Last season, Mitch Trubisky was selected as an alternate in the Pro Bowl after his first season in Matt Nagy’s offense, a tremendous accomplishment for the 24-year-old quarterback.
Still, though, Trubisky did have his fair share of ups and downs in 2018.
Against the Buccaneers, Lions and Packers at Soldier Field, Trubisky threw a total of 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions and – at times – silenced any critics who questioned why he was drafted No. 2 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Trubisky also had games where he threw multiple interceptions, like when he played the Seahawks (2), Patriots (2) and Rams (3) and seemed as if he personally invited those same critics to shout that they were right about the young quarterback.
Overall, plenty of ups and downs.
Heading into Year 3, there are many facets of Trubisky’s game that can be improved: continuing to identify and exploit defenses, working on his mechanics and feeling pressure in the pocket are just a few examples.
What will be vital for the Bears in 2019, especially in Nagy’s offense, is Trubisky elevating his play when throwing the deep ball.
To help assess how Trubisky performed in 2018 when throwing deep, I referenced NFL writer Brick Wall Blitz’s The 2018-19 Deep Ball Project: the article charts and logs a variety of statistics and accounts for all qualifying passes of 21 or more air yards or in other words, the deep ball.
The latest installment of The Deep Ball Project focused on Accuracy Percentage, which according to Brick Wall Blitz “looks at if a pass is accurate or not regardless if it’s caught or dropped.”
Before taking a look at how Trubisky performed last season, make sure you give Brick Wall Blitz a follow on Twitter and check out his previous Deep Ball Project articles. As an NFL writer for multiple SB nation websites including Music City Miracles and The Phinsider, he has a vast knowledge of the game. Also, more than likely, he has created a thread of GIFs analyzing some of your favorite NFL players.
Now, to Trubisky.
According to Brick Wall Blitz, Trubisky ranked 21st in Accuracy Percentage out of 35 qualifying quarterbacks, and under “STAT” in the graphic below breaks down how Trubisky fared when throwing deep in terms of yardage and also in different situations and spots on the field.
Just like Trubisky’s 2018 campaign, there are plenty of inconsistencies when it came to his deep ball.
When Trubisky was under pressure, he was a top-five quarterback last season as he finished fourth with his 52.63 percent accuracy. The narrative was different, however, when Trubisky had a clean pocket to throw from, which is when he attempted his most deep passes (45). Ironically, Trubisky finished in the bottom half of the league with his 42.22 percent accuracy, and that ranked 28th out of 35 quarterbacks.
The most frequent of those deep passes in terms of air yardage came from the 21-25 range, where Trubisky finished 23rd (47.62 percent) on 10 of 21 attempts. Also, the whole “Trubisky can’t throw left” narrative doesn’t apply to his deep ball because he finished seventh with his 54.17 accuracy percentage.
Despite Trubisky missing two games due to injury last season, he still threw the third most deep passes (64). Only the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes (81) and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (70) had more qualifying attempts than the Bears’ signal caller.
Here are a few of those passes — good and bad — from Trubisky in 2018.
On this first-and-10 play against the 49ers in the first quarter, Allen Robinson does a good job of selling the out route and then turning upfield. Trubisky sees Robinson and releases the football before he is hit by the defensive lineman. The ball isn’t perfect, but Trubisky gives Robinson an opportunity to make a play, and he does just that.
In the Week 17 matchup with the Vikings, Trubisky delivers an accurate pass to Taylor Gabriel down the left sideline. Gabriel sets up the corner by taking his first couple of steps inside and then bursts past his man. Trubisky slides slightly to the left and throws the ball in front for Gabriel to make the diving catch.
This is the play that should excite all Bears fans for the 2019 season.
With Chicago down one with 44 seconds remaining in the Wild Card game against the Eagles, Trubisky makes arguably the best throw of his young career. Trubisky didn’t just throw a pass to Robinson in between the corner and safety for 25 yards, he also does that knowing he is about to take a huge hit.
Against the Cardinals in Week 3, Trubisky has a one-on-one matchup with Robinson towards the left sideline. The single-high safety bites on Josh Bellamy’s in route, and that moves him out of position. However, despite having a clean pocket, Trubisky is unable to hit Robinson because he underthrows the pass, and this allows the defensive back to recover and make a play on the ball.
On this play, Trubisky misses a huge opportunity on the offense’s first third down of the game against the Dolphins. Pre-snap the defense shows two high safeties, but one of them moves down, and the linebacker now takes responsibility for the middle of the field. Trubisky identifies this and gives a pump fake, but he misjudges where Anthony Miller is at and overthrows the football.
This is a play that Trubisky has to make if the Bears are going to make strides on offense in 2019. With a little over three minutes left in the first quarter, the Seahawks defense busts a coverage. The linebackers don’t get enough depth (or really move), and the free safety fails to cover any ground. Trubisky has good protection, but he sails the ball over Gabriel’s head.
The ups and downs that Trubisky displayed when throwing the deep ball and, really, overall as a quarterback in his first full season as the starter shouldn’t be all too surprising, especially since he was in a completely new offense and threw to an almost entirely new receiving core from his rookie year.
Now heading into Year 3, there can’t and shouldn’t be any excuses for Trubisky. He has all the weapons, now that running back David Montgomery and wide receiver Riley Ridley were acquired in the draft, another year in Nagy’s offense and a small taste of what it’s like to be recognized for a season’s achievements with his Pro Bowl appearance.
Except it shouldn’t be Pro Bowls as the marker to what constitutes as having a successful season for Trubisky. Instead, Trubisky needs to exchange individual accolades for overall team success: for example, helping lead his team to a playoff victory.
But before Trubisky can do that, he needs to work on his deep ball. Then the Bears can look to make a deep run in the playoffs.