BOURBONNAIS – The NFL’s stickiest-fingered defense had at least four more interceptions Monday, and coach Matt Nagy completed more deep balls than quarterback Mitch Trubisky during the ninth practice of Bears camp.
Of course, it might as well have been the first practice when it comes to actually deciphering whether the NFL’s 21st-ranked offense last season, and specifically Trubisky, is making necessary improvements in the second summer in Nagy’s scheme.
Trubisky quipped that sometimes it feels like a defense with difference-makers at almost every spot is cheating, and admitted he's a bit tired of hearing how great it is. The media wondered how much Nagy and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, who continued to downplay the offense's struggles, are, well, downplaying the offense's struggles. Nagy, a former college and Arena League quarterback, lightened the mood of a "sluggish" session after an off day by finding Javon Wims and Anthony Miller for long touchdowns against Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara.
It’s still all fun and lighthearted because the scoreboard has yet to turn on. And although that technically happens for the first time for the Bears on Thursday night, when the Carolina Panthers visit to kick off both teams’ preseasons, for all intents and purposes it’ll be one month from Monday, when the Bears and Packers kick off the regular season, that we truly begin to learn how far the offense has come.
“No. When you do that, you’re going to beat your head into the ground,” Nagy said when asked whether his Pro Bowl alternate quarterback is under a microscope. “You can’t do that. We have big picture. There’s going to be some balls in here; there’s interceptions. I said it last year. We don’t get frustrated over that. We’re testing some things out. That’s your guys’ job: to be critical of him and me. We know how to balance that. We know what’s real and what’s not real. That’s what we do.”
It should be noted that only two plays after Trubisky tossed an interception to Amukamara in the red zone Monday – meaningless, maddening or perhaps somewhere in the middle for his coaches but not a mirage – he zipped a touchdown to Allen Robinson. Trubisky dropped a deep ball in beautifully to Wims over Fuller for a touchdown during Family Fest on Saturday night at Soldier Field after the first-team defense had just gotten the better of him.
He has intermixed his great throws with the mistakes we’re surprised he’s still making. The problem – call it confusion – is accurately gauging whether these are the same troubling inconsistent tendencies that held him back a bit in 2018, and how many of them will be eliminated in September when he’s no longer staring across from his own defense.
“Look, this is when you want to be tested as a quarterback,” said Ragone, like Nagy a former pro quarterback. “… You want your best versus best. This is the time where you’re going to see what you need to get better at, what you got better at and then move on from there with the next-play mentality. So we’re all for this. This is good for us.”
Ragone then explained one of the biggest benefits of the Bears being led by Nagy. Of course, for all the great things he did last season – a 12-4 record, the undeniable return of fun and enthusiasm to the Bears and the introduction of hope that Trubisky and the offense might soon enter the same stratosphere as the defense – it requires not trusting what we see in practice as much as trusting Nagy’s expertise.
“[Nagy] understands how the quarterback position is supposed to be played. He’s seen it through the eyes of the quarterback. If something is just a little off, he understands that, and then he tries to get to the root of it.
“And it’s constantly reminding him, good or bad, let’s just move on. Because at the end of the day, that last play might affect something in the previous but nothing in the future. So let’s go out and take each play like that, with a next-play mentality. And to have a head coach who’s constantly promoting that message to the starting quarterback, to the other quarterbacks, it’s an awesome thing.”
So far in this training camp, it’s also necessary.