Man on the move: What Mitch Trubisky can provide the Bears’ receivers
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When Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shook off would-be sackers and scrambled, receiver Markus Wheaton took off down the field.
‘‘Big Ben’’ wanted the ‘‘big ball,’’ Wheaton explained.
‘‘You don’t see too often where we’re coming back down to get a ball,’’ said Wheaton, who spent his first four seasons with the Steelers. ‘‘He has a huge arm, and he loves to the throw the deep ball. So when he did scramble, we went deep.’’
The best quarterbacks are able to buy time for themselves and their offenses. It’s why Wheaton and the Bears’ other receivers are excited about rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s first start Monday against the Vikings.
Bears players never will disparage former starter Mike Glennon. He’s too good a teammate for them to do that. He’s still too liked in the locker room.
But everyone knows Trubisky changes the complexion of the offense because of his athleticism and mobility. Those traits will help the receivers nearly as much his accuracy and anticipation.
Trubisky’s scrambling ability adds a new dimension to the offense. Glennon never was a threat to run.
‘‘Once [Trubisky] starts to scramble, a whole new play begins,’’ Wheaton said. ‘‘It essentially turns into two plays rather than one. That just opens up more opportunities.
‘‘Instead of, if something’s not there, [he’s] throwing it away or getting sacked, now he can scramble and another play begins. It’s just more opportunity for everybody.’’
The opportunities are a learning experience, too. Wheaton knew what Roethlisberger liked to do. Time will tell what works best for Trubisky.
‘‘Exactly,’’ Wheaton said. ‘‘With Mitch, it’s more about getting open. If he’s rolling right, roll with him. If you’re deep, come down. If you’re down, find a hole deep. Basic scramble rules.’’
Overall, Trubisky’s athleticism opens the door for more. Not only can the Bears call more play-action bootlegs and sprint-outs, but those plays also can be executed more quickly. All of it helps receivers gain separation.
Despite Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen running successfully behind a capable offensive line, the Bears struggled on play-action plays with Glennon.
According to Pro Football Focus’ analysis, the Bears ran play-action plays on 12.8 percent of their drop-backs for Glennon. That was the third-lowest rate among all quarterbacks after four weeks.
On 19 play-action drop-backs, Glennon completed 9 of 16 passes for 67 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also was sacked three times.
Play-fakes seemed to complicate matters for the offense. According to PFF, Glennon was pressured on 47.4 percent of his play-action drop-backs, compared with 36.2 percent on other pass plays.
Trubisky’s athleticism, though, should help what’s ailing the Bears on play-action. In the preseason, Trubisky completed 9 of 10 passes for 113 yards and touchdown on play-action.
‘‘Typically, when [quarterbacks] are moving, the play can develop longer,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. ‘‘So it gives [receivers] a chance to get open with unorthodox routes.’’
And then the Vikings have to account for Trubisky as a scrambler.
‘‘[A receiver] runs an out, and then he sees the quarterback scrambling,’’ Zimmer said. ‘‘[The receiver] heads to the post or comes back to the football or runs back to the inside to where the quarterback is scrambling. So, yeah, it makes it more difficult for the defense.’’
The Bears know that, though they’re trying their best not to say it right now.
‘‘At a point, definitely, his athletic ability will go into the game plan,’’ offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. ‘‘Each week, it will continue to grow as we get to know him a little bit better and how he fits with his teammates. We’re going to let him use his ability.’’
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.