First and ten: Trubisky set for Bears debut

Mitch Trubisky jersey
Appearing confident but not cocky, 23 year-old Mitch Trubisky takes the helm for the Chicago Bears on Monday night, hoping to rejuvenate a franchise accustomed to searching for a long-term answer at quarterback.

Trubisky won’t get a chance to ease into the spotlight however. His first regular season action comes against NFC North rival Minnesota under the bright lights of Monday night football.

The matchup pits two equally desperate teams. The Bears resume play following a lopsided loss in Green Bay that looked worse than the 35-14 final score might indicate. At 1-3, head coach John Fox’s squad needs a spark after a turnover filled beginning to the season. Trubisky’s challenge is made more difficult with the Bears lack of explosive weapons at the wide receiver position. Look for a ground-based offense that will be supplemented with controlled rollouts designed to highlight Trubisky’s mobility.  Keep an eye on WR Markus Wheaton, who has yet to catch a pass after injuries delayed the start of his Chicago career. Wheaton might be the lone Bears wideout capable of gaining separation.  The Bears will be forced to make some plays downfield to keep an attacking Vikings defense honest.

Meanwhile, all signs point to Sam Bradford returning as the Vikings starting quarterback after missing the last three games with an injury.  Bradford is a efficient, high-percentage passer who will threaten a Bears secondary that has played better than expected. With Vikings rookie RB Dalvin Cook shelved for the season with a knee injury, WR Stefon Diggs is the Viking’s big-play threat, and if Bradford has time in the pocket, it be a long night for the Bears deep patrol.

However, Bradford can be a streaky passer, and if he displays rust from sitting out, it could be the night Chicago gets some long-awaited turnovers on defense. Look for Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to dial up the pressure against the lead -footed Bradford, though key defender Willie Young is missing after a triceps injury.

Special teams could be the deciding factor, though neither Minnesota’s Kai Forbath or Chicago’s Connor Barth inspire much confidence after early-season struggles. Rookie Tarik Cohen gives the Bears some punch as a punt returner, but the kick return game has been ordinary.

One thing is for sure…the loser of tonight’s contest drops into a deep hole in the division with Green Bay setting the pace at 4-1.

Paw Prints: What should Bears fans expect from Trubisky?  After an impressive preseason, let’s look back to his brief (12 games) college experience. Here’s The Slant…NFL Draft Guide’s capsule entering the 2017 NFL Draft: Mitch Trubisky, 6-3, 220, North Carolina….Good size. Limited experience as he started just one full season. Quick release and set-up.   Good, not great arm. Stocky build, but can maneuver the pocket and escape for yardage.  Better athlete than he appears. Can be prone to underthrowing deep ball, forcing receivers to reach back and make a play.  Accurate short-to-medium passer with zip. Excels in play-action…good ball fakes. Generally good vision and mechanics, but can throw off his back foot when trying to get extra mustard on deep throws. Roughed up in Sun Bowl by Solomon Thomas and an aggressive Stanford defense.  Struggled when protection broke down and made several poor decisions with the ball. Has good upside but needs development. Will probably be forced to play before he’s ready, but better served by slow implementation with a small package of plays. Early entry.  Passed for 30 TD’s, just 6 Int.’s in 2016 with a 68% completion percentage. Top ten selection.  Games viewed: Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Stanford (Sun Bowl).

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