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5 Questions with Football Outsiders: Trubisky’s awareness and the pass protection

We kick off our annual Q&A with Football Outsiders with a question about Mitchell Trubisky’s pocket presence and the pass protection from 2019.

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

For the last several years, SB Nation has partnered up with Football Outsiders to bring us some of their unique, analytical insight into each upcoming NFL season.

This year is no different as we had FO’s Bryan Knowles, who has been covering the NFL since 2006, answer five questions about the Chicago Bears.

We’ll break this Q&A into five separate parts that we’ll reveal each day this week.

Here’s how we kicked it off this year...

Windy City Gridiron - Chicago’s pass protection slipped in 2019 when compared to 2018, but how did Mitchell Trubisky fare when he was throwing from a clean pocket, and how much of the pass protection issues would you pin on Trubisky’s pocket awareness?

Football Outsiders - In a clean pocket, Trubisky had a DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) of 31.5%. That sounds good, until you realize that every quarterback operates well out of a clean pocket; Trubisky actually ranked 29th out of the 34 qualified quarterbacks when facing no pressure. By comparison, his -74.8% DVOA under pressure was a more pedestrian 21st. The real puzzling point is that while Trubisky’s clean pocket DVOA has remained relatively constant throughout his career — falling slowly from 46.9% to 37.9% to 31.5% through his first three seasons — his performance under pressure has varied greatly. He had the third-highest DVOA when pressured in 2018 at -14.1%, standing under the pass rush and handling himself well. Last season, however, he was far too quick to panic and throw dump-offs and other low-value passes; the confidence he had in the pocket evaporated and led to a higher sack rate and more failed completions.

As for how much Trubisky is to blame for the poor pass protection, a lot of the pressures are the fault of the offensive line, but the poor results can be pinned on Trubisky’s ability to handle the pressure. It’s also worth noting that 31% of Chicago’s sacks were listed as “non-pressure” sacks - coverage sacks, failed scrambles or the quarterback just falling down. That’s the fifth-highest rate in the league, which implies that the Bears’ passing troubles go beyond their mediocre pressure rate.

What are your thoughts on what the numbers tell us about the pass pro a year ago?

You can find even more great stuff about the 2020 NFL and college football seasons from Football Outsiders in their yearly Almanac available at their store here or at Amazon here.

The most authoritative and innovative annual guide to both the NFL and college football is back for an all-new season with more cutting-edge statistical analysis, obsessive film study, and trademark humor. Includes comprehensive coverage of all 32 NFL teams, analysis of offseason personnel changes, KUBIAK fantasy football projections with over 500 player profiles, and breakdowns of the top 50 college football teams for 2020. With numerous statistical measures that go far beyond standard NFL stats, Football Outsiders Almanac 2020 gives NFL fans the kind of sabermetric-like statistical analysis that revolutionized the fan’s understanding of baseball. It’s also written with a knowing dry wit that gets under the skin of America’s most popular spectator sport.