Be not afraid: Bears will be better off if they let their rookies play
PODCAST IN PRINT: The Chicago Sun-Times’ Adam L. Jahns and WGN Radio’s Adam Hoge have co-hosted a Bears podcast since the 2015 season. The “Hoge & Jahns Podcast” can be found on chicago.suntimes.com and wgnradio.com. It’s also available on the WGN Radio app, iTunes and the TuneIn app.
Adam L. Jahns: When quarterback Mitch Trubisky took the field with 1:31 left against the Lions, he did so without two of the Bears’ best offensive players — running back Tarik Cohen and tight end Adam Shaheen. Coach John Fox essentially said they weren’t ready for that pressure-packed situation because they’re rookies playing with a rookie signal-caller. That’s a poor excuse. Are the Bears really that afraid to play their rookies? It’s an important question to consider when looking back and ahead.
Adam Hoge: Cohen admitted after the game that he doesn’t know the plays in the two-minute package. My question: Why not? Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains keep telling us how smart Cohen is, so it’s not a matter of him struggling to pick it up. It’s simply Fox choosing not to include him in the package. That’s mind-boggling. The Bears moved the ball effectively for most of the game with Cohen on the field, then kept him off it for their most important drive. You’re 3-7 now. Your best players have to be on the field, especially if they’re rookies.
Jahns: It’s on the coaches to prepare the rookies. It’s Week 12. Players reported to training camp exactly four months ago Sunday. But it’s on Fox to give the rookies those opportunities. He needs to trust them. Just look at Trubisky. Fox’s conservative approach is unraveling because they need Trubisky to do more. The same applies to Cohen. He has been part of the offense since Week 1. If you have enough time to install trick plays with him, there should be time to go over routes and blocking responsibilities for your two-minute package.
Hoge: It was odd that Daniel Brown was used in the two-minute package over Shaheen, too. Technically, Brown is a “veteran,” but Shaheen was actually playing more than Brown earlier this season when Zach Miller and Dion Sims were healthy. Fox apparently made a conscious decision to install Brown in the two-minute package over Shaheen — even though Shaheen has proved to be a red-zone target. This might be the most damning example of Fox not trusting his rookies in key situations.
Jahns: The Bears surely will point to concerns in pass protection for both players. But watch Trubisky’s near-interception on that drive. Veteran running back Benny Cunningham chipped the defensive end. Meanwhile, defensive back Teez Tabor blitzed and had a free run at Trubisky, who rushed his throw to wide receiver Dontrelle Inman and was nearly intercepted by cornerback Darius Slay. Cunningham didn’t stay in the backfield to block every play, either. As for Shaheen, he’s a prototypical in-line tight end; Brown isn’t. But Shaheen was in the process of a big game as a pass-catcher. Brown didn’t block once in 10 snaps on that drive.
Hoge: That’s the second consecutive week Cunningham had an issue identifying a blitz. One of the sacks against the Packers was on him. That said, Cohen didn’t even need to be in the backfield. Just get him on the field. Guard Josh Sitton said Monday that he has never seen coverages roll to a running back the way they do with Cohen.
Jahns: Preparing rookies can be a long process. Two-minute situations can be complex, too. But there are ways to simplify things. And again, it’s Week 12. It’s disappointing Cohen and Shaheen weren’t ready, especially considering Trubisky was in similar situations in four of his first five starts. At this point, Cohen and Shaheen should be on the field learning with Trubisky. They should see themselves on film together. They should grow together. They’re the future. They need to play.
Follow Jahns and Hoge on Twitter @adamjahns and @adamhoge.