The top of the NFC North features two teams on almost identical tracks. Initially built as defense-first units, both the Bears and Vikings have shown stalwart offenses in 2018 thanks to good scheming, solid quarterback play and dangerous weapons. Chicago’s development has been particularly notable, given the anemic state of the offense a season ago.
Much of that credit goes to first year coach Matt Nagy. An early Coach of the Year candidate, Nagy has created an environment where his weapons can thrive. Running back Tarik Cohen has emerged as a dynamic, movable play-maker. Trey Burton has made an impact as an equally movable tight end. Allen Robinson has returned to “A” receiver status. All of these pieces will be a handful for the Vikings’ resurfacing defense on Sunday.
But perhaps the biggest development for Chicago has come from second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. While largely handcuffed by conservative coaching a year ago, the gloves have come off with Trubisky in year two. And as a result, he is on the whole having arguably the greatest Bears quarterbacking season of the Super Bowl era. That may sound like hyperbole, but he is on pace for 33.8 touchdowns, 12.5, 4,096 yards on 7.9 yards per attempt while completing 65.5 percent of his passes. The Bears have never had a 4,000-yard passer before. Trubisky could do that this year.
That does not mean it has been all sunshine and roses for Trubisky, however. On the contrary, he has been arguably the most inconsistent quarterback to start all nine games this year. Yes, the peaks with him have been very high, to the tune of three games of over 10 yards per attempt and two games with passer ratings over 148. But he also has five games with ratings under 90 and has struggled with inaccuracy much of the season. So when Trubisky is sharp, he is as sharp as they come. When off, he is closer to being a liability.
One thing about Trubisky this year that strongly favors the Vikings is his pocket presence. Trubisky is one of the more athletic passers in football with three games of at least 50 yards rushing. It is hard to catch him when he escapes the pocket. However, the game clearly has not slowed down for Trubisky yet, as he is wont to abandon a relatively clean pocket more often than he should. Sometimes, it results in highlight plays like this one:
Run, Trubisky, RUN!!!!pic.twitter.com/MZeDMQrTt6
— Primero y Diez (@Primeroydiez) October 21, 2018
More often, it results in an incomplete pass, or worse.
Here is an example of Trubisky getting antsy in the pocket. Anthony Miller runs a corner route that clears the defensive back for Burton and Cohen to run dig routes underneath. It appears Burton is his first read, and with Miller occupying the inside coverage, Burton is wide open when Trubisky hits his drop. But Trubisky senses a bit of pressure and scrambles. There was a window for Trubisky to hit Burton in rhythm, but he panics and ends up fumbling as he holds the ball too long.
And while they are fewer and far between, Bears fans still see occasional throws like this:
Fortunately, for all his faults, Trubisky is also providing enough flashes with throws like these:
There is no question that Nagy is giving Trubisky a solid canvas on which to work. He has schemed a lot of receivers open, kept defenses on their toes with creative plays and for the most part, Trubisky has taken advantage. He is clearly immensely talented, and is only going to get better once his feel for the pocket improves. That said, there is enough film for the Vikings to exploit a few weaknesses. They are tied for the league lead in sacks, and they have done it largely by rushing four. As such, the Vikings have the tools to get the Bears’ offense off rhythm. The question will simply be which Trubisky shows up.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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