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Trubisky, rookie QBs return to preseason spotlight

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

August 17, 2017 05:35 AM
Bears rookie Mitchell Trubisky was surprisingly smooth while connecting on 18 of 25 passes for 166 yards and one touchdown against Denver's No. 2 defense in Week 1 of the preseason.
© USA Today Sports Images

A fascinating aspect of the NFL preseason is how one game can create widespread overreactions. Mitchell Trubisky might be the latest example.

At some point this season, Trubisky will be named the Chicago Bears’ starting quarterback. Bet on it happening by October or November. It’s not going to happen now, despite Trubisky already winning the popular vote in his competition with Mike Glennon.

The first week of the preseason was highlighted by the impressive debuts of Trubisky and three other rookie quarterbacks — Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer, Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.

“The biggest takeaway for me was how well Watson, Kizer, Mahomes and Trubisky all played in Week 1,” said Chuck Esposito, Sunset Station sports book director. “Maybe these guys will make an impact sooner than I thought.”

This is the Dak Prescott effect. A year ago, when Tony Romo went down and Prescott moved up to starter, it seemed to be doomsday for Dallas. Of course, the opposite was true. Prescott’s phenomenal play as a rookie lifted the Cowboys to the NFC East title. A year later, there is a rush to judgment to give rookie QBs a shot right away.

As the Bears prepare for preseason Week 2, coach John Fox announced there is no change to his quarterback depth chart. That is absolutely no surprise. Glennon will start Saturday against Arizona, which is a 3-point home favorite.

Glennon was awful last week, completing 2 of 8 passes and throwing a pick-six on his opening drive. Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick, was surprisingly smooth while connecting on 18 of 25 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.

It’s important to remember Trubisky was working against Denver’s No. 2 defense. Chicago opens the regular season against Atlanta, and it’s important to remember the Falcons’ defense made Tom Brady look old in the first half of the Super Bowl.

Trubisky, who made only 13 college starts at North Carolina, is not ready to start against a tough schedule. The Bears’ first six opponents — Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Minnesota and Baltimore — field some of the NFL’s top defenses. Fox knows it’s better to go with Glennon in most, if not all, of those games. If Fox throws Trubisky into the fire too soon and he fails, that creates a big problem. If Glennon starts and struggles, as expected, it makes the switch to Trubisky an easy call, especially with Chicago’s softer second-half schedule.

“I think the biggest positive was Trubisky. The Bears were highly scrutinized, and the naysayers were waiting for Trubisky to really struggle in the preseason,” Esposito said. “It’s a good problem for the Bears to have, but we’ll see how it plays out the rest of the preseason.”

If Trubisky continues to shine, he could overtake butt-fumble artist Mark Sanchez as Chicago’s No. 2 quarterback. Glennon needs to play much better against the Cardinals, but that does not mean the Bears are in a bet-on spot Saturday.

The Texans have a more intriguing duel taking place between Watson and Tom Savage, who has an edge by virtue of his experience in Houston’s system. But Watson is earning a lot of praise from coach Bill O’Brien, who displays a sour attitude on his best days. Of all of the rookie quarterbacks, Watson, who went 32-3 as a starter at Clemson, is best suited to start in Week 1.

Houston opened as a 1½-point home favorite over New England on Saturday, and the line has not budged.

Kizer, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, can push for the Browns’ starting role with another strong showing. In the second half of the preseason opener, he passed for 184 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Cleveland, in a pick’em game against the New York Giants on Monday, is sticking with Brock Osweiler as No. 1 for now.

Mahomes remains a long shot to start at any point as a rookie, though he can win the backup job to Alex Smith. The Chiefs are 1-point favorites at Cincinnati on Saturday.

The Denver Broncos, 2½-point underdogs at San Francisco on Saturday, are waiting for either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch to seize the moment. This is a big week for both quarterbacks, and Lynch, a first-round pick in 2016, needs to step up soon.

Ben Roethlisberger will sit out again this week, news that led to the biggest line move. At the Westgate, Pittsburgh opened as a 2-point home favorite over Atlanta. The favorite has flipped to Falcons minus-2½.

Not much sharp money has surfaced on the Week 2 schedule. Still, the two teams that looked the worst last week — the Los Angeles Chargers and Washington Redskins — could be sharp sides in bounce-back spots this week.

The Chargers are 3-point home favorites over New Orleans, which has a 10-game losing streak in the preseason. The Redskins, 3½-point home favorites over Green Bay, got nothing positive out of quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld in a 23-3 loss to Baltimore.

The Ravens are stuck with Ryan Mallett until Joe Flacco is ready to return from a back injury. Mallett was mediocre in Week 1. He will start again Thursday at Miami, which is a 3-point favorite in Jay Cutler’s debut. Cutler is expected to make a cameo appearance.

After suffering through several years with Cutler, it’s easy to understand why the Bears and their fans are so fired up about Trubisky, even if one preseason game leads to overreactions.

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