Great expectations: What’s next for QB Mitch Trubisky this season?
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Fox NFL analyst Chris Spielman had more to analyze than his predecessors.
Then again, Spielman knows that Bears rookie Mitch Trubisky’s 32 passes and 53 rushing yards against the Saints in Week 8 were a small sample size from a limited body of work.
“All the tools are there,” said Spielman, a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Lions in the late 1980s and ’90s. “The presence, the demeanor, everything you want is there.
“What has to be there for everybody else is patience, and that’s a tough word for fans to swallow and sometimes players.”
That said, here’s a look at what to expect from Trubisky in the last eight weeks of the season:
More balance (hopefully)
The Bears’ offense mystifies Matt Hasselbeck, a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Seahawks who is now an ESPN analyst. He can’t believe offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is running the ball this much.
“I’m a big believer in what Dowell Loggains does as a play-caller and as an offensive coordinator,” said Hasselbeck, who spent two seasons with Loggains with the Titans. “To see him running the ball as much as he is, it’s almost confusing to me because I know what he is.
“He’s a little bit of a Jedi master/ninja warrior drawing up pass plays and even pass protection. He’s really good at that. But to see him running the ball like this is pretty surprising but also pretty good.”
The Bears’ pass-run ratio shifted with their change at quarterback. In the first four weeks, Mike Glennon attempted 140 passes, while running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen totaled 93 carries.
In Trubisky’s four starts, he has thrown 80 passes, and Howard and Cohen have combined for 123 carries.
“I don’t think this team is ready to play normal football,” Hasselbeck said. “I think they have to play that John Fox style of where we’re going to do things that no one else is doing. And that’s how we’re going to win football games.”
But the Bears’ offense should “normalize” as the season goes on. Loggains already has said that he wants to be more balanced.
Trubisky’s first four games were against some of the best pass defenses. As of Monday, the Ravens ranked third, the Panthers sixth, the Vikings seventh and the Saints 12th.
He should be allowed to grow and throw against lesser competition in the last eight games.
“It’s sometimes how you coach a young quarterback: ‘Hey, just run the ball, don’t turn the ball over and we win,’ ” Hasselbeck said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily always true. At some point, the quarterback has to play really good football. [Trubisky is] capable of doing it.”
Better reads, throws
An expanded passing game means Trubisky must get better at going through his progressions and reacting decisively.
Spielman said Cohen’s six-yard reception for a first down against the Saints was encouraging.
“[Trubisky’s] first option wasn’t there, his second option wasn’t there, then he swung out right to Cohen in the flat right away,” Spielman said. “That was great.”
Trubisky found Cohen, his check-down, before pressure put him on the ground.
“That was a sign of growth,” Spielman said.
So were Trubisky’s decisions not to force throws against the Ravens and Panthers.
“He probably gets a plus on his grade sheet on Monday morning when he throws the ball into the third row of the stands after he goes through his progressions,” Hasselbeck said. “That’s a way of teaching him.”
Another example is Trubisky’s 46-yard run against the Saints. He beat an all-out blitz by quickly identifying it and running through vacated spaces.
“It affects defensive coordinators on what you call,” Spielman said.
During production meetings for the Saints game, Spielman said he asked Trubisky about the biggest physical challenges he has experienced. Trubisky discussed learning what “open” means in the NFL.
“In the NFL, you have to throw guys open,” Spielman said. “For guys, ‘open’ in the NFL is a big difference. That’s probably the biggest thing that quarterbacks have to adjust to — spot throwing, on time, on rhythm and trusting that the guy is going to run his route at 12 yards, not at 10.”
It’s also important to understand that Trubisky’s starting experience consists of only four weeks. He didn’t compete for Glennon’s job in training camp. Glennon also handled all the starter’s work in the first four weeks.
“Take that into account,” Bears third-string quarterback Mark Sanchez said. “It’s just different when you approach the season and everybody knows you’re the starter as a rookie or, ‘Hey, by the way, Week 5, let’s go.’ ”
Life without Miller
In Spielman’s opinion, tight end Zach Miller caught a touchdown pass against the Saints.
“I said it was a touchdown the whole time,” Spielman said. “In the NFL, you’ve got to be able to trust your guys to go get the 50/50 [passes], and he trusted Zach to go get the 50/50.”
But now what? Miller is out with a dislocated knee. Spielman viewed Miller as Trubisky’s “most trusted target.”
At one point during the broadcast of the Saints game, Spielman circled every Bears receiving option to illustrate how players weren’t getting open.
“They could use some help at wide receiver,” Spielman said. “And that would help [Trubisky] grow, too. Obviously, losing Zach the other day isn’t going to help anybody.”
Pity parties don’t exist in the NFL, though.
“They don’t have the talent around this guy that other quarterbacks have,” Hasselbeck said. “At the same time, no one cares about that. You’re the second overall pick; we expect you to rise above and make the people around you better.”
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.