How will limited preseason for Bears, Trubisky play out in Green Bay?
LAKE FOREST — It will be obvious after Sunday night’s Bears-Packers game at Lambeau Field how effective coach Matt Nagy’s plan was to practice a lot and play his starters very little in the preseason.
Will it prove to be a miscalculation that is vilified, or will it be validated and become a trend of the future?
It will be especially interesting to see how well the offense performs, and especially second-year QB Mitch Trubisky, who played in just two of the five preseason games and threw only 18 passes.
Trubisky, an opening-day starter for the first time, has yet to complete a regular-season pass to WRs Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Kevin White and Anthony Miller, or to TE Trey Burton. But six of Trubisky’s 11 preseason completions went to Burton, demonstrating the start of what could be a strong connection. The quarterback said a lot went into building that rapport, and he believes he’s synched up with his other receivers as well, despite the limited preseason snaps.
“It’s definitely the reps in practice,” Trubisky said. “The reps we weren’t getting in games, we were throwing the day of the game and many days before that. Just all the timing, the repetition and the routes we ran, and then just building that chemistry on and off the field with Trey and with all those guys. So I feel really good with where we’re at chemistry-wise between me, the tight ends, the receivers, the running backs and all that -- just with all the reps that we’ve had in practice.”
But there’s always a “but.”
“But it has to translate to the games,” Trubisky said. “Everybody knows it’s different from practice to game. So we’ve just got to go out there, everyone do their jobs and hopefully the timing, the chemistry that we built pays off in the game.”
While outsiders have expressed doubts about Nagy’s methods, players inside Halas Hall are all in. Some other NFL coaches also played their starters limited snaps in the preseason, but the gamble is a bit greater for a first-year coach like Nagy. You wouldn’t know that from listening to him because Nagy is confident he knows what’s best for his team.
“Those guys, they stole every rep they could possibly get (during) special teams (portions of practices),” Nagy said about Trubisky and Co. “Or when the defense is up, they’re getting routes on air and trying to get that timing down. So I like where we’re at. We’re excited to see where it continues to go and then how we can piece all those guys together.”
A potential benefit to Trubisky’s and the other offensive starters’ limited play is that it adds even more intrigue and uncertainty for Mike McCarthy’s Green Bay defense under the direction of new coordinator Mike Pettine. Not only is there very little film of the new offense, but there’s some mystery concerning how Nagy will run the offense in his first season as a head coach. And McCarthy also has to devise a plan for keeping OLB Khalil Mack off Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.
“That’s all part of the challenge, and really it’s the challenge of the first game,” McCarthy said. “History will tell you it’s probably 30-35 percent of unscouted looks in the game, and it could potentially be higher, based on Matt’s history and ... how we think they’re going to line up and how their (players are) going to be used. This is all part of the Week One challenge, and this is unique. This is a division-rival game, a new head coach, a new scheme, and obviously a new premier player (Mack), who was added on Sunday.”
If nothing else, the mystery surrounding the Bears’ offense will force the Packers to spend extra time figuring out how to defend it. And, if the Bears play well, a lot of NFL coaches will spend time contemplating an even more scaled-back approach to the preseason.