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Pains and Gains, the growth of Mitchell Trubisky and a young Chicago Bears team

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Despite the growing pains, Erik looks at the positives being developed on each side of the ball.

Chicago Bears v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

We are three weeks into the regular season, and plenty of excitement, as well as some concern, has been raised during this early stretch of the 2018 campaign. While having such a dominant defense taking shape, their young offense hasn’t come together quite yet. Naturally, fans are fed up with what has been perceived as a slower-than-expected maturation of Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, among others.

In a league where patience is close to non-existent, we expect better play from the QB position, and everywhere else on the 53-man roster. This is the suggestion based on reactions throughout the fandom, despite the team being 2-1 and sole owners of 1st place in the NFC North, which hasn’t happened since 2013.

Alas, I am here to encourage patience. And as you all will see, there’s plenty of optimism to be had with this entire team’s growth. Particularly with Trubisky.

To learn from failures, one must first experience failures

An NFL roster will always start and end with the quarterback position. Simply glancing at the box score and stats for Mitchell will certainly make a person’s head shake with disappointment. His stats-line through the first three weeks of 2018: a 69.2 completion percentage; 591 yards passing; 2 touchdowns; 3 interceptions; and a mediocre 77.8 passer rating. Statistically speaking, he must pick up his play.

What’s been problematic about his performance from the beginning of this season, is he’s missed on several opportunities for big plays. That speaks volumes about the size of his learning curve while transitioning from Dowell Loggains’ and John Fox’s “offensive offense” to Matt Nagy’s approach on offense. Even more concerning, is he’s shown some bad habits normally displayed with young quarterbacks.

That is a throw one should never attempt. Where Bears receiver Allen Robinson II looked to be open at the beginning, Trubisky was already rolled out and at a position where it would take a completely busted coverage from the Cardinals’ secondary to make that play a positive gain. Tre Boston wasn’t having any of it, as he read the routes and nearly made a highlight quality interception. Trubisky attempted a throw that was 1) against the grain and 2) way too late.

In addition to that throw, he was picked off by Boston earlier in the 2nd quarter, and fumbled the ball in the Bears’ 2nd drive on offense during the 1st quarter. The Cardinals’ defense came prepared to play, and early on, Trubisky did not look prepared to respond. Simply put, he can’t continue to make those mistakes as the season progresses.

It’s all about how you finish, and not how you start

Not all was bad. In fact, Trubisky showed some resilience coming out of half time, and mustered just enough to lead the Bears’ offense in scoring 16 unanswered points. Of course it wouldn’t have happened had the Bears’ defense not taken the ball away three consecutive times. Nevertheless, Trubisky did his job.

There’s one play in particular that we should highlight from this game.

That, currently, is the longest passing play for the Bears’ offense this season. Where Trubisky has struggled to complete deep shots to his revamped receiving corps, that 39-yard hook up to Allen Robinson was a thing of beauty. His chemistry with Robinson appears to be growing with each pass they connect on.

Oddly enough, that was also on the same drive where he nearly got picked off by Boston in the play referenced earlier in this article. He happened to target Robinson on that throw, too.

When he has his feet set and goes through his reads, he can sling the ball effortlessly. And, more importantly, he’s proven capable of responding positively to adversity. He came out and completed 11 of 15 passes for 91 yards, which coupled with a more attentive effort to grind the game out on the ground, was effective enough to constantly move the chains. Not the greatest of performances, but good enough to win a football game with.

On a side note, I personally hope that Matt Nagy has learned to utilize the ground game more. Jordan Howard sits in his backfield, and Tarik Cohen is a valuable weapon. Use them.

Comparisons happen, even if they’re not particularly accurate

For all the comparisons between him, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson; they couldn’t be any further apart in terms of their respective situations.

Mahomes sat behind a Pro Bowl quarterback in Alex Smith last season, and he is in year two under Andy Reid and his scheme. Aka, the very same scheme that he taught Matt Nagy since his internship began with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008. That is a similar situation for Watson, who too is in the second year of his experience under Bill O’Brien’s watchful eye. Both young signal callers have built a healthy amount of chemistry with their respective teammates as well.

Meanwhile, Trubisky has a total of 15 starts under his belt, with the last three under Matt Nagy and his offense. Learning two schemes in consecutive years is hard for anyone, especially young quarterbacks. Having that stacked on building chemistry with a new supporting cast will cause for some setbacks to happen.

The biggest challenge for him has to be going from an uber conservative approach under Fox and his staff, to an ultra aggressive gameplan from Matt Nagy. That’s like learning how to drive stick on a McLaren 570S after being stuck in a Toyota Corolla. There are no similarities between the two, and it will take time for every player on offense to get on the same page.

It certainly makes life easier when you have such a dominant defense backing your young quarterback up. With that said, there’s still plenty of room for improvement in Trubisky’s game. Give him time to build chemistry with his new receivers, and familiarity with Matt Nagy’s schemes on offense, and we should expect to continue seeing signs of improvement the rest of the way.

Now, about that Bears defense...

“Dominant” might end up being an understatement by season’s end. 3 weeks into the regular season, they rank 1st in sacks with a league leading 14 take-downs, and 5th in total yards per game. The one leading the charge, is none other than outside linebacker Khalil Mack.

In his first 3 games in Chicago, Mack has recorded 4 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception, and 1 touchdown. That’s more than the Oakland Raidersentire defense combined. It’s a safe assumption that Ryan Pace has spent his resources wisely on this acquisition.

It’s not just Khalil Mack that has this defense rolling. 9 different players have recorded at least 1 sack so far this season. Every level of this defense has contributed, from sacks to tackles for loss, to interceptions and solid coverage in both the ground and passing games.

This play, in my opinion, is what sealed the game for the Bears.

One can admire the amount of courage fellow first-year head coach Steve Wilks displayed in giving his rookie quarterback a chance to come in and win the game. With that said, this defense finished the game by playing sound coverage downfield, and wrecking shop up front. Once Aaron Lynch and Roy Robertson-Harris got free lanes to Josh Rosen, it was over. Bryce Callahan became the insurance policy by picking off the disrupted pass.

In conclusion

There’s room for improvement, no doubt about it. This team’s fate is directly tied with how Mitchell Trubisky and this young offense develops throughout the season. Yet, when you think about it, that’s the best part about these Chicago Bears. They have not scratched the surface of their total potential just yet.

It’s tough to be patient after 8 years of futility. That is the span of their current playoff drought, the longest such streak in franchise history. Once everything comes together for this new generation of Chicago Bears, believe me. It will be scary.