By: David Kang
(Disclaimer: I am an UNC alum. Don’t @ me about our trash team this year)
After having seen enough of the Mike Glennon experiment and with the losses piling up to start the season, John Fox and the Chicago Bears finally relented and decided to go with the rookie QB Mitch Trubisky. As we saw in his first game, Trubisky gave the offense a bit of a boost and gave Bears fans something to look forward to with their offense (at least compared to Mike Glennon).
The biggest difference between Mike Glennon and Mitch Trubisky is their athleticism.
You probably don’t need these fancy spider charts from Mockdraftable to tell you this, but Trubisky is the far superior athlete, and in Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains’ offense, athleticism is invaluable to the QB. His system is a very outside zone heavy scheme a la the Kubiak offense, and having a quarterback who can run the bootleg effectively is essential as a counter play to the OZ and to keep the opposing defense on its toes.
Only twice in the season so far (by my rough count) have the Bears have tried to run bootlegs off of OZ with Mike Glennon. However, the coaching staff understands that it is not a great play for Mike Glennon and the offense and that he did not have the requisite athleticism to execute it.
You can see just how slow Glennon is in getting to the outside of the defense here, which causes him to drift further and further in the backfield. Doing this will make him more prone to throwing off into his back foot and elongating the distance he has to throw the ball to get to his receivers, the combination of which likely leading to dangerous plays and turnovers. Because of this, the Bears have not ran much play action out of their OZ plays with Mike Glennon at QB, depriving them of an essential counter off of their main run play.
However, with Trubisky at the helm, the Bears have turned to the bootleg a whopping 4 times against the Vikings, which is double the number of times they ran the play in the first four weeks of the season. With such stark contrast in athleticism, you can see the ease with which Trubisky can get out of the play action fake and into the flat. On top of bootlegs, the Bears have utilized more rollouts in general, which helps the offensive line in pass protection while providing easier reads for the quarterback.
Trubisky’s athleticism is on display here as he rolls out with ease after the play action fake. Also compared to Glennon, who is 6 inches taller than Trusbisky, the rookie QB does not have as many moving parts that go into his throwing motion and is in general much better at throwing on the move. Here he throws an accurate dime 30 yards down the field while rolling to his right.
In this play, Trubisky rolls out but Zach Miller is too slow getting across the field for Trubisky to throw the ball to him. He becomes wide open late in the play, but Trubisky doesn’t have the angle to deliver the ball across his body with Danielle Hunter in the way. This play is probably doomed for a sack if Glennon were running it, but Trubisky is able to sneak through Hunter on the edge and garners a respectable 3 yards out of a negative play.
Here’s another rollout play. Dion Sims gets tripped up getting out on his route, which deprives Trubisky of his 1st option. He calmly moves to his 2nd option with Markus Wheaton running a deep 15 yard comeback. Waynes has good coverage on Wheaton, but Trubisky throws an absolute dime into a tight window to where only Wheaton can catch it. Unfortunately, Wheaton bobbles the ball and results in an incompletion.
Another benefit that comes with athleticism is it afford the QB more playmaking ability and compensates for the lack of receiving talent. The Bears lost their top 2 receivers in Cam Meredith and Kevin White and largely lack any playmaking ability on the outside. Thus, athleticism from the QB position gives them another threat for the offense.
In the play above, the Vikings line up to what looks like single high press-man coverage pre-snap. Trubisky sees post-snap all of his receivers covered (Zach Miller got open late in the slot on an out route), and seeing an open running lane on the right due to the Vikings being in man coverage, Trubisky is able to utilize his athleticism to get the 1st down on 3rd and 13, beating safety Sendejo to the first down spot.
Trubisky shows great pocket awareness here as he senses imminent pressure coming from his right and escapes the pocket. Although not a textbook play in terms of mechanics, Trubisky shows the ability to throw accurately on the move rolling to the left. An important aspect of quarterbacking that largely goes unmentioned is the ability to throw from different platforms and arm trajectories while still delivering the ball accurately. Matt Stafford is a good example of this, but having this ability allows QB to make plays that he normally wouldn’t whilst using “textbook mechanics” and be productive in less than perfect situations. In this play, Trubisky’s feet and shoulder do not necessarily line up to where his target is, but he is still able to sidearm a good accurate pass to the receiver on the move.
Another great play here by Trubisky that won’t show up in the stat sheet. Cody Whitehair, who’s been struggling snapping the ball this season, snapped it a bit too high, and the ball was deflected out of Trubisky’s hands. Not only was Trubisky athletic enough to catch the ball mid-air, he was able to maintain his poise and eyes down the field and maneuver traffic after the bobbled snap. In the end, he just throws the ball away for no gain but averted the negative yardage.
However, the problem with having a young QB and a lack of receiving talent is that the latter will force the QB to force some throws in order to make a play on offense. The best play would be to throw the ball away in these situations, but since throwing the ball away every other play would not be conducive to good offense anyway, QBs in these situations will take more ill-advised risks.
In the play above, the Bears run another hard bootleg fake, but the Vikings see it coming this time, and every receiver is well-covered. Because there’s no pressure, Trubisky tries to manipulate Miller to the left and see if he can come open. Miller can’t shake the defender free, and Sendejo is in perfect position to make an interception. Considering it is 1st and 10 with a 1 score differential, this is the type of risk that Trubisky needs to avoid. Lucky for him however, Sendejo is not able to make a play on the ball and conveniently tips the ball to Zach Miller.
Here it a similar situation, where Trubisky’s decision making did end up costing the offense. It’s a tied game with 2:32 left in the 4th quarter on 1st and 10. OC Dowell Loggains calls a short passing concept, but the Vikings have been sitting on the short passes all throughout the game. Nobody is open, and Trubisky bails the pocket to try and make a play. You could argue that he bailed the pocket slightly early here, but he went through all of his progressions and found nothing open. With the quality of his receiving corps, it’s understandable (at least for me) for him to try and make a play with his legs. However, at the point where Trubisky rolled out to the left, he should have just thrown the ball away. Miller created some separation from Harrison Smith cutting across to the middle of the field, but the passing angle was just not there coming across from his body. Considering the down and distance and game situation, Trubisky should have just thrown the ball away and live to see another down. However, he threw the ball right to Harrison Smith and cost the team the game.
All in all, it was a promising game from Mitch Trubisky. He showed without a doubt that he’s a better QB than Glennon is and provides more for the offense with his accuracy and athleticism. OC Dowell Loggains also protected Trubisky in this game a little bit with mostly rollout plays, mostly half-field concepts, and short 1st read throws.
An interesting thing that fellow Setting the Edge contributor Derrik Klassen noted is how Trubisky struggles mechanically throwing to his left. His plant foot often opens far too wide, which causes him to miss outside. Looking at the chart above, it is clear that the Bears offense tried to mainly limit the passing game to the right side of the field. Whether that is by design through rollouts (or Xavier Rhodes), or Trubisky’s natural preference, it is definitely something that defenses will catch onto quickly and Trubisky needs to overcome.
It will also be interesting to see how he responds if/when the playbook is opened up a little more (although with the receiving talent on the roster, I personally do not think that is a great idea) and be more aggressive in manipulating the defense and attacking the intermediate portion of the field as Deshaun Watson has done for Houston. I am also curious to see how much Coach Loggains will utilize Trubisky in the running game. They have not done it a whole lot against the Vikings, but it would not surprise me if we began to see more runs from shotgun to utilize Trubisky’s athleticism in the running game. Overall, it still baffles me that the staff decided to go with Glennon to start the season, seeing how much Trubisky opens up the offense, but now that he is the starter, he gives the Bears the best chance at winning games. With a relatively soft schedule to finish out the season, we will be able to see if Trubisky and a very solid defense will be able to respond to the slow start to the season.