Next Gen Stats: Trubisky's debut brings mixed results


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The Chicago Bears kept it close with their division rivals Monday, but the Minnesota Vikings escaped with a 20-17 win off a final-minute field goal. Mitchell Trubisky's NFL debut will go down in the books as a loss, despite showing some positive signs.

It was clear due to Mike Glennon's limitations as a deep passer and statue in the pocket that the Bears had to make a change at the quarterback position. Nothing that occurred in the 60 minutes spent on the football field did anything to cast doubt on their decision to move to Trubisky. However, the events of this evening did serve a reminder as to what a difficult set of conditions the rookie quarterback suddenly finds himself in.

The Bears certainly attempted to make good use of Trubisky's ability on the move, which was an element sorely lacking under Glennon's watch. In the first four games of the season, Glennon threw just 3.6 percent of his passes from outside the pocket, one of the lowest rates among starting quarterbacks. In contrast, Trubisky threw a whopping 37.5 percent of his passes from outside the pocket against the Vikings tonight. Not only was that a major difference from his predecessor, but it was also the second-highest rate for a quarterback in any game the last two seasons trailing only Tyrod Taylor's Week 9 outing in 2016.

There's no question that the threat of an athlete like Trubisky at the position is meant to further open of the offense. Look no further than the stunning trick play Chicago unveiled on the two-point attempt. However, when the rest of the supporting cast in the passing game can't execute, it can trigger the reverse effect.

The threat of a mobile quarterback was clearly an attempt to free up receivers and create open throws. That didn't come to pass for the Bears tonight. Trubisky threw into tight windows on 40 percent of his pass attempts tonight, trailing only Jacoby Brissett (44.1 percent) among quarterbacks in Week 5.

It's hard to overstate the lack of quality in the Bears wide receiver group right now. Markus Wheaton (75 percent) and Tre McBride (68 percent) led the team in playing time tonight at the position. The former flamed out of Pittsburgh to start his career and recorded his first catch (a four-yarder) with Chicago tonight. The Bears claimed the latter off waivers to start the year after the Titans threw in the towel on the 2015 seventh-round pick. Kendall Wright is the only receiver on the roster with a true NFL resume but was on the field for just 52 percent of the plays, and is strictly a slot man.

Despite the attempt to move Trubisky from the pocket and create open throwing lanes, the team's wide receivers still could not separate. Additionally, there was almost no hint of downfield passing game. Trubisky's longest completion traveled 33.5 raw yards of distance in the air, the fifth-lowest among Week 5 quarterbacks. That throw, of course, came on his touchdown pass to Zach Miller that tipped out of a defender's hands and into the veteran tight end's for six. If Andrew Sendejo holds onto that ball, we're looking at a complete lack of vertical passing plays for the Bears tonight.

Not only did the Bears intentions to use Mitchell Trubisky's mobility fail to yield many positive results, thanks to their pass-catching crew, it also essentially cut the field in half. A full 56 percent of Trubisky's pass attempts went to the right side of the field and beyond the line of scrimmage. He threw beyond the line to the left just once.

Watching the game, Mitchell Trubisky looked the part of a franchise quarterback. Of course, these traits are difficult to quantify, but the No. 2 overall pick looked poised and ready for the moment. His arm showed the juice needed to complete difficult passes. However, as the items of the game we can quantify show, he was placed in an offensive ecosystem that quarterbacks would struggle to operate in. No matter what your evaluation of Trubisky holds, you must admit that asking a rookie quarterback to elevate this cast of pass-catchers is quite the demand.

In an NFL world where we rush to judgment on just about everything, nothing comes with quite the haste of our quarterback evaluations. If the lesson of Jared Goff's progression this season has taught us anything, rushing to judgment on signal-callers in shaky offensive environments can be a fool's endeavor.

There might well come a day when Mitchell Trubisky plays at such a level where he raises the tide for all the ships in his supporting cast. His debut was a reminder that it will be a tough ask for him to be that player right from the jump as a rookie. It's fair to keep that in mind as we evaluate Trubisky for the rest of the 2017 season and simply take the little moments of positivity, which he certainly offered in spurts tonight, as they come.

Matt Harmon is a writer/editor for, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB or like on Facebook.