By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – During his days as North Carolina quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky made incompletions such a rarity that it left his team stunned.
The Bears have seen skills such as those shine since the Trubisky’s arrival at Halas Hall, but much of it has come in practice, behind the scenes. In games, they’ve yet to open up the offense.
What the rookie Trubisky can do with his arm and feet — such as his third-and-11 throw in overtime against the Ravens that set up the game-winning field goal– offers the Bears hope for their second half of the season. Now, they must offer Trubisky more, because he can only do so much.
“We need to do a better job in pass (protection), we need to do a better job of creating separation out wide,” Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “When he’s had time and had clean pockets, he has thrown some really good balls.”
Perhaps this Sunday could bring the Bears’ stalling offense something different. They are set to square off with a Packers defense that ranks 20th in passing yards allowed at 239.4 per game. On Monday night at Lambeau Field, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 78.8 percent of his passes and threw for 361 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bears have the league’s last-ranked passing attack, averaging 128 yards per game in the four games Trubisky has started, but Loggains was quick to out they haven’t provided Trubisky the support needed to better succeed. Come Sunday, Trubisky could have two new receivers lining up out wide. Markus Wheaton may be ready to rejoin the team after missing three games with a groin injury. Dontrelle Inman, acquired through a trade two weeks ago, is ready to play a key role.
Ever since assuming the starting role, Trubisky has been hampered by receivers who can’t get away from cornerbacks.
“Be in the right spots,” Inman said. “Catch everything. Even if it’s a bad ball, still catch it.”
In four starts this season, Trubisky has completed 38 of 80 passes for 512 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Some of his struggles have been the direct result of drops by receivers or situations in which he can do nothing as can’t find space. Because of that, Loggains has been handcuffed in his calls.
There’s a cascading effect to the Bears’ issues at receiver. Opposing defenses tend to jam the box against Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to slow the running game, unconcerned about leaving cornerbacks on an island with Bears receivers.
Loggains has acknowledged that he would love to have Trubisky throw the ball 30 times per game. During the offensively challenged 17- 3 win over the Panthers on Oct. 22, Trubisky threw the ball just seven times, completing four passes. The offense will look a lot different if the receivers can prove their ability to get open.
For now, Loggains faces a big challenge in attempting to create offensive balance. He did mention an option in play-calling would be to present stacks and bunches with his receivers, which would create releases against tight coverage.
Trubisky has done his part in trying to establish a chemistry with his receivers, working with Inman and Wheaton to develop a rapport on and off the field. They’ve worked extra in practice with their routes, and Trubisky joined Inman for lunch during the bye week.
Issues up front in protection should be fixable for an offensive line loaded with veterans. Trubisky has been sacked 11 times in four games, but the Bears (3-5) should have a healthy starting five up front against the Packers (4-4) on Sunday.
If the Bears can buy their quarterback time and receivers can get open, Trubisky can showcase the talented arm that made him the second overall pick.
“I feel very confident,” Trubisky said. “I’m very excited to start to open things up, really play within myself and the offense and do my job so the offense can succeed and win more games.”