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The Infantry: Recapping Bears rookie and sophomore performances from Week 11

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Although the Bears lost, it was a good showing for a handful of their young players.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
Mitch Trubisky had a very solid outing, but his Bears were unable to pull away with the win.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Although Sunday’s matchup against the Detroit Lions ended up in a loss for the Chicago Bears, it also showcased what the future could hold for the franchise.

This starts with Mitch Trubisky, who had an all-around solid performance. He finished the day going 18-for-30 with 179 passing yards and a touchdown. He was also only sacked once, which is the lowest amount since his debut in Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings. With this relatively clean pocket, the rookie was able to make a lot of good plays.

This fantastic compilation made by Bears fan Flo Ottis displays all of Trubisky’s completed passes and runs.

He looked calm and collected in the pocket, and he looked impressive (as always) on designed bootleg plays. His ability to throw accurately on the run has bailed him out of a few bad situations this season, and it will continue to do so in the coming years.

This week, we also got to see Trubisky’s running ability on full display. He finished the game with 53 rushing yards on six carries. His most important run was this last-minute scramble that kept Chicago’s hopes alive before Connor Barth came and destroyed them all.

This run displays a lot of Trubisky’s talents in a nutshell. He went through his progressions well, and when he saw that none of his receivers were open, he scrambled in the pocket to try and extend the play. Noticing that the middle of the field was completely wide open, he decided to tuck the ball into his arm and run for it. He made Miles Killebrew miss in the open field and flipped the field position for the Bears.

One of Trubisky’s main targets on Sunday was fellow rookie Adam Shaheen, who had the best game of his career. He hauled in all four of his targets, catching four balls for 41 yards and a touchdown. He was impressive in all aspects of the game, as he was a threat as a receiver and as a blocker. His touchdown, a one-yard pass from Trubisky, proved that he can be a viable red-zone threat if need be.

Shaheen was so impressive, in fact, that PFF rated him as the best tight end in the league in Week 11.

I stated in my notes that the Bears should continue to start him, even when Dion Sims comes back. The second-rounder has been playing very well in the veteran’s absence, and is showing flashes of becoming a dominant tight end in the near future.

Chicago’s young running back duo both had impressive games for the first time in quite a while. Jordan Howard ended up with 125 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, while Tarik Cohen added 44 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. He also caught four passes for 15 yards.

Howard’s biggest run was a 50-yard gain which I also discussed in my notes. For those of you who missed it, watch him run right up the B gap and explode for a huge gain below.

He ran all over a Detroit defense which seemingly had no answer for the Bears’ running game.

Despite Howard’s monster performance - which placed him in third place in the NFL in rushing yards - arguably the biggest story is Cohen’s re-involvement in Chicago’s game plan. He ran for 44 yards, which was his highest total since Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also caught four passes, which was his highest total since he caught four against the Green Bay Packers in Week 4.

The Bears used him so well on offense when Mike Glennon was under center, but they hadn’t used him all that much with Trubisky at quarterback. One can only hope that their coaching staff will start finding ways to get Cohen involved more in weeks to come.

However, the rookie’s special teams play is still a work in progress. As has been the case multiple times this year, there were occasions when he decided to return kicks deep in his own end zone instead of playing it safe and taking the touch back. Cohen’s ability to make something out of nothing is one of his strengths on offense, but his desire to do so on special teams is one of his biggest weaknesses. He needs to be more conservative in the future.

After one game at guard, Cody Whitehair returned to playing center. Needless to say, he was much better than Hroniss Grasu was a week before. He helped anchor an offensive line which created a fairly clean pocket for Trubisky and paved a clear path for Howard to pummel Detroit’s defense. In fact, he was PFF’s highest rated center by a wide margin. Their grades shouldn’t be the end all be all for player evaluation, but when you’re ranked the highest in the league, then you’re obviously doing something right.

Unfortunately for Leonard Floyd, this past Sunday appears to be the end of the season for him. The second-year edge rusher injured his MCL and PCL in an injury that will sideline him for the year. Before his injury, he racked up four tackles.

Floyd finishes the season with 33 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, two pass deflections, four stuffs and a safety. He didn’t have the breakout season that many had expected him to, but he was on his way to finishing up with pretty solid numbers. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens with him next year.

Eddie Jackson had a decent game, finishing up with three total tackles. He had an impressive tackle on Lions tight end Eric Ebron which set the Lions up in a third-and-long situation. Considering that his tackling was considered a weakness heading into the draft, it’s impressive to see how far he’s come in that area.

It was another solid outing for Nick Kwiatkoski , who finished with three solo tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. The 2016 fourth-round pick has been impressive stepping in for Danny Trevathan so far this season. This game also marked the second week in a row in which he picked up a sack. Vic Fangio would be wise to continue to use him on blitzes.

Cre’Von LeBlanc started off the year getting little to no action on defense. In fact, he only had five snaps through the first seven weeks. With Bryce Callahan out, though, he has stepped in at nickel back pretty well. He finished the game up with three total tackles and a pass deflection. Although his playing time will surely diminish when Callahan comes back, it’s good to see that LeBlanc can contribute if called upon.

Jonathan Bullard saw a season-low nine snaps on defense. Mitch Unrein played well, racking up a sack and five tackles, so the Bears went with the hotter hand. It’s certainly not encouraging to see the second-year defensive lineman losing time instead of getting more snaps.

Every other rookie or sophomore saw most of their time come in special teams. DeAndre Houston-Carson, Deon Bush, Ben Braunecker and Isaiah Irving saw ample time in that regard. Roy Robertson-Harris returned to the field after missing over a month due to a hamstring injury. He didn’t play much this week, but he played a big role on special teams before he was hurt. Expect his playing time to increase against the Philadelphia Eagles.