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

32 things we learned heading into divisional round of 2018 NFL playoffs

The 32 things we learned heading into the 2018 NFL playoff divisional round:

1. If it seemed the wild-card round was chock full of fresh faces and teams, well, it was. None of the eight clubs competing in the opening round was in action for last season’s wild-card games, and only the Eagles (a No. 1 seed with a bye in 2017) even reached the playoff field a year ago.

1a. But you’ll see largely familiar characters in the divisional round with Philadelphia returning along with the four teams on bye — the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams and Saints, all postseason entries last year, too.

1b. The last team to advance to the Super Bowl after playing on wild-card weekend was the 2012 Ravens, who won Super Bowl XLVII. The next 10 conference champs have all had first-round byes.

2. Gen X-er Philip Rivers, 37, has to be the sentimental favorite to win it all, right? No quarterback in league history has thrown for more yards (54,656) or more touchdowns (374) yet never played on Super Sunday.

2a. And how great (and entertaining) would it be to see Rivers’ Chargers take on the Saints … and former Bolts QB Drew Brees, who kept Philly Riv on the bench for two years?

3. But if you’re into unminted Millennial passers, Patrick Mahomes (23), Jared Goff (24), Dak Prescott (25) and, most certainly, Andrew Luck (29) could ride great story lines all the way to Atlanta, site of Super Bowl LIII.

4. Three quarterbacks made their playoff debuts during wild-card weekend. Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson and Mitchell Trubisky all lost.

5. Welp, Matt Nagy, guess you shoulda laid down for the Vikings in Week 17 rather than invite a matchup with the Iggles and your old buddy Doug Pederson.

6. Did anyone else want Eagles-Bears go into overtime (maybe double OT) just to see how NBC would handle its Golden Globes coverage, which began minutes after Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth wrapped?

7. Rough night for Chicago’s Cody Parkey, whose would-be, game-winning field goal attempt from 43 yards hit the upright then the crossbar before caroming into the end zone. No good. Parkey drilled the Soldier Field uprights four times Nov. 1. Uncanny.

8. But if I’ve learned anything this season, it’s that Parkey is about to get a flood of support from kickers throughout the league as he copes with this unfortunate bounce. Bounces.

9. Nick Foles was picked off twice in Sunday’s win over the Bears. The last time he threw multiple INTs in an Eagles uniform, Oct. 26, 2014, Chip Kelly was their coach and Foles had yet to play for the Rams or Chiefs.

9a. The last time Philadelphia played the Saints in postseason, the 2013 wild-card round, Foles was also the quarterback (in a losing effort) — Kelly’s only NFL playoff appearance.

10. Congrats to Eagles WR Golden Tate, who scored the game-winning TD at Chicago, instantly justifying the scrutinized trade deadline deal for him — which cost Philly a third-round pick that appeared awfully expensive given the struggles to integrate Tate into the offense.

10a. Congrats to Eagles LT Jason Peters, RB/KR Darren Sproles and LB Jordan Hicks, who all missed the 2017 Super Bowl run with injuries but tasted a playoff victory Sunday.

10b. Feel for you, Wentz.

11. Was wild-card weekend’s MVP Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley? His unit was on the short end of a 22-10 loss to Baltimore two weeks ago. Sunday, it showed the rest of the league how to contain Jackson — essentially deploying a defense comprised of linemen and defensive backs to shadow, flummox and confuse the rookie.

12. Jackson, who turns 22 on Monday, became the youngest quarterback to start a playoff game in NFL history. He looked like it. Make no mistake, the Ravens don’t win the AFC North without Jackson’s heroics in the second half of the season, when he went 6-1 as the starter. But Bradley and the Bolts provided a blueprint to stopping him and a fresh reminder that, though Jackson remains an elite athlete and highly effective with the ball in open space, he’s got a long, long way to go to be a fully-formed pro quarterback. He was sacked seven times, picked off once and fumbled thrice, losing the ball on his team’s final possession.

13. Who figured on Chargers rookie K Mike Badgley outperforming Ravens all-pro Justin Tucker? Badgley set a Bolts’ postseason record with five made field goals, while Tucker was 1-for-2 on three-point tries. Tucker missed five FGs this season, three against L.A.

14. Who figured on Chargers FB Derek Watt making a longer playoff run this season than brothers J.J. and T.J.?

15. The Chargers haven’t beaten Tom Brady since 2005. Rivers is 0-7 head-to-head against TB12, including two losses in postseason.

15a. But Sunday, the Chargers became the only team in the league to win eight times on the road this season. A visit to Foxborough, daunting as it is, won’t phase them.

16. The last time Rivers appeared in a playoff game at Gillette Stadium, the 2007 AFC Championship Game, he played on a torn ACL.

17. Baltimore’s second-ranked run game, which had averaged nearly 230 yards in Jackson’s seven regular-season starts, was limited to 90.

Full List Here

By: Nate Davis

 

Preseason Grade’s For Top Rookies

Written by Steven Ruiz at FTW.com

The first week of preseason gave us our first look at the 2017 NFL draft class. All but nine of the first 32 picks saw action over the weekend. We’ve gone and graded the performance of the 23 first-round picks who did see the field…

1. Myles Garrett, DE Browns

Grade: B+

Analysis: Garrett did his best work as a run defender, though he did manage to put pressure on the quarterback on a few occasions despite not registering a sack. He made a few effort plays as well, which should silence the critics who have questioned his work ethic — at least for now.

2. Mitchell Trubisky, QB Bears

Grade: A-

Analysis: Bears fans are excited about their new quarterback and rightfully so after a good debut. Trubisky didn’t face a whole lot of pressure but made a number of difficult throws on the run.

3. Solomon Thomas, DE 49ers

Grade: A

Analysis: Thomas may not have recorded a sack against the Chiefs, but he was all over the field. He put pressure on the quarterback, stuffed Chiefs backs in the running game and showed off his relentless motor throughout the game.

4. Leonard Fournette, RB Jaguars

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Jaguars line did not open up a lot of holes for the rookie back, but the LSU product still managed to pick up consistent yardage. He always fell forward when tackled and capped off the opening drive with a walk-in touchdown.

5. Corey Davis, WR Titans

Grade: N/A

Analysis: Davis missed the Titans’ opener with a hamstring injury. He is “week-to-week” according to coach Mike Mularkey.

6. Jamal Adams, S Jets

Grade: B-

Analysis: Adams did not play a whole lot of snaps, but we saw his versatility. He lined up at several different spots against the Titans.

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