How would you grade the Chicago Bears quarterback play based on the first four games of their season?
With the Chicago Bears bye week coming at the quarter mark of the NFL season, it presents a good chance to look back at how everyone has trended through the first four games of the season. This week, this series will grade out each position group based on how well they performed compared to expectations. To start, Mitch Trubisky.
If you extrapolated out the first four games by Trubisky, he would finish the season a 70% passer with 32 touchdowns and 12 touchdowns with 3,780 yards. Last season Jared Goff was a 62% passer with 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions, throwing for 3,804 yards.
Yes, Mitch Trubisky had his stats bumped up by a huge game against Tampa Bay. Still, that is how stats work. That is also why extrapolating a four-game sample out over a season isn’t the best strategy. Still, he is on pace for good stats.
The NextGen stats do a good job of providing context into who Trubisky is. One note that stood out from these stats is that Trubisky was fifth in the NFL in time to throw. This is the time between snap and release.
The only names to get the ball out faster than Trubisky this season is Derek Carr, Blaine Gabbert, Sam Bradford, and Andrew Luck. With Luck’s arm issues, this a list of four quarterbacks who check the football down a lot.
However, Trubisky veers off a bit from this group when it comes to moving the football down the field. Yes, this number likely took a huge increase against Tampa Bay. Still, when it comes to intended air yards, Luck, Gabbert, Carr and Bradford all sit in the bottom six as well. They are getting the ball out quick and short.
However, while Luck ranks sixth lowest in intended air yards, throwing the ball 6.4 yards down the field per throw, Trubisky is near the middle part of the league, throwing the ball 8 yards down the field on a per throw basis. Trubisky is tied with Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger in intended air yards. When looking at intended yards behind the sticks, Trubisky is tied with Tom Brady at 0.7 yards behind the sticks, while Ben Roethlisberger throws his passes 0.8 yards behind the sticks.
Even better is that Trubisky has a lower air yard differential than Brady or Roethlisberger, which means he is completing his deep shots more often than the two Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
Another interesting note is his aggressiveness rating. Trubisky ranks eighth in aggressiveness, which the amount of separation needed for a quarterback to throw the pass. This could be looked at in two-fold. On one end, he is taking his shots and trusting his arm. This is great for a young quarterback with a live arm like Trubisky. It also shows that Matt Nagy has put a lot on his plate and has given him a lot of trust.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, it tells the story that Trubisky has made some poor decisions. He has thrown the ball into crowds at times, and it can easily be argued that he should have too more interceptions. Nagy will have to walk a fine line between letting his young signal caller be aggressive, but also manage the game with a great defense.
Game by game
The high number in average depth of target brought the question as to how inflated that number could be by the one Tampa Bay game. Football Outsiders has Trubisky rated as the 20th most efficient quarterback through four weeks. They weight their efficiency metrics on a play by play basis. This makes sense as it does not over inflate the good of just one game against Tampa Bay.
Still, with that quick release, and a higher than expected intended air yards per target, you can see he also took his shots against Green Bay.
Trubisky was 2-4 on that right sideline 20 yards down the field and was 2-6 on the night throwing deep. Still, when you combine the quick passes and a ton of green near the line of scrimmage, a few shots down the field is all he needed.
What is interesting to note is the following game. After taking his shots against Green Bay, Trubisky was much more of a check down weapon against Seattle. He threw the ball beyond 20 yards twice, an incompletion and interception.
If you look at the second half play by play charts against Green Bay and add in the Seattle Seahawks game, a decent amount of this should be put on Matt Nagy. Trubisky was aggressive early against Green Bay. Whether Nagy sensed something or not, they were not as aggressive down the field in the second half.
Yes, Trubisky was taking on an All-Pro in Earl Thomas deep down the field in Week Two. However, after his second-half took away a lot of confidence, Nagy probably needed to get Trubisky back to his game, which has been taking shots.
In Week Three, you can see the aggressiveness started to come back He completed two more passes 20 yards down the field and took six shots in total down the field. Again, you can see a lot of green in the short passing game, and some timely shots down the field. The obvious egregious pass is the red blip well behind the line of scrimmage.
Lastly, we have the breakout game. Five completions 20 yards down the field or further. On top of that, two deep touchdowns close to 20 yards down the field. What is most impressive about this performance is how well he attacked the sidelines relentlessly.
The fourth game has done a lot to his perception, but overall he has played about average. His 70% completion percentage is not flashy because of all the short completions he has connected on. However, those short completions are what open him up as a quarterback to stretch the field deep.
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While he did not connect deep down the field often in the first three weeks, the flashes of him being able to do that were on his tape. Against a porous defense, the floodgates opened, and regression kicked in.
It would be tough to say that Trubisky has exceeded expectations to date. While he was due for a breakout game, his offensive scheme, and the weapons around him have had many impatient about his development.
On the other end of the spectrum, he has not been a letdown. Growing pains were expected, but the flashes showed enough to keep buying into even before his breakout game. The idea is that not every game will be the second half against Green Bay. Not every game will be Tampa Bay. But he will give you some highs and lows that touch those peaks as he begins to smooth out his game overall.