Mitch Trubisky has shown his team more than his beer chugging ability during the offseason program.
The third-year quarterback’s ability to read defenses and relay information to his teammates, the Bears say, is immensely improved from a year ago. What else have his coaches and peers noticed that’s different about the 24-year-old Pro Bowl alternate in his second full NFL offseason?
“He’s older, he’s wiser – all the cliché stuff,” guard Kyle Long said. “But it holds true with Mitch. He’s done a great job. And he’s so approachable. He’s impressionable in regards to speaking with the coaches, and he’s receptive as far as coaching and learning.”
Impressionable was a word uttered by more than one of Trubisky’s teammates in describing him, and it’s an important one because general manager Ryan Pace has really built the young quarterback a strong incubator and it would go to waste if he weren’t so willing to learn and develop.
“He’s a very impressionable guy when you meet him,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “But I think the biggest thing now is he really wants to dissect the defense.”
Helping Trubisky master that art is reigning NFL Coach of the Year Matt Nagy and a pair of former quarterbacks in offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone. After Helfrich described the “different air around Trubisky” this year, Ragone expanded on what that means specifically and how having a more cerebral quarterback will make the offense better.
“There’s some core plays that make a lot of sense that maybe he just didn’t see cleanly [last year],” Ragone said. “Now we’re going to give him the opportunity through spring and through training camp to see if we can build equity back into those plays. If it works for us and he develops great success for us, it just helps us.
“First year in an offense, you’re throwing a lot at a guy. Some stick, and some don’t. You go back as a staff in the offseason, and you go through the plays, and you realize, ‘Gosh we can get him there,’ or he comes to us and says, ‘Hey, I really like that play.’ It’s a two-way street. This is the time to try that stuff, especially in May and June.”
Becoming a student of the game who can call it at the line as he sees it before the snap isn’t a linear process. Trubisky had 13 collegiate starts before what basically was a lost rookie season for gaining offensive knowledge worth transferring. That was an important point to remember as Trubisky took his lumps last season in a new offense. What was evident consistently was his athleticism, his arm talent and his ability to foil defenses with his feet.
Mike Davis shared a backfield with one of the best in that regard in Russell Wilson. He said he sees even more speed and explosiveness in Trubisky.
“Fast. He has a big arm. He trusts his players,” Davis said. “Mitch got wheels. I would say it’s kind of different. I think Mitch is faster than Russ, that’s just my opinion.”
To wit: Wilson ran the 40-yard dash at the 2011 combine in 4.55 seconds, compared with Trubisky’s 4.67. Keep in mind, Trubisky has 3 inches and at least 10 pounds on Wilson, the Seahawks’ dazzling playmaker with a far more established track record – as a runner and thrower. But Trubisky was deadlier with his legs last season, finishing fifth overall among quarterback rushing and second in yards a carry.
That’s one dimension of Trubisky’s game the Bears don’t want to see change. He showed better sliding form upon returning from the shoulder injury he suffered at the end of a scramble on a late hit by Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith.
And, as Helfrich reminded everyone last week, it’s not as if he wants to see Trubisky make many profound changes. The Bears like his developmental arc and, again, say their focus is on making tweaks, not reinventing the wheel.
“We want to bring out everything that’s in him and more,” Helfrich said. “He’s a highly competitive guy. He’s a highly self-critical guy, which is a good thing at times. It’s a great thing at times. And sometimes, he needs to just flush it and move on and blame it on somebody else.
“But just the way he carries himself. Last year at this time you’re going, ‘OK, you’re getting, whatever, the personnel. I have to think about that for a second.’ Now, it’s just chest up, communicate, ‘Hey, you get over here now.’ The operation just has a much different level of confidence.”