Just Day 1 of minicamp, but did Bears coaches see what they needed to from QB Mitch Trubisky?

Just Day 1 of minicamp, but did Bears coaches see what they needed to from QB Mitch Trubisky?

Random (and not-so-random) thoughts on the new kid running the Bears’ huddle on Friday…

John Fox is rarely given to strong positives, let alone superlatives, over his two seasons as Bears coach – which made his take on rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky after just one no-pads, no-contact, limited-work practice at least a little worth noting.

“I think we put a lot of work into the evaluation and again saw a lot of the reasons why we decided to pick him where we did today,” Fox said after Friday’s opening practice for the Bears’ weekend rookie minicamp. “He’s very accurate, very smart, he’s got good football character, as far as transferring things from the meeting room to the field. And I think we saw that today.”

Whether he would say if he DIDN’T see the reasons drafting him high in the first round, hard to say. Maybe not. Maybe it would have been evident in his face (pout-face?), or by damning with faint praise.

This weekend Trubisky is with fellow rookies or fringe vets on tryouts, so if he looked “good,” he absolutely better have, and assigning it any kind of significance would be silly. He’ll still have to learn proper footwork under pressure, what “open receiver” really means at the NFL level, all of the little things that seem insignificant until one of them isn’t done right. Trubisky mishandled a couple of direct-snaps, not what he did much at North Carolina, but he also wasn’t working with anyone he’d ever taken a snap from before.

“Just getting with the new centers, getting that rhythm, getting that timing and chemistry,” Trubisky said by way of summary. “It’s all about getting better every day and working under center.”

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Whether trading up from No. 3 to No. 2, and whether Trubisky was the right guy to trade up for, will remain simmering what-if’s for some time to come.

Two AFC scouts revealed that they had the highest grade on Trubisky that they’d had on any quarterback over the past six years. That means: higher than Jameis Winston; higher than Marcus Mariota; higher than Cam Newton; higher than Russell Wilson; higher than Andrew Luck; higher than Derek Carr; higher than Carson Wentz.

The evaluation of one NFC regional scouting team was that “Trubisky is an almost perfect quarterback prospect” and that 'the Bears should count their lucky stars he only started 13 games because if he was a two-year starter, he goes 1/1 [overall No. 1] without hesitation.”

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The things that can be learned from watching a minicamp, particularly a rookie one, are minimal if for no other reason than some of the things that actually matter you really have no way of assessing.

Like how well, fast and thoroughly do these guys learn?

The Bears put Trubisky through a number of drills during their evaluations of him, not for purposes of teaching him anything specific, but rather to see how he reacts to new stuff, being made uncomfortable. “We had confirmation that he would be able to handle that stuff,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, “and he would be able to get it quickly.”

Coaches altered the practice structure Friday expressly to put Trubisky in more passing situations, meaning making drops, reads, throws and all the rest. They again saw what they needed to, beyond the actual execution.

“We're having two 7-on-7 [passing sessions], so he's getting more reps that way,” Loggains said. “We gave him a big install, and he handled it. We wanted him to feel stressed a little bit and understand how different the game is and to this point right now he's responded well… .

“The expectations for him is to come in and develop as fast as possible. He gets a great opportunity to sit behind Mike Glennon; the guy’s a pro. [Trubisky] gets a chance to learn and grow in the system. Those are the only expectations, that he gets better every day.”

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Friday's unit: the offensive line. 

1. Will Kyle Long and Josh Sitton flip spots, and will it be effective?

One of the more intriguing storylines to come out of the Bears’ offseason program was the possibility of a Kyle Long-Josh Sitton guard swap, with Long moving from right to left and Sitton to left to right. The prevailing wisdom is that Long’s athleticism would be better suited for the pulls needed at left guard, while Sitton has made Pro Bowls at both positions. But is it prudent for the Bears to make this switch with Long still recovering from November ankle surgery and some nasty complications that came after it? He’s shown he’s skilled enough to already make one position switch on the offensive line (from right tackle to right guard), so there’s no reason to doubt he couldn’t handle another so long as he’s healthy. We’ll see where he is next week. 

“You want flexibility,” coach John Fox said. “You don’t want as much flexibility as we had to use a year ago because we had to play so many guys due to injury. But we’re messing around with (Sitton) and Kyle both playing opposite sides, whether one’s on the left, one’s on the right. We’ll get those looks in camp, we got plenty of time.”

2. Can Charles Leno Jr. capitalize on a contract year?

Leno has been a pleasant surprise given the low expectations usually set for seventh-round picks. He started every game in 2016, checking off an important box for John Fox — reliability. Whether Leno can be more than a reliable player at left tackle, though, remains to be seen (if the Bears thought he were, wouldn’t they have signed him to an extension by now?). He has one more training camp and 16 games to prove he’s worthy of a deal to be the Bears (or someone else’s) left tackle of the future. Otherwise, the Bears may look to a 2018 draft class rich in tackles led by Texas’ Connor Williams and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. 

“I know if I take care of my business out here, everything else will take care of itself,” Leno said. 

3. Will Hroniss Grasu survive the roster crunch?

A year ago, Grasu was coming off a promising rookie season and was in line to be the Bears’ starting center. But the Oregon product tore his ACL in August, and Cody Whitehair thrived after a last-minute move from guard to center. If the Bears keep eight offensive lineman this year, Grasu could be squeezed out: Leno, Long, Whitehair, Sitton and Bobby Massie are the likely starters, with Eric Kush and Tom Compton filling reserve roles. That leaves one spot, either for fifth-round guard Jordan Morgan or Grasu. The Bears could try to stash Morgan, who played his college ball at Division-II Kutztown, on the practice squad and keep Grasu. But Grasu doesn’t have flexibility to play another position besides center, which could hurt his case. 

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Thursday's unit: the tight ends.

1. Will Zach Miller make the 53-man roster?

Miller didn’t play a single down from 2012-14, and has missed seven games in two seasons with the Bears, but he’s been productive when on the field: 110 targets, 81 receptions, 925 yards and nine touchdowns. But the Bears signed Dion Sims to an $18 million contract and then drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round of the draft, moves that seemingly put Miller in a precarious position heading into Bourbonnais. Not helping Miller’s case is the Lisfranc fracture he suffered last November, which kept him sidelined through OTAs and veteran minicamp in May and June. He’d be a valuable player for the Bears to keep around, but at the same time, training camp could be a perfect storm for Miller to be among the cuts.

“They’re going to cutting it close for training camp,” coach John Fox said of Miller (and Danny Trevathan) in June. “But right now they’re right on target and that’s kind of what we expected all offseason.”

2. What can we expect from Adam Shaheen?

Shaheen was among the bright spots during May and June, hardly looking like someone who played his college ball at Division II Ashland while going against NFL defenders. But those were just shorts-and-helmets practices without any contact, so it’d be premature to project anything about Shaheen off of them. The real test for Shaheen will be when he puts the pads on in Bourbonnais and gets his first experience with the physicality of the NFL after a few years of being head and shoulders — literally — above his competition in college. It’s unlikely Shaheen will live up to his “Baby Gronk” hype in Year 1, but if he handles training camp well, he could be a valuable red zone asset for Mike Glennon as a rookie. 

“You don’t know until you put the pads on,” Shaheen said. “That’s what I’m excited for.”

3. How productive can this unit be?

Between Sims — who had a career high four touchdowns last year with the Miami Dolphins — and Shaheen, the Bears have two new, big targets for an offense that tied for 24th in the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns a year ago. If Miller sticks around, this group would have enviable depth. But even if he doesn’t, the Bears liked what they saw from Brown last year (16 receptions, 124 yards, 1 TD in six games). There are fewer questions about the tight ends heading into training camp than the receivers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Glennon leans on this unit, especially early in the season.