Chicago Bears

Truth, Trubisky and (what should be) the Bears Way

Truth, Trubisky and (what should be) the Bears Way

Bears general manager Ryan Pace tried to do the rebuild-on-the-fly. But injuries, and some misses among his hits in drafting and free agency, proved during last season this was going to take a little longer. And based on health, cohesiveness, and their first half schedule, who knows if 2017 will look much better, won-loss-wise, when all is said and done?

Even though the collective bargaining agreement requires players to stay away from team-supervised workouts, Bears rookies have been working with the organization to remain visible through the first two weeks of this break before training camp. While veterans scatter to vacations and their off-season homes, the rookies are trying to settle into their new professional homes while they can. They’ve been seen out in the community, led by Mitch Trubisky, visiting hospitals and speaking at youth camps. And let’s face it, most optimism about the franchise’s future must come from the hoped-for cornerstones of this rebuild, with those ingredients needing to come together and show progress this season. Not the only factors, but key ones in resuscitating the organization. And the more we see and hear them, the better, provided they’re willing participants.

While there are Leonard Floyds and Eddie Goldmans and Cody Whitehairs and Cam Merediths that should be part of that foundation, three potential keys who, ideally, could be main offensive stars when this team gets good again, led a 7-on-7 camp Friday in Wheaton. Trubisky was joined by “veterans” Jordan Howard and Kevin White. Two of those three have yet to prove much, if anything, in NFL game action. But unless you’ve already made your minds up negatively on Trubisky and White, feel-good interaction with kids, and fans in general, goes a long way in rooting for them.

Trubisky has embraced his activity. The second overall pick is probably aware of the doubters, and hopefully understands the knuckeheads who booed him when he was introduced at a Bulls game were more likely booing the overall drought and frustration. But he’s said all the right things, has bought into what the investment in him means, and understands his short-term role behind Mike Glennon without planning on giving a competitive inch. So when he answered a question about whether the Bears would make the playoffs during Friday’s Q-and-A with the campers, he said he thought they would. But White, who knows a thing or two about how things may be interpreted, got in the quarterback’s ear to make sure they understood it was a feeling, not a public guarantee.

“Great message,” White said with a smile as reporters laughed, knowing where he was going. “He’s just gotta be clear on some things. People can take it the wrong way and run with it and make it seem like he’s being cocky. We all think that, of course. But we’ve gotta put some pieces together and do what we have to do to get there. I think Mitch cleared it up that he wasn’t saying 'for sure we’re going to the playoffs,' but just said that’s what we think. And that’s what we all think.”

White also shared some other knowledge about the trials and tribulations of Bears’ fans expectations with a top 10 draft pick.

“Just with the experience and the pressure, the things people expect, try to teach him how to handle that a little bit.”

Howard, who was on stage at Soldier Field Saturday night as part of the Warriors Games opening ceremony, has noticed Trubisky’s commitment.

“You can tell he wants to be great” the team’s all-time rookie rushing leader said Friday. “He puts the time in, and the effort to be a great quarterback in this league, because in order to be great, you’ve go to put the time in and have a good work ethic.”

That, of course, is no guarantee for greatness, just as Trubisky’s words were a feeling, not a guarantee. His personality could change down the road as success and failures come. But Pace said that’s not likely, based on his background homework and personal interaction. At this very early stage, Trubisky is embracing all he can to represent his employer, and maybe even plant some seeds of hope along the way in the community.

“I guess that comes with the position, part of playing quarterback, part of being drafted second overall,” Trubisky said between answering questions from campers, then getting out on the field with them.

“I realize that my voice holds some weight now. I just gotta be careful with what I say, but also realize I want to be a positive influence in the community for these kids out here and the Bears organization. The things I do, I want them to reflect on my own beliefs and how I want to make a positive impact on the people around me.”

Can Markus Wheaton fix what ails the Bears’ offense?

Can Markus Wheaton fix what ails the Bears’ offense?

Markus Wheaton was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and wasn’t on the Bears’ injury report Thursday, signaling that the 5-foot-11, 189 pound speedster will make his Bears debut Sunday against his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s not the solution for the Bears’ offense, but he could be part of it. 

For an offense that’s woefully lacked someone who can reliably stretch the field, Wheaton can at least provide the threat of going deep. Two years ago, while with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Wheaton averaged 17 yards per reception. Mike Glennon’s longest completion this year went for 22 yards. 

“It definitely adds another dimension,” Glennon said. “It’ll be great having Markus back.”

But Wheaton only played in three games last season (four catches, 51 yards) and, at his best, averaged 48 catches, 696 yards and four touchdowns a year from 2014-2015. Is it fair to expect Wheaton to be a big part of the Bears' offensive solution given he hasn't played much recently, and was limited to only a handful of reps in training camp and preseason practices due to a pair of freak ailments?

Maybe not, but with the Bears 0-2, he's the best hope they have at a skill position. 

Wheaton needed an emergency appendectomy the first weekend the Bears were in Bourbonnais — “I thought I had to poop,” Wheaton said, maybe providing too much information, before realizing the excruiating pain in which he was in was something worse. Shortly after returning to the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University, Wheaton fractured his pinkie finger in gruesome fashion (he said the bone was sticking out) when he was awkwardly grabbed while trying to catch a pass. 

That Wheaton broke a finger wasn’t only significant for his ability to catch passes. Consider what his former quarterback — Ben Roethlisberger — had to say about what makes Wheaton an effective deep threat:

“He’s got a very good ability of using his hands,” Roethlisberger said. “When you’re trying to stretch the field, you’ve gotta have some little techniques to help you get open because DBs can run as much as receivers can. So you gotta be able to use your hands to swim, kinda, get some swiping, get the hands off, I thought that he really had some good technique when it came to the deep ball and getting away from DBs.”

Roethlisberger and Wheaton shared a good rapport in Pittsburgh, with the quarterback clearly communicating to the receiver what he expected timing-wise in his routes. It’s been a challenge to develop something similar with Glennon given the lack of practice time, but Wheaton said putting in extra work after practice has helped. 

If Wheaton and Glennon can get on the same page, perhaps that can lead to at least some deep ball attempts. The Bears have to find a way to prevent opposing defenses from stacking the box and focusing on stopping Jordan Howard, who only has 59 yards on 22 carries this year. 

“We're going to face overpopulated boxes, we know that,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “There's going to be seven, eight guys in the box every time and we have to execute better and it comes down to that.”

According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, only three of Glennon’s 85 pass attempts have traveled 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The only completion of those was Sunday’s garbage-time touchdown to Deonte Thompson, which was caught near the back of the end zone. 

The threat of Wheaton going deep won’t be enough, though. Glennon still has prove he can complete those deep balls — the last time he completed a pass of 25 or more yards was on Nov. 2, 2014 (though he’s only attempted 96 passes since that date). 

But Wheaton feels ready to go and is confident he can do his job — which, in turn, could, in a best-case scenario, help his other 10 teammates on offense do their jobs, too. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” Wheaton said. “I’m excited and hopefully this is the week.”

Kris Bryant is all aboard the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon

kris_bryant_mitch_trubisky_slide_photo.jpg
AP

Kris Bryant is all aboard the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon

Count Kris Bryant among the Chicagoans who are calling for Mitch Trubisky to start at quarterback for the Bears.

OK, that may be a bit extreme as Bryant simply said he would supporting giving Trubisky a "shot", but still:

After a rough game for incumbent starting QB Mike Glennon last week, most of Chicago has been clamoring for the No. 2 overall pick to get some snaps under center.

Why wouldn't the crown prince of Chicago baseball get in on the noise?