Whether he wanted to acknowledge it or not, Glennon came into this game with his starting job—and future as an NFL starter—in jeopardy. Glennon looked uncomfortable in the first two games. He made poor decisions and poor throws, and played significantly below the level he showed in the 19 regular season games he started for the Buccaneers.
Why he was so uncomfortable is any armchair psychologist’s guess. My guess is that he wasn’t playing to win the starting job but just trying to hold on to something he was terrified to lose. My hope going into this game was that he would start playing like he was fighting to win a job he’s waited his whole life for.
Whether I’m guessing his motivation right, Glennon started off with an impressive 95 yard touchdown drive, with 3rd and long conversions, a beautiful end-zone pass to Kevin White—which went incomplete, and an easy lob to a wide open Dion Sims to finish it off. He showed the ability to deliver under pressure both starting inside the ten and connecting for conversions on 3rd and long multiple times (OK, I think two).
Glennon’s next drive was interrupted by a devastating blow to Cameron Meredith’s knee, and his performance declined after that. He didn’t make any terrible decisions or costly mistakes.
Overall, it was a good showing that matches what I expected from him—adequate, safe and rarely pretty. But the fact that all the good came in one great drive before abruptly worsening made it easy to get the feeling that the good play was a mirage and may never be seen again.
Trubisky entered this game with less on the line than Glennon. Even if he played poorly, and even if he sat the entire 2017 season, he would still be the unquestioned heir-apparent of the Bears’ franchise.
Though he had less to lose, he had plenty to gain. This was his first opportunity to play with and against NFL starters on network television.
Trubisky’s first drive was short, involved two inaccurate throws, and no help from the run game. His second drive reminded us of Biscuit’s lack of experience with a delay-of-game saved by coaches, a fumbled snap, and a risky pass that was almost intercepted. In the end, Biscuit managed to finish his second drive with a long connection to Deonte Thompson, who fell forward short of the first down line. The fourth and short attempt was thwarted by an unsaved delay-of-game penalty (or perhaps an intentional one in an attempt to force offsides from the wily rookie??)
The most encouraging thing Trubisky did on his first two drives was identify blitzes and dump the ball to his hot read before taking a sack. When it comes to whether he’s ready to play, this is what matters most to me. If he can’t do what it takes to keep himself safe, I’d rather put Kyle Orton on the field ‘til he’s ready.
Trubisky played better with the 2nd team than the first. He began reading progressions calmly and throwing accurate passes. His third drive ended with a beautiful deep touchdown pass to his favorite camp-connection, Tanner Gentry. You could argue this improvement is because he was against softer defensive players (honestly I’m not sure exactly when the Titans swapped out their starters) but the other reasonable explanation is that he has better familiarity and timing with the receivers he’s spent more time practicing with.
Ultimately, I felt the same excitement from the Broncos game come back tonight. I saw his confidence on the field and I felt confidence in him as I watched—even when things didn’t work out.
I don’t care if Mitchell Trubisky starts game one. I am just thrilled that he is pegged to be the Bears starter for years to come.
The Starting Front Seven
First David Johnson, now DeMarco Murray. The Bears run defense is embarrassing the league’s top running backs on a weekly basis! In the first half (because that’s what I have numbers for at the time of writing) Murray attempted six rushes for 16 yards (2.66 yards per carry) and caught one pass for a loss of 3.
The pass-rush forced multiple Mariota mistakes and Akiem Hicks stopped him for a sack. To quantify the first-team vs first-team performance, the Titans had a 29% 3rd down completion rate, 130 total yards, and zero points in the first half.
Overall safety play was good. But I can’t let Quintin Demps and Eddie Jackson off the hook for both missing tackles on Taywan Taylor and allowing a 20 yard pass to turn into over 40 yards with a 3rd and 31 conversion. Although the Titans didn’t score on that drive, they got into decent field goal position before Ryan Succpp went full-Aguayo on the field goal try. The idea of a safety who can’t finish a tackle doesn’t make you feel too safe.
Kyle Fuller had good coverage playing with the first team and didn’t give up any big plays. In the first drive, Fuller came up to stop an outside run on 3rd and short. His run defense has always been a shortcoming and his effort has been put into question. This one play was encouraging in both of those areas.
Jones saw significant playing time with the ones and looked like he belonged. One particular tackle for loss against DeMarco Murray stood out, but he seemed to be around the ball-carrier at the end of every play.
Adam Shaheen & Tarik Cohen MIA
More of both next week please. We only got one run from Cohen for 5 yards. He stood back for two out of bounds punts, and that’s all I remember. Adam Shaheen didn’t show up much on offense (just one target for a 6 yard catch). I was hoping for more. Shaheen did make a play on special teams, diving after the blocked ball and controlling it as he went out of bounds. It was an equivocal call that could have been a touchdown but went down as a safety. It was nice to see him playing instinctively and I hope it’s a sign he is starting to lose the big-stage jitters he’s displayed in the first few games.
After Meredith went down, Davis got some work with the ones, unfortunately dropping an on-target pass from Glennon. He made up for it be being a consisently-open target for Trubisky and catching everything the rookie threw his way. He’s likely still headed for the practice squad, but this at least increases his chances of making it there.
Jordan Howard is Alive
Howard showed up and put on some decent runs (and some mediocre ones). The offensive line is in flux and the Titans actually had #2 rushing defense in the league last year, so I’m not worried about his ho hum performance. I’m just happy to see him knocking some of the rust off.
Kevin White started the game with an enjoyable run after catch. He showed more today than he has so far this year, but failed to perform on a couple of opportunities for wow plays (one in the end-zone from Glennon and another opportunity to boost Trubisky’s first disappointing drive).
I’m happy to see what looks like incremental improvement. I just have no idea if he will continue to improve. My opinion on White remains in limbo...
Wright solidified his position as starting slot receiver while sticking it to his old team by being the most reliably open receiver on the first team offense and catching everything that came near his hands.
If you’re going to care about a pre-season game result, the 3rd pre-season “dress rehearsal” is the one to care about. And if you’re going to focus on first-team performance, you may as well focus on the first half, when the Bears led 12-0. Either way the Bears are winners.