When going back and taking a closer more detailed look at the game this past Thursday what Mitch Trubisky did, impressed me even more so than it did initially and I was pretty impressed seeing it live. It wasn’t just the physical attributes that stood out. It was his poise in the pocket, his internal clock, his reading through progressions, and his decision making based on his vision. He also seems to have the natural instincts for the position.
I do want to mention I relied on the Denver broadcast as there was no coaches film offered on Game Pass for this pre-season game, so I was kind of making evaluations blind and filling in the blanks of what was going on downfield in coverage and in what the wide receivers were doing.
Trubisky feels pressure and navigates his feet through the pocket to evade rushers helping out his linemen in the process all the while keeping his eyes downfield reading through his progressions at the same time. Something Mike Glennon did not do well at all. There were times when his linemen got beat but Glennon could have helped them out by just moving up in the pocket or sidestepping guys. Like with his pick six.
Both tackles got beat, but number one, he had Kendall Wright run an excellent route and was wide open and could’ve had a big play if he hit him in stride underneath on a crossing route, but Glennon never looked his way. He eye balled Meredith the entire play. So that’s the number one thing. He made the wrong decision and never would’ve been hit had he made the right choice. However, even if that wasn’t the case Glennon did have room to step up in the pocket and Charles Leno could’ve easily ridden his man around the pocket had he stepped up. Now, he would’ve been hit by Bobbie Massie’s guy. Massie got to his spot late, and the defender was able to flatten out with a direct path to Glennon. However, he still would have had time to get rid of the pass with momentum behind it and not flat footed while getting knocked on his ass.
Getting back to Trubisky, it appears he has that brain splitting ability only the most successful Quarterbacks in the history of the sport have had. He appears able to process multiple things and compartmentalize every scenario in its own separate category. That to me is what has me most excited about the future of Trubisky and the future of this Bears offense. Things that can not be taught he has. Glennon does not appear to have this. He appears to be someone who needs things more defined and situations have to be perfect because he cannot improvise his way in or out of different situations.
As for the things Trubisky needs to learn he handled well in his first game action against an NFL team. Sure, they were two’s and three’s and even lower on the depth chart than that he was going against, but all of those guys were stars and top players at their colleges. So it was a step up for Trubisky from college where most of the guys he played against won’t even sniff Arena and semi pro leagues. I just was impressed at his ability to make the right decision at the right times. Like when to run for example. And oh, by the way, he handled every snap under center like he’s been doing it since birth. I’ll start there with my film study evaluations.
The Bears did not shy from calling plays with a standard mix of shotgun formations and ones under center. Trubisky took about the same percentage you see every starting quarterback in the league take based on game situations as well as just giving different looks to keep defenses guessing. There was no slanted number of shotgun snaps to coddle Trubisky and as I mentioned he handled all of them flawlessly.
My second observation regarding Trubisky and how the Bears game planned for his first game situation start was how Loggains used him to exploit his best attributes. Things like his athleticism, his ability to throw with accuracy and zip on the run, and his ability to read through his progressions. I saw a few combo routes that set up first reads, but also had options to go elsewhere should the defense had picked up on the pass route schemes and concept behind them. He handled that perfectly.
In my opinion, it’s obvious Trubisky is the best option for the Bears to win now not just in the future. The quicker this move is made the starter the sooner the Bears can actually be a threat to opposing defenses and give defensive coordinators a little fear when scheming for the Bears offense. Of course, the Bears need to call the game for him on a scaled down version of their offense and rely on their power run game at least until Trubisky absorbs more of the offense. Then, as the Cowboys did with Dak Prescott, expand his responsibilities and play choices as the season moves along. It may not be right out of the gate, but I would not be surprised to see Trubisky be put in game one against Atlanta if Glennon is as skittish as he looked last Thursdays pre-season tilt, and never give it up until retirement.
I want to get to the wide receivers real quick. The first team guys I think got a bad wrap by the media. Most of what I heard was the wide receivers were bad, but it’s not what I saw. Cameron Meredith might have legitimate criticism coming his way for his play as he was not as good as some expected, but I would even give him a pass. It’s my opinion Meredith is being unfairly put in the number one role. I don’t see him as a guy that will go up against number one corner backs game in game out and dominate.
I think once other receivers distinguish themselves as I believe some will Meredith will get covered by the 2nd and 3rd best options at cornerback and thus be more successful. He showed zero separation and had a big drop that would’ve been a first down and played the Glennon pick six jump ball wrong. He should have stopped his route and undercut it getting in front of the cornerback or simply turned into a defender and knocked it down instead of trying to extend like he did to catch it. There was no way he had a chance for a catch. So with Meredith fine. I can agree he could and likely will do better.
However, the White criticism is not deserved. It’s obvious they had no plays run for him in routes as a first option and Glennon never looked his way. He seemed fixated on Meredith, something that seemed to be a continuation of camp and the Bears seemed dead set on putting Glennon in situations he was most comfortable with to break him in. White was essentially a glorified Tight End. He was used as an extra run blocker downfield which by the way, he did very well. He was extremely physical and dominated every defender he blocked. Seemed like their defensive backs wanted no part in wrestling around with the physically imposing White. Hard to say he had no separation as most the time he was running verticals to clear the area for the intended receivers. Also, as I mentioned there was no all-22 available so hard to see what he did after he disappeared off my screen ten yards into his route. We’ll have to wait a little longer to see what he offers as a pass catcher.
As for the other starter in the slot, Kendall Wright was very good. Caught his one target for a big 14 yard gain for a first down that would have been an even bigger play had Glennon passed it sooner and hit him in stride as he had five yards of separation from his man on a lightning quick cut on his in route, but had to stop mid route to get the pass and then restart once he caught it. He was also wide open as I mentioned previously on Glennon’s pick six and would have had a huge play on his in breaking crossing route as he had nothing but open green in front of him as the nearest defender was 10 yards away. Bears executed a nice high low combo on that play Glennon went for the high option when he should have gone for the underneath route. His blocking was aggressive and effective as well.
Victor Cruz had a so so start. He did have the Touchdown just before the end of the half on a well-designed rub combo route executed to perfection with Bellamy. There was also a downfield pass near the end zone that Cruz appeared to have a step on his man and also appeared to get held which the officials missed. They also missed the late hit to the head too. bad night for the officials by the way. They also missed a hit to the head twice on the same play by two separate defenders on the Glennon pick six and made a bogus holding call on Cody Whitehair negating a nice run. Looks like the pass would’ve been a completion to Cruz if he wasn’t grabbed and possibly his second touchdown connection with Trubisky.
Cruz also had a huge drop in their own territory during the two-minute drill in the fourth quarter with the Bears down by seven. The Bears eventually converted a first and got down to the Bronco twenty-two yard line and had a play thrown into the end zone that was incomplete, but it did take away time off the game clock by the Bears having to run a couple extra plays to get it done. Plus, it was put on him perfectly in stride with lots of green in front of him and him angling towards the sideline which could’ve been for big yardage and him getting out of bounds to stop the clock. That play may have prevented the Bears from having a different result in the final score. Cruz is supposed to be the reliable vet so he needs to make sure that never happens again.
The other guys looked really good. Thompson looked like he will be on the final 53. Thompson had a great game on the kickoff return and coverage Phase of special teams. He also caught everything he could get his hands on and made some huge plays in that game. Showed some real speed the Bears desperately need especially if Marcus Wheaton continues to show durability issues and if White looks like he lost that 4.35 giddy up with his leg issues. Thompson really stood out.
Bellamy also stood out. Made two big catches. His second one was particularly impressive because he plucked the ball. His first one he belly caught, but he did have to twist behind him and made the grab. He also broke contact with his defender and got the ball inside the Denver ten yard line. He also executed two nice combo rub routes one of which went for the Cruz touchdown at the end of the half. If that wasn’t enough he drew a holding call in the end zone that put the ball inside the five-yard line on a drive that eventually ended in a touchdown to Cruz. Great pre-season debut by Bellamy. Also had his usual stellar play on special teams. Meredith and Bellamy will be really hard to cut from this team. Both apparently have taken to being team leaders as well.
Tanner Gentry also had an excellent sliding thirteen-yard catch on a big gain on the Bears second possession of the second half of the game that eventually ended on a field goal on his only target of the game. Even Ruben Randel looked good and made some nice catches before getting injured which has always been a bug-a-boo of his throughout his career and may prevent him from making the Bears final 53 man roster. All of them seemed interested blockers when needed and all ran their routes out whether it was their play or not. Overall, I liked what I saw of the Wide Receiver group.
The Tight ends did not have a great game but did good things as well. Originally I pinned a drop on Zach Miller but the ball was nearly uncatchable as Glennon threw it both behind and too low at Miller’s ankles. Another play where Glennon did not help out his lineman as Leno rode his man all the way around the pocket and even to the other side of the formation. Glennon actually ran right into a hit there as he stepped up but also drifted far right where the defender ran right into him and hit him as he threw which likely caused the inaccurate pass.
Would have been a 3rd down conversion. Also, on that play (his last one) Glennon had Ka’Deem Carey wide open as he and Joshua Bellamy executed a combo rub route to perfection. Miller did miss an assignment the play before where he chose to block the wrong man and allowed the backside linebacker to flatten out down the line and caught the Running Back just as he was about to cut it back for a no gain. However, Miller did block well otherwise as did all the tight ends. Daniel Brown missed one as did Dion Sims, but that’s to be expected in the first pre-season game. However Brown did have a drop too that would’ve been a conversion on 3rd down, and a tough one in the end zone that would have been a touchdown.
As for Shaheen, he had his fair share of snaps. He did have a drop that would’ve been a 3rd down conversion but it was a tough attempt on a high pass that Mark Sanchez appeared to throw too hard that close to him. Still, should be a catch if you want to start in the NFL. But his blocking was impressive. He was physical and effective and hustled downfield to block when a ball carrier or receiver broke loose. Sims also showed good hands on a high pass and Braunecker had a big catch on the final drive on a quick out, but also had an illegal motion call on that drive when Bears were trying to set up for a spike to stop the clock which set them back five yards. It’s one you can kind of excuse as things were kind of hectic at that time but a mistake is a mistake. There will be some tough cuts from this very deep group.
Another group that will have a tough cut or two is the Running back group. The toughest choice so far will be if the Bears have to choose between Carey and Benny Cunningham. That’s not even counting Jeremy Langford if he gets healthy and starts making plays either. At the moment though Langford is on the outside looking in. Both looked good in the offense and on special teams. I would think Carey probably has the advantage being that he has been with the Bears and knows the systems. However, I wouldn’t have Cunningham on the cut list just yet. It will be hard to keep four Running Backs though especially if they keep a fullback which is a position group I’ll address later.
The Bears, fans, and media are well aware of Jordan Howard by now, but Tarik Cohen is relatively new on the scene, but if his debut is any indication that won’t be the case in the very near future. Cohen had an excellent game as you are all aware of. The big question was whether he’d be able to run between the tackles and stand up to the physicality of the game and it looked like that question has been answered positively for the Bears. Sure, as the game snaps accumulate the more the body will be tested, but with Howard and whoever makes it as the 3rd &/or 4th backup spots to take some carries, Cohen won’t have to be used a lot. Maybe ten to fifteen snaps a game. Perhaps a little more or a little less depending on the game situations. It looks like the Bears can definitely rely on their running backs.
Finally, I give my take on the Offensive line. This also got some criticism by the media, but I saw more reason for encouragement than discouragement. people will always focus on the standout plays and even if they are one or two in comparison to many more positive snaps by said player, they’ll still crow about how awful a player was. This is the case for both of the Bears tackles and if you go by the first couple series you would be hard pressed to refute such sentiment. Leno, I feel in particularly gets unjust criticism, but as a Left Tackle in the NFL that is the most spotlighted spot on the offensive line and the reason it’s the second highest average salaried position group next to Quarterback, the most scrutinized position in the NFL. So I get that part. In this game, both Massie and Leno had two egregious missed blocks and just got beat in their first two series each, but after that, they were actually stellar. Both in pass protection and the run game. Leno was excellent in his run blocking. The Bears had a lot of success on the left side running the ball last year and looks like it will be the go to side for their run game this season as well. Leno even had a pancake block in pass protection where he just pretty much threw his guy to the turf showing the nasty side of his game that frankly has been missing too often in his first two seasons as the Bears starting Left tackle.
Another reason for the success on the left side was the play of Tom Compton at Left Guard. No way around it. He stood out. I saw no missed blocks or could not definitively say he was beaten on any one single play. At worst he had maybe two or three stalemates. later in the game, he played Right Tackle too for Trubisky’s reps and accounted for himself very well there as well. Compton by the looks of it secured his spot on the roster. Especially with the ability to play inside and out. This bodes well in case Kyle Long is limited with his playing time due to not being one hundred percent &/or if Massie gets hurt or is ineffective at Right Tackle. I do not see him as an option at Left Tackle, but you never know.
Other notables were both Hroniss Grasu (who actually outplayed Whitehair at center) and Tyler Boggs at Right Guard. Both were physical at the point of attack and showed solid technique in both pass pro and stretch zone in the run game, as well as, being assignment sound. Grasu showed a solid anchor which was a concern for fans and media members for him. He did get knocked on his ass on one play, but well after the block was made and it appeared he was tripped up by his own teammate. They were both extremely impressive. Both were nasty! Grasu also executed a few reach blocks to perfection to spring some runs. Probably the most difficult block for a lineman to execute. Jordan Morgan also accounted for himself very well. That interior group looks deep and talented and along with the Running Back talent makes it look like the Bears will be able to count on their running game being a consistent and reliable source of offense.
In my final thoughts, I will say I saw some pretty clever things with formations and personnel groupings which you normally don’t see in a pre-season game. As I mentioned earlier I would cover the Fullback spot I’m going to say that if the first game was any indication the Bears will, in fact, carry a Fullback. There were a ton of twenty-one personnel groupings with the Fullback positioned in various spots. Offset to both sides, in motion and settling as a tight End, in the I formation, even T-formation with the Halfback and the Fullback to each side of the quarterback in shotgun formation. That’s just part of what I saw with creative and multiple formations and motions as well. Did not see any H-Back looks, but I did see a creative trap block by a Tight End who was on the left side as the nearest man to the tackle in a trips formation and at the snap ran across to the other side of the formation with a trap block that got a nice 10 plus run out of it. Looks like in year three of the offense which has some original stuff from Loggains, but is a continuation of when Adam Gase was here, will have even more wrinkles in it than before. I see Loggains as expanding the responsibilities of his players and getting really creative. This is just pre-season too. I can only imagine some of the things they’ll run in the regular season.
While the Bears only scored 17 total points most of their struggles were due to the wonky play of Glennon. He moved awkwardly, had poor footwork at times, and I saw at least three bad decisions where he did not even look anywhere else but to his primary read. Not good considering he’s supposed to be the veteran. Sanchez barely had any run to critique, but when Trubisky came in just before the end of the half the offense was much smoother. They also sustained the drives better eating lots of clock. Trubisky was excellent extending drives with needed 3rd down conversions both with his arm and his legs. They had a great balance of run/pass and were efficient and effective in both areas. To put it in perspective the Bears had seven offensive possessions in the first half to only four in the second half.
Under Trubisky the Bears had an eight play drive for a TD, a twelve play drive for a TD, Another twelve play drive for a FG, a five play drive that resulted in a punt and the last drive with eleven plays starting at the 1:55 mark of the fourth quarter that got them to the opponent green zone inside the twenty five yard line and resulted in a pass into the end zone for a chance at the game tying TD and extra point conversion attempt on the last play of the game.
So, in conclusion, the offense looked good everywhere at every position minus the Offensive Tackles on the first two series and the play of Glennon and the little Sanchez played. The Tight Ends had bad moments but overall were effective blockers and made some plays in the passing game. This tells me if they get anything from the Quarterback position in the way of consistent positive play this offense can ascend to top fifteen and maybe, (if Trubisky develops quickly and starts the majority of the season), dare I say, even top Ten status in the NFL. The running game looks to be there already. Now, we wait for the passing game to catch up.