1 yards per game.
In coach Matt Nagy’s system, Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky can do better.
“I can see him getting 40 to 60 yards per game,” right tackle Bobby Massie said Wednesday. “You’re definitely going to see his athleticism.”
Trubisky has the straight-line speed. The last three years, only five quarterbacks had a faster 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine than his 4.67-second run. In an offense that didn’t prioritize his running skills last year, Trubisky was still dangerous. Among all quarterbacks with more than 10 runs, he ranked fifth with 6.05 yards per attempt. His 20.7 yards per game ranked 12th.
Even during the team’s mandatory minicamp this week — where the defense isn’t allowed to touch him — Trubisky’s explosiveness has stood out.
“He’s got the jukes, whatever you wanna call it, the shakes,” backup quarterback Tyler Bray said.
None of it will matter unless he makes the right decisions. On read-option plays, Trubisky must read the direction of the opposing edge rusher and decide whether to hand the ball to a running back or keep it himself.
If he does the latter, Nagy has two words of advice.
“Get down,” he said.
Coaches already have stressed that Trubisky needs to be smart when he runs during the season. Trubisky wants to be aggressive, but he needs to know when to slide.
“Know when these next three yards aren’t worth it,” Trubisky said. “Let me get out of bounds, know when to get out of bounds. It’s all about playing with that line and just being a natural ballcarrier. And do what I’ve got to do for this offense.”
Nagy isn’t afraid to let his quarterback run. Alex Smith totaled 355 yards last year, sixth among quarterbacks, with Nagy as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator.
“It is a part of what we do,” Nagy said. “[Trubisky] did that at North Carolina. But, in all honesty, he does need to be smart with that. That’s one thing you see in college: There are some more running quarterbacks, but they are more running back-type players. That’s not the case here.
“We need Mitch. We want Mitch, and we want him to be smart. But we also want to use his legs.”
Nagy is incorporating wrinkles into his offense, helped by offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. Alongside Chip Kelly, Helfrich helped to revolutionize college football with Oregon’s “Blur” offense, which featured the constant threat of quarterback keepers on read-option plays.
Tight end Trey Burton, who played for Kelly as a member of the Eagles, sees some of those concepts seeping into the Bears’ playbook. A good running quarterback doesn’t have to be fast, he said — short of Michael Vick, none of Kelly’s Eagles quarterbacks was — but he does have to be intelligent.
“You need to be able to make good decisions and quick decisions, and that’s one thing Mitch has been able to show,” Burton said. “Just having a guy that’s at least a threat to run adds that other component to the offense, especially when you’ve got great running backs and really good skill-position players, as well.”
Trubisky’s speed makes him more dangerous than your average threat.
“Really athletic, quick feet, knows how to avoid contact,” Burton said. “Really excited to see, when everything’s live, how he reacts.”
The Bears can’t wait.
“The kid is very athletic,” Nagy said. “And we’d be crazy to not use his legs.”