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Los Angeles Rams vs. Chicago Bears: Q&A with Windy City Gridiron

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Getting the inside info from Windy City Gridiron, the SB Nation community for Chicago Bears fans.

Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky attempts a pass against the Detroit Lions in Week 10, Nov. 10, 2019.
Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky attempts a pass against the Detroit Lions in Week 10, Nov. 10, 2019.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams are hosting the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football in a crucial matchup that will have a resounding effect on the NFC playoff picture.

To get a better sense of the opposition this week, I linked up with Jeff Berckes from Windy City Gridiron, the SB Nation community for Bears fans.

We have to start on the offensive side. What’s going on? Is it as simple as pinning it all on QB Mitchell Trubisky or, as I’d suspect, are the more widespread issues?

I think it’s a lot of things, and it seems like Bears fandom has come down to who you want to blame more for the total nosedive in the offense - Trubisky or [Bears Head Coach] Matt Nagy. To be charitable to both of those gentlemen, the offensive line has taken a step back and the receivers have done few favors for their QB. On the line, Kyle Long looked lost this year before getting put on IR. Maybe we’ll never know exactly what physical ailments he was dealing with this year but his career is probably over. Cody Whitehair and James Daniels flipped to what I believe are their more natural positions but Daniels and Trubisky, two young and inexperienced players, have really struggled with protection calls. Daniels and Whitehair flipped back last week with Whitehair producing a number of ugly snaps, as is his standard practice. So, it’s not great.

The receiving group is currently leading the league in drops, so that’s fun. Allen Robinson should make the Pro Bowl with his play (I realize he most likely won’t, but he should), but the rest of the group has been inconsistent. The Tight End position has been a black hole of suck that many of us saw coming but it has honestly been even worse than my low expectations for the position.

Back to Trubisky and Nagy. I tend to blame Trubisky as there have been so many plays that Nagy has called that has receivers running wide open and Trubisky either doesn’t see it or can’t deliver an accurate pass. I think Nagy has made some play calling mistakes, some game management mistakes, and some team management mistakes (not flying out to London early, for example). Just giving my opinion and wild speculation, but I think Nagy has called stubborn games because he knows he’s calling some good plays that simply aren’t getting executed well. He has been reluctant to call a game for a QB that is limited, which, unfortunately, is what Trubisky looks like.

While you guys are 4-5, it’s not as if the losses have been overwhelming. Aside from the Saints game, you guys lost the other four games on average by less than five points. In three of those, you guys didn’t score a point in the fourth quarter. So part of the story here is coming up just short. Is there something tangible there? Is it something from Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy that’s too passive or aggressive late? Something from Trubisky that’s just not able to muster the requisite performance late to carry the team over the line?

I think that’s actually a pretty good plus in the Matt Nagy scoresheet - that he’s able to keep games close. This team isn’t quitting on him. What’s funny is that last year, the story was the offense would come out hot on scripted plays, disappear in the middle of the game, and then come back when the pressure was highest. It was like Trubisky would dig himself a hole and then miraculously leap out of it. This year the scripted plays look like the same level of garbage we’re getting throughout the entire game.

This team is built to get an early lead and let the defense take over, be aggressive, and win football games. When the offense can’t get any points early, it changes the feel and tempo of the game and the defense seems to lack some of those opportunities they were feasting on last year. What I assume has happened is that defenses have sniffed out what Trubisky can do and are selling out to take away his first read. After the first game, one of the Packers defenders said they wanted to make Trubisky “play quarterback” to beat them. Well, no $#%@, but what I think he meant was be a pocket passer and have to break down defenses and work through his progression. That’s not really something he can do at this point and may not be able to figure out.

Over to defense. It’s one of the league’s best especially in light of not getting much support from the offensive side. What’s the strength of the defense? Is it the pass rush? The secondary? The linebacking corps?

When fully healthy, it’s a well-balanced unit, with play makers at every level. I think I’d be foolish to not highlight the linebackers simply because Khalil Mack is a force. Roquan Smith looked like an ascending star before being slowed down by some kind of undisclosed personal issues, but I still retain hope that he’ll turn in a good second half. However, injuries to Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, and now Danny Trevathan have tested the depth of this unit. Hicks is really the guy who changed the complexity of this unit as it went from a team you couldn’t run on to one of the softer units in the league. His absence has allowed offenses to scheme Khalil Mack out of the game for the most part as well. I like the secondary despite Eddie Jackson’s unexpected disappearance from making highlight reel plays on a regular basis. Kyle Fuller was a 1st Team All-Pro last year and is still a quality corner. However, that secondary was extremely good last year in part because the front seven was so amazing. Without the consistent pressure that the Bears enjoyed in 2018 and early this year, they’ve come back down to earth.

It’s Year 2 for Nagy and 3 for Trubisky. Is there a chance that there’s a new starting QB for you guys in Week 1 of 2020? If so, what would have to happen for that chance to bear out? And if not, why not?

A chance to “bear out,” eh?

Okay, I’d say the chances of a new starting QB in 2020 are more likely than not at this point. Trubisky would have to turn it on in the last 7 games and play like a top 15 quarterback to flip the odds back the other way. There’s such a huge volume of bad football that Trubisky has put on film that I just can’t see General Manager Ryan Pace not searching for an upgrade at the position. There’s been a lot of talk this past week about the possibility of Cam Newton in navy and orange and if he’s able to get himself healthy, I’m all for it. If it’s bringing in a guy like Teddy Bridgewater or trading for Nick Foles, fine, I’m not quite as excited, but let’s see what can happen with a veteran under center. With the Khalil Mack trade and Oakland’s good season (Chicago owns Oakland’s second round pick, Oakland has Chicago’s first), it is unlikely the Bears would be in a position to trade up for a rookie QB that could come in right away and compete. They’ll almost have to bring in a veteran, one way or another.

Let’s look at the big picture. While this season’s disappointing, last year was the Bears’ first playoff action since 2010. Certainly Matt Nagy built up some capital with that season that hasn’t been entirely erased by 2019. But the pressure will obviously be back on next year. What are you looking for in the offseason? What are the major roster needs? Any coaching staff issues that could use change?

I think we’ll see major changes in the QB room, players and coaches. I think there’s a good chance they move on from Trubisky completely and also let Chase Daniels and Tyler Bray find new teams (or retire). That also means they’ll likely change QB coaches to handle the new personalities and potentially move on from the offensive coordinator as well. It’s tough to tell exactly what those guys do on a weekly basis when the HC is the play caller, but someone is going to have to pay for this regression.

The Bears are also going to need to figure out the Tight End position. They took a big swing and missed on Adam Shaheen in the same draft class as Trubisky and so they’ll need to move on from him as well.

One thing I’d love to see is for Nagy to bring in a running game coordinator. I watch with envy the San Francisco and Baltimore running games and know that Bears fans would love to see that kind of offense in Soldier Field. I do think Matt Nagy can scheme open receivers, but I just haven’t seen any evidence that he can design and teach a good running game. That would go a long way in helping whoever is taking snaps in 2020.

Thanks to Jeff for the time.