GLENDALE, Ariz. — Mitch Trubisky entered his first-ever preseason game for the last possession of the second quarter. Nine days later, he began his second game on the final drive of the third frame.
In between, here’s what the No. 2 pick did to earn the demotion: play perhaps the best game of any quarterback in the league, completing 18-of-25 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos.
Yes, this one’s a bit baffling. But if John Fox’s usage of his rookie quarterback Saturday night taught us anything, it’s that the Cardinals game wasn’t about Trubisky at all.
The Bears’ focus in the near term is all about getting starter Mike Glennon ready for the regular season; he played the entire first half, with Mark Sanchez, as promised, taking a token series in the Bears’ 24-23 victory against the Cardinals.
Whether he’d deserved it or not, Glennon was afforded the luxuries of a starter. Trubisky was merely allowed to lead the Bears’ last string.
The Bears’ quarterback competition wasn’t a fair fight — and probably won’t be in the team’s third preseason game Sunday against the Titans, either.
Glennon played Saturday alongside running back Tarik Cohen, who had 11 carries for 77 yards and gave the Bears a rushing element Fox called ““any quarterback’s best friend.” Trubisky handed the ball to Josh Rounds, who is last on the Bears’ depth chart, nine times in the fourth quarter.
Glennon, who was not sacked, played behind the Bears’ starting offensive line.
Trubisky, who was sacked once, pulled down by the facemask another time and hit below the knees on a third excruciating play, was protected by Taylor Boggs, Tom Compton, Cyril Richardson, William Poehls and Bradley Sowell. One of the five might make the team. Asked if he’d like to pair the No. 2 overall pick with superior blockers, coach John Fox said the matchup is all relative — he was facing worse defenders, too.
Glennon went 13-for-19 for 89 yards, an interception at the 5-yard line — “A ball I shouldn’t have thrown,” he said — and a touchdown against a blitz, and ran an offense filled with screens and safe, short throws. His four screens went for -4 yards; he went 9-for-14 otherwise.
“None of it was safe,” Fox countered. “I thought he improved.”
Both Glennon and Fox focused on his reaction to the pick — a scoring drive near the end of the first half.
“The turnover wasn’t a good thing,” Glennon said, “but the way we responded was more important. I thought all of our guys, myself, everyone, responded well, bounced back and got that touchdown drive.”
Trubisky went 6-for-8 for 60 yards and led the team to a touchdown on his last drive. Fox was hesitant to judge his performance — “I haven’t seen the tape yet,” he said — before saying that, despite the Bears’ protection troubles, Trubisky did “pretty well.”
Asked how in the world he could gauge the rookie if he’s only playing in mop-up duty, Fox said the team has the luxury of watching practice.
Running more straight drop-back throws than he did in the opener was part of Trubisky’s growth. So was facing an exotic Cardinals defense and getting a sense, with pass rushers in his face pushing the pocket, of when to stop looking downfield and try to avoid a sack.
“Just continue to develop and mesh with this offense,” the rookie said. “It is going to be different each week, so it’s my job to study and memorize the game plan and go out there and execute it.”
Trubisky, though, is running out of weeks.
Sunday’s game in Nashville marks the Bears’ last chance to see what he looks like playing alongside teammates that could actually make the 53-man roster.
If Saturday’s game was any indication, though, the Bears aren’t particularly interested in finding out.
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