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‘Keep your eye on him’ — How speedy Mitch Trubisky aids Bears run game

Maybe the Vikings will think twice.

Maybe when Mitch Trubisky hands off right to Jordan Howard on Monday night, the weak-side defensive end will stay home, for just a second, to make sure the rookie quarterback isn’t keeping the ball on play-action.

Perhaps the defense will respect the Bears’ receivers a bit more now that Mike Glennon, who was second-to-last in the NFL in attempted yards through the air, is sitting on the bench.

Or maybe they’ll have to be careful on a read-option handoff to Tarik Cohen, fearful the quarterback chosen No. 2 overall will tuck the ball and run himself.

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky hands off to running back Benny Cunningham. (AP)

“What we’ll be able to do is just show that there is a threat there,” guard Kyle Long said. “So keep your eye on him.”

Trubisky will energize the running attack as much as the passing game when he makes his much-anticipated NFL debut at Soldier Field. His speed — Trubisky’s 4.67-second 40-yard dash was fourth-fastest among quarterbacks at the scouting combine — and ability to throw accurately on the run will change the Bears’ offense.

“The keeper game is going to be real big,” said Cohen, who had only six carries for 24 yards against the Packers. “In the preseason, we ran a couple of those … just to keep the backside [defensive] end honest.”

The Packers were so unimpressed by Glennon in Week 4 that they put eight defenders in the box for two-thirds of Howard’s snaps, convinced the running back was getting the ball and content to take their chances if he didn’t.

On the season, Howard has run for 252 yards on 63 carries while facing eight or more men in the box 38.1 percent of the time, per NFL NextGen Stats.

Trubisky should change the -calculus.

“They’re definitely going to have to honor that because he has the ability to get outside the pocket and throw the ball,” Howard said. “And he can also run it, so they’re going to have to keep contain of that.”

The Bears gave Glennon a lot of responsibility before the snap, allowing the veteran to check into the right running plays depending on what the defense showed him.

“That’s not going to be what Mitchell does early,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “But the threat of the other things — the zone-reads and the naked [bootlegs] and the boots and the sprint-outs and all those other things definitely can help and affect the run game in a different way.”

There are other reasons to project that the Bears, who rank seventh in the NFL with 4.6 yards per run even after averaging 3.4 against the Packers, will be even better on the ground Monday.

Howard said the extra time off “did wonders” for the right shoulder he hurt in the opener. It should be pain-free in a few weeks. He’ll benefit from running behind the original offensive line starting for the second straight week.

“The more games they play together,” Howard said, “they better they work off each other.”

Last year, Howard averaged a whopping 5.9 yards per carry against the Vikings, carrying 49 times for 288 yards over two games.

“We know they’re going to be out after us this year because we ran the ball with a lot of success last year,” Howard said. “So they’re going to try to take that away from us.”

Other teams have said — and done — the same.

But coach John Fox pointed to the overtime win against the Steelers, when everyone inside Soldier Field knew the Bears were going to run in the extra frame. The Bears were successful anyway.

“We had four runs for a touchdown,” he said. “So I don’t think it was mystery. But it’s about -executing and our guys making plays. That’s usually the difference in the games.”

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or the second-straight week.

“The more games they play together,” Howard said, “they better they work off each other.”

Last year, Howard averaged a whopping 5.9 yards per carry against the Vikings, carrying 49 times for 288 yards over two games.

“We know they’re definitely going to be out after us this year because we ran the ball with a lot of success last year,” Howard said. “So they’re definitely going to try to take that away from us.”

Other teams have said — and done — the same.

But coach John Fox pointed to overtime win against the Steelers, when everyone inside Soldier Field knew the Bears were going to run in the extra frame. The Bears were successful anyway.

“We had four runs for a touchdown,” he said. “So, I don’t think it was mystery. But it’s about executing and our guys making plays. That’s usually the difference in the games.”

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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