It’s July, and for Bears fans, that means exactly one thing: t-minus 25 days, one hour, and 15 minutes until training camp opens at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. Clearly, this year’s training camp comes with more optimism than we’ve seen from the Bears in any year during the past decade, with very good reason.
With a trip to Bourbonnais just under four weeks away, we thought we’d begin our position previews series. Of course, this chain of articles will kick off with the position group whose success defines any NFL team, and whose 2019 success or lack thereof in Chicago could determine the course of the franchise for the foreseeable future.
Here’s a look at the Bears’ quarterbacks.
Projected Depth Chart (with 2018 stats)
1. Mitchell Trubisky – 66.6 completion percentage, 3,223 yards, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 95.4 rating in 14 games (14 starts)
2. Chase Daniel – 69.7 completion percentage, 515 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 90.6 rating in 5 games (2 starts)
3. Tyler Bray –Did not play
I can’t say much about Trubisky without being at risk of repeating myself, because he has been the center of all talk of the Bears’ hopes at a deep playoff run. An analyst’s opinion on said hopes is nearly entirely dependent on what they think on the third-year signal caller out of North Carolina. This is a gross oversimplification, but it boils down to this: either you like Trubisky and you probably believe Chicago will cruise through the regular season, entering the playoffs as Super Bowl favorites, or you don’t and you see the Bears as ripe for regression and the NFC North as there for the taking.
Trubisky made clear strides and showed about as linear of a growth pattern as one could realistically expect during the 2018 season, but still left much to be desired in terms of his overall performance. Consistency is one major mountain to climb for the 2017 draft’s second pick – consistent accuracy, consistently going through full-field reads, consistently putting points on the board in the red zone, you name it. Head coach Matt Nagy and the rest of the Bears have been publicly enthused about Trubisky’s progress thus far, but none of that matters until he starts translating it to the game field.
Daniel is a winner in the business of football. He has spent his career backing up Drew Brees, Alex Smith, Carson Wentz, and now Trubisky, rarely seeing game action and taking home large sums of money as an insurance policy who can run and help teach complex offenses. In two games of action last year, he showed why he’s never going to be a starter but is a valuable asset to have on the team as a backup.
Tyler Bray is the third guy. He’s here because he’s spent time under Nagy before and no other reason.
Key Training Camp Battle: Absolutely nothing
The depth chart is written in sharpie. Trubisky will start, and Daniel will back him up. Bray will be waived in late August or early September and sit on the practice squad, from which he will be promoted to the active roster if either Trubisky or Daniel goes down for a short period of time. The Bears are too deep at other spots to afford carrying a third quarterback.
Keys to Success
1. The dead weight is gone
As I explained in my video from April on the Jordan Howard trade, the Bears’ run game struggled due to not having the correct personnel to execute Nagy’s desired scheme. This negatively affected the passing game as well, because much of Nagy’s offense is geared towards RPOs and play action out of a shotgun set. These are plays that don’t work if the run game isn’t successful, which is why a good run scheme should be designed around the quarterback and not the running back.
Howard is gone, David Montgomery and Mike Davis are here, and of course Tarik Cohen is back, so this should no longer be a problem this year. Howard’s absence will allow Nagy to design the full core of his offensive strategy around Trubisky’s strengths and weaknesses, as opposed to making futile attempts to bend the scheme to Howard’s game.
Additionally, Howard made the offense predictable due to his lack of ability in the passing game. That should no longer be an issue with the Bears’ new cachet of backs in 2019.
2. Master class
Nagy mentioned in his postseason press conference that during last year’s offseason, the players struggled to get a handle on “Nagy’s Offense 101.” Not only was the scheme complex and new to everyone, the terminology was completely foreign as well. As such, they struggled through three weeks – Trubisky especially – before Nagy significantly dialed back the complexity of his offense and play calling in order to bring his young signal caller along slowly.
That seemed to work, but it also left a bit to be desired. The constant seven-yard hooks with no room for yards after the catch became boring, and the offense as a whole was a bit more vanilla than I think most Bears fans expected. With another offseason to work out the kinks (and by all accounts, they’ve worked them out and then some), we should see the full-throttle version of the incredibly intricate scheme and play-calling that we were promised when Nagy was hired. How much of that we see and how soon depends on number 10.
3. Trubisky himself
This is it. It’s put up or shut up time for Trubisky. He has to grasp the offense, put his new and one-year-old weapons to good use, and become a top-ten quarterback in the NFL. With cap casualties in the form of Taylor Gabriel or even Allen Robinson coming, the Bears’ Azor Ahai will likely never have this supporting cast ever again.
Do I believe in Trubisky? Of course I do. But that belief has to turn into results this season.