Bears at the bye: QBs limiting offense's upside


It could be worse for the Bears after five games of the 2019 season. Sitting at 3-2 and a bye week on the horizon, Chicago will use the time off to get healthy and reflect on what's been an inconsistent start on offense.

The running game and offensive line have both come under criticism in recent weeks and have been blamed as big reasons why Matt Nagy's offense has been stifled so far this year, but it would be unfair to suggest the most important piece of any football team — the quarterback — has done its part.

Simply put, Mitch Trubisky and Chase Daniel have failed this team through five weeks. Maybe the expectations for Trubisky were too high; Nagy's suggestion that his young passer graduated to the 200-level of his offense during training camp certainly got the fanbase excited, but it was obviously premature. Instead, Trubisky's played like a student who needs some extra help.

There's no denying Trubisky's physical toolbox. He has a live arm and the kind of athletic ability to be one of the NFL's best running quarterbacks. But he hasn't taken that next step as a passer so far this season; it doesn't matter how strong a quarterback's arm is if he can't hit his target with consistency.

On paper, Trubisky hasn't had much regression from 2018. He's completing 65.1% of his passes (compared to 66.6% a year ago) and his per-game passing yardage would put him on pace for 3,136 yards, down just a tad from last year's 3,223, albeit in 14 games. But stats can often lie, and this year's box score can't be trusted.

Trubisky's biggest struggles have come when chaos ensues around him. He hasn't displayed the kind of cool and collected pocket presence that separates average quarterbacks from potentially great ones. Rarely have we seen Trubisky climb the pocket, avoid oncoming pass rushers and zip the ball to his intended target. Sure, he can keep plays alive with his legs and yes, he can avoid oncoming pass rushers, but his passes in those situations often sail high and wide with a few exceptions sprinkled in. 

Trubisky's under-pressure grade from Pro Football Focus is an embarrassing 21.7. Compare that to his 75.4 grade when he's throwing from a clean pocket, and it's obvious that he hasn't made the leap into the tier of quarterback who can succeed even when his offensive line isn't pitching a perfect game. 

Confidence also tends to reveal itself in the shots a quarterback takes downfield. Is he sure of himself and his playmakers? If so, there's a greater chance he'll let it rip. With Trubisky, that isn't the case.

He's attempted just 13 passes (four completions) longer than 20 yards in the three full games he's played this year. Compare that to his 48 attempts that traveled less than 10 yards and you get a pretty strong idea for the kind of mentality he's playing with. Sure, some of that is by design and maybe Nagy is directing Trubisky where to go with the ball, but at some point a quarterback who is deemed a franchise building block has to prove he can make chunk plays. We haven't seen that in 2019, and the Bears won't be able to win many games with such a conservative approach to the passing game.

Trubisky injured his shoulder in Week 4 against the Vikings and was forced to miss Sunday's matchup against the Raiders. Even with his subpar play in 2019, his absence was felt. Chase Daniel proved he isn't an upgrade for this offense.

And while this was the expected outcome all along, it's still concerning that the Bears don't have a solid Plan B in the event Trubisky doesn't turn the proverbial corner. Chicago has no choice but to stick with the guy they invested the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft on; there's literally no other choice, unless you're going to stan for Tyler Bray.  

We're entering a critical point in Trubisky's Bears career. He's beginning a bye week in which he's expected to get healthy and potentially return in Week 7 against the Saints. And it's from that point forward that Trubisky's future could ultimately be decided. Is he going to give the organization and the fanbase a strong 11 (or so) games that instill confidence about his trajectory? Or will it be more of the same inconsistent and erratic play that's jeopardized a potentially once-in-a-decade defense and a never-long Super Bowl window? 

After more than two seasons and 30 starts, we still simply don't know. And maybe that's a bigger problem than the Bears fan is willing to admit.

QB grade at the bye: C-

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