Mitch matters: How Trubisky can improve, even if Bears’ year might not
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Rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky matters, regardless of how dark the season grows.
Trubisky’s development in the last seven games probably won’t save the Bears’ season, but it might make their head-coaching job more attractive at the end of it. Success would help justify general manager Ryan Pace’s draft-night trade for Trubisky, too, though Pace’s future with the team isn’t nearly as much in doubt as that of coach John Fox.
Here’s where the Bears will look for growth in Trubisky on Sunday against the Lions:
Give him the boot
The Bears have a cardinal rule: You can’t take sacks on bootlegs.
Yet as Trubisky pulled the ball away from an I-formation fake and sprinted left Sunday against the Packers, he didn’t throw the ball to receiver Josh Bellamy, who was running an underneath route 10 yards in front of him. Except for cornerback Davon House, who was covering receiver Dontrelle Inman down the left sideline, the nearest Packers defender in front of Bellamy was 20 yards up the field.
Trubisky, who struggled to square his hips to Bellamy as he rolled left, didn’t throw to Bellamy. More damning, he didn’t throw the ball away,
either. Linebacker Nick Perry tackled him for one of the season-high five sacks Trubisky suffered.
‘‘He’s just gotta keep playing,’’ offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. ‘‘When you go back and look at it, Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith took a lot of sacks early in their career. That’s part of what we’re going through right now with Mitchell, and he is playing now.’’
Smith had a 14.9 sack percentage as a rookie, and Rodgers had an 8.5 sack percentage in his second season. Trubisky’s sack percentage is at 12.2 through five games.
Loggains praised Trubisky’s lack of turnovers and denied his aggressiveness has been coached out of him.
‘‘I don’t think he’s too tentative,’’ he said.
In the second quarter, Packers safety Josh Jones sprinted away from the line of scrimmage and into a cover-2 scheme before the snap. The Bears’ plan to go deep was scuttled, but running back Jordan Howard was open 10 yards in front of Trubisky on a check-down. Trubisky took the sack.
‘‘This is a new offense,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘I was in North Carolina’s offense for four years. Knew it like the back of my hand and could probably throw a check-down without even looking.
‘‘We’re putting in new plays every week now, so it’s a little different. In my development, I’ll have to memorize where everything’s at. I’m getting better with that each week.’’
The key, Loggains said, is to be patient.
‘‘Understand, ‘Let the play develop; Jordan’s going to be right over the ball for you,’ ’’ Loggains said. ‘‘And understand the timing of each play.’’
Before tight end Zach Miller — a former college quarterback — dislocated his knee, he would recognize illegal formations before the ball was snapped, giving the Bears a chance to fix them and avoid a flag. In their first game without Miller, they were whistled for one illegal formation and one illegal shift.
‘‘Zach’s going to stop the play,’’ Loggains said. ‘‘Mitchell’s not at the point in his career where he can do that.’’
The Bears like Trubisky’s demeanor in the huddle, but they want it to extend to the line of scrimmage.
‘‘When I’m in the huddle, it is my huddle,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘I mean, that’s how it needs to operate. And that’s how we need to be more
efficient. . . . Just need to direct traffic, get everyone lined up and make sure everything is crisp, so that everyone is on the same page.’’
That will improve with experience, even if that’s all the Bears’ last seven games are good for.
‘‘The more snaps, the more reps you take, the better you get,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘And I get.’’
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.