Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky

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Baffoe: For The Sake Of Mitch, Bears Need Another Wide Receiver

The Bears' focus must be doing what's best for Mitchell Trubisky.

Tim Baffoe
April 16, 2018 - 9:57 am

By Tim Baffoe--

(670 The Score) Much of the 2017 Bears season was doing one’s best to measure the growth of what the team hopes is a franchise quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky. What made that a bit tough was the severe lack of pass-catching options Trubisky had available to him, resulting in a largely miserable offense that was little fault of the rookie. The Bears had the fewest yards in the NFC last season, second-fewest points per game in the conference and fewest passing yards per game in the entire league.

The most recent quarterback era before Mitchapalooza involved Jay Cutler, who never lived up to expectations but was also accompanied annually with one or both of two excuses -- inconsistency with the offensive coordinator role and lack of weapons to throw to. Even when Brandon Marshall was acquired in 2012, the team saw that one catching behemoth does not a contender make. It would be criminal of general manager Ryan Pace to allow his defining move -- trading up to draft Trubisky -- to die on the vine from lack of support.

If Trubisky is going to evolve into the anchor of an offense for years to come, he obviously needs weapons. Pace signed playmaking receivers Allen Robinson and speedster Taylor Gabriel right away in free agency, taking the woeful receiving corps from dismal to respectable immediately. Gabriel quickly expressed great enthusiasm for the group of offensive skill players that also includes running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.

"Just to have all those guys in the same room, it's great," Gabriel said. "It's like saying, ‘I have all these superheroes, which superhero do I want to use?' You want to use all of them, so that's a good problem to have; too many weapons."

Again, some of those “superheroes” were part of a league joke of an offense last season. Positive vibes are cool and all, but receiver still feels like a need for this team. Gabriel has only 132 catches in four years. Robinson has potential to dominate but is coming off a torn ACL. It’s understandable to be wary about Trubisky’s new options.

“I understand it’s a question for the media — but not for me,” Robinson said about skepticism over his knee. “I know how I’m going to go about this thing, and I know the type of player I’m going to be.”

Even if Robinson returns to his high-level form of 2015 and 2016, a threatening offense has at least three viable receiving options that can hurt a defense. Tight end Trey Burton was brought in because of familiarity with new coach Matt Nagy’s offense, but he has yet to be at the top of a team’s depth chart. On Friday, the Bears agreed to a one-year deal with receiver Bennie Fowler, but he has just 56 catches in four seasons and is hardly a difference-maker lining up mostly out of the slot.

The Fowler move was hardly an equal reaction to the Bears refusing to match the offer to Cameron Meredith by the New Orleans Saints despite having $24 million in salary cap space. (And the Saints aren’t really ones to make poor decisions on offense.) Kevin White is still here, but his career now feels like getting anything from him would be gravy after he's missed so much time due to injury. Josh Bellamy, Tanner Gentry and Demarcus Ayers are extras in this movie.

Wide receiver isn’t a glaring hole after the free-agent signings. It's also not worth spending the eighth overall pick on, but Pace should come out of next week’s draft augmented at the position and with someone who can hopefully grow with Trubisky while learning from the veteran pass catchers.

E.J. Snyder of Windy City Gridiron addressed the possibility of the Bears trading down in the first round.

"If that does happen -- if they trade down and they’re in the teens or maybe even the early twenties -- a guy like D.J. Moore from Maryland is going to be on the top of my list," Snyder said. "He just looks like (five-time Pro Bowler) Steve Smith to me. Every time I watch his tape, I think, ‘Man, he’s got a lot of Steve Smith in him.’ Only guy in his conference to go over a thousand yards receiving."

Snyder also mentioned Anthony Miller out of Memphis and Equanimeous St. Brown out of Notre Dame as potential fits with Nagy’s offense. Speaking of that, the Bears have what's supposed to be a new, dynamic scheme being implemented. 

As explained by The Athletic’s Dan Durkin:

In short, it will be a matchup-based offense with a West Coast foundation, layered with spread concepts that force the defense to defend the entire field both horizontally and vertically — as well as all six skill position players, including the dual-threat quarterback. It will be a shotgun-based attack that dictates to the defense, as opposed to playing it safe, which Bears fans have been bored by over the past three seasons.

That's all the more reason Pace must ensure there isn’t a weak spot in Trubisky’s options, particularly in the West Coast offense’s demand for three solid receivers on the field at the same time. Nagy’s scheme is also all about mismatches. Robinson creates those. Using Burton sometimes in the slot can do that. Defenders would have to squat to match up with Cohen. Adding another wideout who creates another mismatch on himself or a teammate would be nice.

Dez Bryant is available after being released by the Dallas Cowboys on Friday, and signing him might seem very un-Bears, but so did trading for Brandon Marshall. Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan wants him here. Pace bringing Bryant’s personality with a downward trend to his skills into a locker room with a new coach seems like a long shot.

Everything comes back to Trubisky being spoiled with options, though. As he goes, so go the Bears and Nagy’s ability to make them one of the game’s better offenses. And so goes the book on Pace’s tenure here. He made his team’s offense better with Nagy and Robinson, but there’s still a ways to go.

That book has much more of a happy ending if the would-be franchise quarterback doesn't suffer the same excuse that Bears fans dealt with in the Cutler era.

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.