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Bears mailbag: Thoughts on Mitchell Trubisky, Leonard Floyd and how the NFC North shakes out

We answer all of your Bears related questions heading into Week 7.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears are just days removed from their heartbreaking loss to the Miami Dolphins. Luckily for most fans, Week 7’s match up against the New England Patriots is right around the corner, even with the fear of dropping to 3-3 and out of first place with a loss on Sunday.

Despite that reality, there’s plenty of excitement and intrigue surrounding this Bears team, which should led to at least playoff conversations in December for the first time since 2013. In order to get there, they must continue to win games.

With a crucial Week 7 game ahead on Sunday, let’s dive into this week’s mailbag to see if we can’t solve some of the world’s problems on our own.

Usayd Koshul (@usaydkoshul)— Going into the season, what were your expectations for Mitchell Trubisky and after five games, has he met or exceeded your expectations?

There were plenty of Trubisky questions this week but I felt like this question touched the most bases.

For me, Trubisky is about right on par with where I figured he would be. Obviously numbers for quarterbacks inflate dramatically over the first two months of the season before the weather drops off and it truly becomes football season. So far, I’d say it’s been a mixed bag for Trubisky but the key is how many steps forward he’s taken the last two weeks.

There was a lot of talk about the complexity of the offense and how that was affecting the second-year quarterback and I think to an extent that was justified. Fans have to understand that the entire offense was struggling over the first few games of the season with head coach Matt Nagy’s offense. Receivers weren’t getting lined up correctly, they were ending up in the same place as other pass catchers at the end of their routes, and the offensive line had multiple breakdowns early on.

Nagy peeled back a little bit against Tampa Bay and I think it helped tremendously. Watching Trubisky over the past two games, his boost in confidence is noticeable. His comfort and pocket presence is also very noticeable and equally as important, players are finding their roles in an offense that is less than six months old.

Overall, I’d say Trubisky is right on track of where I expected him to be, even if the exact route he’s taken wasn’t how I expected. The key is to keep taking steps forward from here and I see that progression continuing.

Sheldon Absher (@_SheldonAbsher_)— If you had to guess right now, what do you think the NFC North standings will look like at the end of the season?

During the Bears bye week, I tweeted that I thought the Bears were the best team in the NFC North. If you’ve followed the Bears or the fan base long enough, you’d know that many fans suffer from PTSD due to this disastrous stretch over the past five or so seasons.

Even so, I have to admit I was a little surprised at the amount of push back I received over that statement. A week (and a loss) later, I still believe the Bears are the best team in the NFC North.

The Bears had the hottest start of all three teams and like most NFL fans, the present takes up most of their memory. So right now, the Bears are being looked at as the “struggling” team because they are the only team in the North to lose in the past two weeks.

The reality is this:

  • The Packers have a bye week then face the Rams and Patriots on the road, followed the Dolphins, Seahawks and Vikings. That’s five teams currently sitting at .500 or better.
  • The Vikings face a slightly more mild schedule and and the Lions are in a similar position.

After the Bears complete their four game stretch with the AFC East, they face the NFC North in five out of their last eight games but three of those five are at home. They also currently hold a half-game “advantage” over both the Packers and Vikings due to their tie.

Ultimately, I believe the Bears control their own destiny moving forward. Just get to 5-3 and go from there.

Elliot Brandt (@Elltrain720)— What kind of adjustments need to be made to counteract the two second shotgun throws to the slot that we cannot seem to defend?

Good question. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Vic Fangio consistently plays his boundary corners well off the line of scrimmage. Outside of last week’s game, I think the Bears defense has done a nice job of covering screens and most of the short attacks from opposing teams.

In some ways I believe Fangio tried counteracting some of the Dolphins’ attack by dropping both Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd into coverage. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of that. I know it’s becoming old to hear but I truly believe the heat played a large role in Albert Wilson’s final two touchdown catches and their 15 missed tackles in the second half.

Brian Beck (@beckbrian7)— What is your take on Leonard Floyd so far?

NFL: Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

From a pass rushing standpoint, Floyd’s numbers have been disappointing. I truly thought that with the addition of Mack, he and Akiem Hicks would reap the most rewards from it. So far, I’ve been wrong.

A few factors to consider, though.

  • Floyd’s hand injury did him absolutely no favors. Doesn’t excuse zero sacks through five games but was a bigger setback than most had originally expected.
  • He’s learning a brand new side. He’s never had a ton of pass rushing tools. It was actually one of the main reasons I wasn’t a fan of him at Georgia. He’s long and athletic but he’s always been raw. Now you tell him he’ll take 80% of his snaps from a new side and now he’s having to break habits and re-work them.

All in all, Floyd’s production needs to come at some point but it’s somewhat understandable as to why he hasn’t been a big factor as a pass rusher. On the plus side, he’s been excellent against the run and much better in coverage.

Jack Devaney (@Eyes_On_It_All)— What do you think Nagy’s reasoning was on that 3rd and 4 run call in OT?

I think he simply went too conservative. I know that’s not a very complex answer but that “Be You” reminder that he has on his play call sheet during each game, must have fallen off because that three play sequence was a complete contradiction to what he’s preached all offseason.

He claimed he didn’t want to take a sack in that situation but I’m not sure a punt in that situation is any worse than missing a 53-yard field goal and allowing Miami the field position to win the game. A tie would have been better in that situation than an outright loss, in my opinion.

Now we get to see if he learned from it. My guess is, we’ll see a more aggressive approach whether he verbalizes it or not.

Tommy Missel (@TommyMissel)— When is Shaheen coming back?

NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Early guess based on what has been reported and what Nagy has said is that Shaheen will be back around Week 11. I know that doesn’t sound exactly ideal but judging by reports of his side work last Sunday before the game, he’s still not very close to being ready to take the field.

Nagy continues to confidently say Shaheen will be back this season, so I’ll believe him but I do think that his return will likely be closer to the back end of the required timeline.

MJ Ogle (@ogle_mj)— Why is Jordan Howard not getting big runs?

On the season, Howard is averaging just 3.5 yards-per-carry, which is a career low for him. His snap count has also gone down from 72% to 51% over the last four games but I don’t think that’s really by design.

Looking at the Bears two biggest most impactful skill players (Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel) they both have one thing in common- Speed. I don’t think it’s exactly a coincidence that since those two have gotten going the past two games, the offense has racked up over 900 yards and scored 76 points.

As far as Howard goes, his vision hasn’t been great from my perspective. I’ve seen him miss multiple holes running inside. He has his moments where he looks like old Howard but I’m not sure Nagy is using him the right way, either. His runs have been much more obvious but then again, that’s what happens when you’re not as dynamic of a player as someone like Cohen.

Howard’s value likely comes when the weather cools down. Some of his biggest performances the past two season has been when the weather is at it’s worst.