Can Mitchell Trubisky win from the pocket?

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky
BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky /

The Carolina Panthers will force rookie Mitchell Trubisky to win from the pocket in week seven. Can he do it?

The first two starts of the Mitchell Trubisky era have featured typical rookie quarterback results. The Bears have simplified things and have taken the ball out of their quarterback’s hands more often than not. However, if the Panther game plan goes the way they intend, they will be forcing Trubisky to throw in this game much more than pass.

The Panthers are loaded in the front. Kawann Short is as good of interior penetrator as there is in the league and Star Lotulelei is a strong nose tackle as well. These two hoist the sixth best rushing defense on a play-by-play basis.

The Panthers defense is not complex, but their talent makes performing against them tough. They are going to play a ton of zone, and they are typically going to rely on rushing their four-man front and dropping the rest. This tends to work with two long outside cornerbacks who are built to tackle and with multiple edge rushers for every type of situation.

The Bears weakness on the offensive line is the tackles. If the Panthers want to establish the edge and contain Trubisky to the pocket, they should be able to do that. Most of the highlights of Trubisky’s career so far have been plays outside of the pocket. 18 of his 41 passing attempts have come out of the pocket. Both of his touchdown passes came outside of the pocket, and the majority of his other big plays have been in that regard.

However, Trubisky has been able to stand in the pocket and make plays. In fact, it can be argued that he has been better in the pocket so far in his career. Through two games he is a 56% passer and is averaging 5.7 yards per attempt in the pocket. When he is moving and getting out of the pocket, he is averaging six yards per attempt but is just a 38% passer. He has the two touchdowns outside of the pocket, but also has his interception.

This can be explained by the average depth of target is much further on busted plays or designs to roll Trubisky out. Meanwhile, Trubisky has thrown three screens and has checked down twice in the pocket. He averaged 15.4 yards per completion outside of the pocket compared to 10.2 when inside the pocket.

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This is not to say that keeping Trubisky as a pocket passer in the long term is a good idea. However, with the Panthers running their zone defense, this is will be how the Bears need to beat them. They are going to give up the short stuff. Trubisky will have to take that to avoid the pass rush. It will be on the playmakers to evade tackles and turn the quick passes into yards. Much more than half of Trubisky’s attempts should be coming from inside the pocket in this game. We will see if Trubisky can thrive in this role, and add a new feather to his cap moving forward.