Deep thoughts: How Bears’ QB Mitch Trubisky can take his game to next level

Mitch Trubisky had a breakout second season for the Bears in 2018, leading them to 12 wins and the NFC North title. It was a huge step forward for the former North Carolina star, who had an up-and-down rookie season after being selected second overall in the 2017 Draft. 

In 2017, Trubisky went 4-8 as a starter, with a passer rating of 77.5 and just 183 passing yards per game. In 2018, Trubisky made a big sophomore leap, boosting his passer rating to 95.4 and throwing for about 230 yards per game. After tossing only seven touchdown passes as a rookie, he threw for 24 in Year 2. For good measure, he rushed for 30 yards a game. 

Although Trubisky made strides last season, he still has much room for improvement. Let’s assess his greatest strengths and weaknesses:

STRENGTHS

Hot starts

Trubisky developed a tendency to hit the ground running in many of his games last season. In first quarters, he completed 73 of 100 (73.0 percent) passes for 870 yards (8.7 per attempt), five touchdowns and only one interception.

His passer rating of 111.7 in the game’s opening period ranked fifth among qualified quarterbacks, behind only Kirk Cousins (112.9), Patrick Mahomes (113.0), Jared Goff (114.2) and Deshaun Watson (125.9).

A big reason for Trubisky’s success was his ability to frequently produce big plays near the beginning of games. Trubisky ranked third in the NFL with eight 30-plus yard passing plays in the first quarter, behind only Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes (nine apiece).

In a Week 4 game at Soldier Field against the Buccaneers, Trubisky struck Tampa Bay with an early bomb. On the team’s first drive, the Bears quickly marched to Tampa Bay’s 39-yard line after five plays. That area of the field is the perfect spot to take a shot, and Trubisky took advantage. Tight end Trey Burton motions from the left of the formation to the right, drawing a safety (Justin Evans) in coverage. Burton toasts Evans with an out-and-up and is wide open for the score. Trubisky recovers after stumbling on the play fake and fires the perfect ball for the touchdown.

Running wild

Trubisky was one of the best rushing quarterbacks in the league last season. Known for his athleticism at North Carolina, he has done a lot of damage with his legs in the NFL.

In 2018, Trubisky ranked fifth among quarterbacks with 421 rushing yards. He was extremely efficient, averaging 7.7 yards per attempt when excluding kneels. That ranked second in the league among players at any position who had at least 50 rushing attempts, behind only Russell Wilson (who edges Trubisky’s average by 0.02 yards per attempt).

Not only did Trubisky pick up a lot of yardage as a rusher, but he was highly effective at moving the chains as well. He picked up 31 rushing first downs, fifth among NFL quarterbacks. Accumulating those on only 56 non-kneel rush attempts, Trubisky registered a highly impressive rushing first-down rate of 55.3 percent, best in the league among players with at least 50 rushes.

At the 2017 Draft Combine, Trubisky showcased the athleticism he has used to become one of the league’s most dangerous quarterbacks on the move. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds, an 83rd-percentile mark among quarterbacks, and posted a three-cone time of 6.87 seconds, good enough for the 85th percentile at the position.

In a Week 7 loss to the Patriots last season, Trubisky excelled with his legs, rushing for 81 yards and five first downs. One of those runs was a 39-yard pickup, his biggest rushing gain of the season. He is a remarkably good scrambler, and perhaps no play demonstrates that more so than the one seen below.

Trubisky escapes the pocket with enough burst to escape the rusher charging from behind. After picking up chunks of yardage with his speed, he dodges two tacklers with a pair of slick jukes. He then patiently works his way down the field, resembling a punt returner as he allows his teammates time to enter the play and make key blocks. With the help of tremendous blocking from his skill-position players (Jordan Howard and Trey Burton in particular), Trubisky rumbles all the way to the one-yard line.

WEAKNESSES

Consistency with the deep ball

Trubisky was one of the NFL’s more aggressive deep-ball throwers last season. Of his 434 pass attempts, 73 traveled at least 20 yards downfield, a rate of 16.8 percent that ranked second among qualified quarterbacks, behind only Josh Allen (19.7 percent).

However, despite going to the downfield game often, Trubisky struggled to produce consistently on deep throws. His adjusted completion percentage (accounting for drops) of 37.0 percent on 20-plus yard attempts ranked 25th of the 35 quarterbacks with at least 200 dropbacks.

Turnovers were also an issue. Trubisky threw six interceptions on deep throws, tied for the third most in the league. His deep passer rating of 81.7 ranked 21st among qualifiers.

From a statistical standpoint, Trubisky’s worst game of the season came in a Week 14 home win over the Rams on “Sunday Night Football.” With the temperature 29 degrees in Chicago (the coldest Bears game of the season), Trubisky completed 16 of 30 passes for 110 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He posted a passer rating of 33.3 and averaged a career-low 3.7 yards per attempt.

One of Trubisky’s biggest issues in that game was his deep throwing. His longest completed pass traveled only 13 yards downfield -– it was his only completion of the game thrown beyond 10 yards.

Trubisky attempted only three 20-plus yard throws in the game, with all three falling incomplete. The first of those three incomplete attempts was the following play, in which Trubisky overthrew Josh Bellamy for his first of three interceptions in the game.

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/deep_thoughts_how_bears_qb_mitch_trubisky_can_take_his_game_to_next_level/s1_13132_29799431

By: Michael Nania

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