By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – Standing out in front of the great expectations facing his rookie quarterback, Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains made his message clear.
“Mitch Trubisky is a very good, young player, but he is not a magic wand,” Loggains said. “We needed to play better around him. That starts with me and goes to every position group.”
Trubisky will make his NFL debut against the Vikings at Soldier Field on Monday night, the beginning of what the Bears hope brings a new era for a franchise desperate for a quarterback. But his task against a tough Minnesota defense will be simple – manage the offense by opening up the running game.
The Bears will be counting on running back Jordan Howard to carry the burden for Trubisky and the offense. After four weeks of battling against loaded boxes, rushing lanes should open up more with Trubisky.
Veteran quarterback Mike Glennon, benched by the Bears this week, did no favors to Howard and rookie Tarik Cohen by failing to get the ball downfield. His longest pass went for 29 yards during four starts leading the Bears, in which they went 1-3. The low point was Week 2 in Tampa, when Howard rushed nine times for seven yards.
Howard has been hampered by the shoulder injury suffered during his first touchdown of the season. He admitted the long layoff leading up to Monday’s game has done “wonders” but that he won’t be pain-free until several weeks. He’ll be hit plenty between now and then.
With his shoulder less of a limiting factor, Howard will now also be benefited by the threat of Trubisky at quarterback. Trubisky boasts excellent mobility, which means defenses must respect his ability to create plays. Trubisky should work plenty of play-action looks against the Vikings, keeping them from cheating in the box as defenses did against Glennon.
Opposing defenses didn’t respect Glennon’s ability to beat them over the top. They’ll have to respect what Trubisky brings.
“They definitely have to honor it,” Howard said of Trubisky’s added threat. “He can get outside the pocket and throw the ball, and he can also run it. They’ll have to keep contain of it.”
Added Cohen of Trubisky: “He (doesn’t) need to feel that he needs to be a superhero.”
Last season, the Bears beat the Vikings in a Monday night showdown at Soldier Field, with Howard rushing for 153 yards in the game, including a career-best 69-yard burst. He then rushed for 135 yards in the season finale at U.S. Bank Stadium, a positive to come from the Bears’ 13thloss of the season.
Howard’s success in the rushing game came as a lone man on the attack. He didn’t have the complement of a Cohen. The Bears now boast a thunder-and-lightning tandem at running back, a healthy offensive line and the quarterback to make them all function as one. Even fullback Michael Burton is fired up to pop some pads.
The Bears know they face a tough challenge against one of the league’s top defenses, but they’ll have to establish the ground game to back Trubisky – even with a tough foe across the line.
Trubisky doesn’t have to wave a magic wand on Monday night. All he needs is sound run-pass balance.
Injury update: Bears outside linebacker Willie Young was listed as limited in Thursday’s practice and was held out Friday due to a triceps injury. Coach John Fox didn’t have an idea of how long Young could be sidelined. The team signed outside linebacker Howard Jones to the practice squad Friday morning.