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Bears mailbag: Week 1 fall out, Mitchell Trubisky’s future and much more

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The Bears find themselves (0-1) for the sixth time in a row to kick off a season, but how panicked should fans be? All of this and more in this week’s packed mailbag.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears USA TODAY Sports

Football is back and so is that all too familiar feeling of a Week 1 letdown for Chicago Bears fans. The Bears opened up the season with a 10-3 loss at home against the Packers. The reactions were emotional and rightfully so, especially given the expectations for the season.

Even so, we’ve had almost a week to digest the loss and move onto Week 2. The good news? It’s just one game. The bad news? The Bears have a minor uphill climb to start the season just like last year. While Week 1 always brings surprises, things usually start to level out in Week 2 and we find out who is real and what was simply a fluke. Both the Bears and Broncos will be searching for their first win on Sunday afternoon, but before we get to Sunday’s game, we’ll get to a packed mailbag.

To say that last Thursday’s opener was a letdown would be an understatement. As most know, I was very critical of the team, namely the offense. The two main focuses I had were head coach Matt Nagy’s play calling and of course, third year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Let’s just get this out of the way now- Week 1 was a bad look for the entire offense outside of maybe Allen Robinson II. The blocking was bad, the quarterback play was terrible and the play calling was even worse.

With that in mind, I think we all have to take a step back and remember it’s just one game. Yes, it was a letdown, but it’s not like we haven’t seen Trubisky start off slow and then figure things out.

Personally, my leash is shorter with him this year going into Year 3 than it was last year. Even so, pulling the plug after one game would simply not be fair. So in short, I don’t think expectations should change at all for him. If he continues to look like this heading into the bye week, then we should be concerned, but let’s see how they respond over the next few weeks to get a clearer picture on Trubisky’s overall development and/or ceiling.

Permanently? No. Temporarily? I think that would be best for all involved.

What I mean by that is simple. Last year down the stretch, Nagy pulled back the reigns a bit and relied more on the running game. Thus putting Trubisky in better passing situations and overall he was more successful. I think that’s exactly what the Bears need to do over the next few weeks.

They’ll be facing a strong Broncos defense on Sunday and then in Week 4, they’ll be facing a defense in the Vikings that is even better. Why not establish the running game, run more no huddle and get the ball out of Trubisky’s hands quicker? We saw the Packers establish some offensive rhythm doing that in Week 1 and also saw the Raiders do the same thing against the Broncos on Monday night.

Right now, it’s all about confidence for Trubisky. Dial things back, take away some pressure and let him play without thinking. That’s usually when he’s best anyways. He’s still young. It’s not always going to be perfect, but clearly he needs to be better than he was in the opener. The best way to do that is going back to their late-season philosophy from last year.

Absolutely.

Again, each year around the league, there’s a tendency to overreact to Week 1.

One stat I found somewhat interesting when doing some research is that seven of the 12 playoff teams in 2018 lost their first game. Obviously that included the Bears as well.

The bigger trick is avoiding (0-2), which starts on Sunday. A year ago the Bears won their second game to start a stretch of three straight wins. A week six loss in Miami started some panic from fans, which only increased after a week seven loss to the Patriots, dropping them to 3-3. But they went on to win nine of their next 11 games to finish 12-4.

We’ve craved football for eight months and of course the first game we see the Bears look terrible and lose. Again though, it’s only one game. Expectations shouldn’t changed based on that. Keep the faith and let this play out. I still believe this will be a playoff team when all is said and done.

If the offense doesn’t at least regain it’s form from 2018, this is probably a seven or eight win team. I know that seems harsh, but assuming the Bears defense remains around the level they did in 2018 and their offense takes a sizable step back from that same year with a harder schedule, they aren’t making the playoffs.

With that being said, I still expect the offense to take the next step when all is said and done. Remember, it wasn’t until Week 4 against the Buccaneers last year until they finally started getting things figured out.

For me, that all depends on this Sunday.

If the Bears can pull out a win against Denver, there’s a very good chance they could go into their Week 6 bye at (4-1). Their other opponents would be Washington, Minnesota and Oakland in London.

Yes, the Vikings looked very good in Week 1, but even when the Bears were at their worst, they were usually still very good against the Vikings at Soldier Field. So despite how Minnesota is playing once Week 4 rolls around, history is on the Bears side for a big win before heading to London and then their bye week.

Truth be told, Sunday’s game has always been a loss when I looked at their schedule. So finding a way to win in Denver would be a big way to get the early season back on track.

I think David Montgomery is in line for a big boost in overall playing time very soon. Not only did they trade up in the third round to get him, but he’s an excellent receiver and clearly their best runner out of the backfield. My hunch is that they aren’t quite comfortable with him as a pass blocker yet. Even so, the more he sees the field, the more he’ll impress and in turn, the harder it will be to keep him off the field.

As far as Anthony Miller goes, I think he’s going to see the field more in smaller steps. He missed most of training camp with a sprained ankle and from what I gather, I’m not sure that he has a full grasp on his role within the offense. Judging by coaches comments, it seems like he’s still freelancing a bit. If that’s the case, he won’t see the field much.

Just to give you an idea, there were a total of six different skill position players who saw the field more than Miller. One of those being Javon Wims. I’m sure that’ll change over time, but it doesn’t seem like he’s where he needs to be to earn the coach’s trust just yet.

Nagy’s play calling last Thursday night was horrific. No real way around that and I was very critical of that postgame.

One would have to think that he’ll get it figured out eventually, but here’s what I would do:

  • Run the ball more. Make that the focus of this offense. You invested twice into the position for better schematic fits, so use them.
  • Ball in, ball out for Trubisky. I want to see a quicker paced offense with more short and intermediate throws. Don’t allow him to think as much and just let him play. When they went no huddle, things seem to work better.
  • Don’t overthink short yardage situations. Cordarrelle Patterson should not be seeing third and one runs. Trubisky should not having a read option on a third and one. Use Mike Davis and Montgomery to their strengths.

These alone should really help out the overall pace of the offense, establish a rhythm and hopefully help out the offensive line a little bit as well.

A few things stood out to me when looking at the team’s snap counts for Week 1 on the offensive side of the ball.

  • The lack of tight end usage was surprising, even with Trey Burton being out. That clearly will change once he’s back.
  • Miller being the fifth most used receiver is a little troubling. He’s the team’s second best receiver. So whatever the excuse may be, it needs to get fixed soon.
  • Montgomery should be averaging no less than (60%) of the offensive snaps on a weekly basis. Being at (38%) with his skill set is purely unacceptable.
  • Robinson is the team’s best receiver, but averaging over (90%) of snaps on a weekly basis could be a recipe for an injury. I’d dial him and Gabriel back into the 80’s.

I expect snap counts to change weekly, but like I pointed out, guys like Burton (when healthy) and Montgomery need to be seeing the field much more and I think the offense will improve with that.

As ideal as signing Roy Robertson-Harris to a team friendly extension appears on paper, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

  1. He’s technically a third year player.
  2. The Bears will still control his rights for 2020 with a Restricted Free Agent tender.
  3. Why would Robertson-Harris sign something cheap now when he could easily cash in for 2020 or at the latest, 2021?

The Bears are going to be up against the cap over the next few years, which means letting certain players eventually go and hopefully for their sake, gain some high quality compensatory picks for those loses. Robertson-Harris fits into that category because he’s more of a role player and that’s simply something the Bears can’t afford to spend much money on.

There’s also been some talk that the league values Robertson-Harris as a starting caliber defensive lineman and anything the Bears would offer, would be nowhere close to the money he could see on the free agent market. Just enjoy the next two years because that might be his final two in a Bears uniform, barring something unexpected.

I’ve seen this point argued a few times over the last few days and I’m going to have to disagree. The Bears returned all but one offensive starter from 2018. It was said all off-season that the entire offensive unit knew the playbook and were feeling very comfortable.

I’m not sure 20-30 snaps in a vanilla offense with little to-no-scheming would have done them much good at all. I know some are going to disagree with me on this, but simply put, I believe the health of their key players are more important than a rusty game. Especially when most teams did exactly what the Bears did.

The risk simply doesn’t outweigh the reward for me and I’ve also believed for a while now that preseason as a whole is vastly overrated by fans.