BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Neither coach Matt Nagy nor third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is panicking.
Yes, the defense of the Chicago Bears looks way ahead of the offense through eight training camp practices. But it might be ahead of nearly every offense in the NFL because it's that good. And Nagy is operating under a philosophy of "tinker now."
Trubisky enjoyed a productive sophomore season (3,223 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 421 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns) under the then-first-year head coach. Nagy, named the 2018 NFL Coach of the Year for guiding the Bears to 12 victories and a postseason berth, established himself as an innovative offensive mind with the ability to accentuate Trubisky’s strengths and manage the quarterback’s relative lack of experience.
The stakes are higher in 2019. The Bears are no longer a surprise story, and for Chicago to challenge for a Super Bowl, Trubisky has to grow in Nagy’s offense.
But don’t expect the Bears to micromanage every snap Trubisky takes in training camp. Yes, all three Bears quarterbacks have tossed their share of practice interceptions, Trubisky included, but Nagy stressed on Monday that he’s not inclined to overreact based on how Trubisky performs on the practice fields of Olivet Nazarene University.
“When you do that, you're going to beat your head into the ground,” Nagy said on Monday. “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.”
Trubisky points to the perceived offensive struggles as both a byproduct of the Bears’ ferocious defense (Chicago led the league in so many defensive statistical categories last year that it’s hard to keep track) and Nagy’s devotion to situational football in training camp.
"We’ve been in a lot of situations this camp that we haven’t seen in the past couple years or in practices,” Trubisky said Monday. “These situations come up especially with the defense that we’re going against there. Maybe we get a call that we fixed. Or we pick up a first down or do something situationally that we haven’t done in the past. I think that’s where we’re growing and coming together as a team. We’re just seeing a lot of different looks, and we’re adjusting off that. That’s allowed us to grow as an offense, communicate and stay on the same page.”
Or as quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone put it: “This is the time to push the envelope. If not now, when?”
“Coach Nagy is a great coach to play quarterback for, specifically in these types of settings in training camp because he allows you to go out there, test some throws, to see what you can get away with,” Ragone said. “We’re constantly pushing that mentality.”
Every quarterback understands the importance of protecting the football. Trubisky threw 12 picks in 434 regular-season pass attempts last season, after tossing seven interceptions in 330 throws as a rookie.
The Bears say they can live with Trubisky’s turnovers in the preseason, as long as the mistakes are corrected by the season opener against the Packers on Sept. 5.
“We're still going through the bulk of our offense, but we throw in some new stuff every now and then and that's where you see the adjustments happening on the field and that's where we go correct them in the film room,” Trubisky said. “So you've got to keep evolving and keep getting better. Coach Nagy is big into that. When you think you're on top of your game, you've got to change it, and keep evolving and keep getting better.
“We have our bread and butter, what we've been doing, and then we also have some new sprinkles in there that we just go through within practice and try to get it on film, get it repped and see if it sticks or see if we need to get rid of it, and it's just trial and error at that point.”