Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson was full-go as the Chicago Bears began training camp on Thursday. For the next month or so, he and second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will take center stage in just about every practice session open to the public or media.
For a franchise that is closing in on 98 years of existence in September, the Bears haven’t fielded a truly dominant quarterback and wide receiver pairing. In fact, there’s really no arguing that Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall was the most talented and productive combo the organization has ever seen.
So the possibility that Trubisky and Robinson can finally form a truly dynamic tandem — one that can actually be the focal point and driving force of a truly modern offense — is an exciting one for long-suffering Bears fans. While we’d normally do what we can to temper the expectations, the reality is that this new-look offense will likely be defined by their chemistry and how that translates into productivity when it matters most.
The Bears lost five games by six points or fewer in 2017, and they figure to be one of the franchise’s poised to take the biggest leap forward in the next season or two given everything they’ve added to their roster and the financial flexibility they maintain. Given how close they were to being an average football team last season and the strides they should take starting this fall, you can be assured that the difference between playoff contention and mediocrity can be boiled down to 12-15 plays.
Trubisky to Robinson will be the central focus of most of those plays.
Yes, the Bears have done a very good job at using this offseason to provide Trubisky and new head coach Matt Nagy with a variety of weapons that should give them options. However, the benefit of a truly dominant quarterback-receiver pair is that you can throw scheme out the window.
The Bears certainly hired Nagy to help extract maximum value from this roster by creating schematic mismatches. But there’s still a lot of variable involved in picking the perfect play in high-leverage situations. A well-timed jam or unaccounted for blitzer can disrupt everything. Even an unlucky trip can ruin a play.
If Trubisky is the type of passer that the Bears think he can be and Robinson can regain or even exceed his 2015 form, there’s no disguised coverage or level of defensive positioning that can stop them in isolated situations. Because even when you know what’s coming, perfect ball placement and elite athleticism can’t really be beaten.
The obvious caveat is that Bears fans can’t expect to see it all at once. General confidence in Trubisky’s growth and excitement over Robinson’s health are to be expected, but there’s still a lot that has to be done on both sides before they even come close to reaching their true potential.
For Trubisky, the bulk of the work needs to be done before the snap. He’s got to identify pressure and make the necessary adjustments to give himself the cleanest possible looks. Because we’ve seen regularly that he has ample arm strength when his feet are set and his overall ball placement is quite good.
For Robinson, it’s really more about trust than anything. He’s got to learn all over again to believe in his surgically-repaired knee. Then, with time, he’ll need to learn to trust that Trubisky can deliver catchable footballs as he’s coming out of his breaks.
As a combination, it’s almost entirely about nuance. Trubisky and Robinson have to coordinate every hitch, drop, hesitation and cut into a choreographed routine — all the way down to whether the football is arriving on the outside hip or the outside thigh.
As you might imagine, that can take an incredible amount of time. It was something that Joe Montana and Jerry Rice (or any other all-time great QB-WR combo you can think of) never stopped working on.
Trubisky and Robinson have two years.
Not to be Montana-Rice. But to at least show that they can win you those 12-15 plays that define a season more often than not. Because that’s when it will be time to start making decisions about Trubisky’s deal and when they can crawl out from underneath Robinson’s contract without penalty.
It’s a tall task in a tough time frame, and it’s more likely they’ll fail to meet those expectations than meet them if we’re being honest. But that’s exactly why we’ll all be watching so closely.