BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Coach Matt Nagy didn’t need to see Mitchell Trubisky throw any passes in Thursday night’s preseason opener to be pleased with the progress the quarterback is making in their second year together.
Nagy told reporters after the Bears’ 23-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field that his confidence in Trubisky is rooted in “everything he’s doing in practice right now.”
“He’s making great protection checks,” Nagy said. “His reads right now with where he’s going with the football. Last year at this time we were trying to figure out what plays he likes and doesn't like. We know the library, we know what plays to call and not call.
“I'm telling him, ‘Hey, force this a little bit, see what you can do.’ That's what he's doing and we don’t want to ‘check-down Charlie’ on 7-on-7 all the time, so I tell him to throw it into triple and double coverage, test the throw and see if you can do it.”
Trubisky started Thursday night’s game, but he was removed following the first possession after handing off three straight times to running back Mike Davis.
The third-round pick from Iowa State had a nifty 7-yard touchdown run, caught a 23-yard pass and made a TD-saving tackle on a punt return.
“He's a really smart guy, first and foremost, and in this offense you need smart running backs,” Daniel said. “He didn't seem nervous out there, he didn't seem anxious for a rookie running back playing in his first preseason game. That's a good thing. He didn't have any mental errors out there.
“It's fun to watch him run, once you hand the ball off in the gun and he makes cuts. I can't imagine making cuts like he made, especially on the touchdown run. There was nothing there, and he made a touchdown of it.”
Arrow pointing up: Nagy wants his players to make what he has labeled “steady incremental progress,” and Montgomery has done that since he arrived in the draft.
“It’s been steady and just completely in one direction,” Nagy said. “OTAs was a lot of pass game, so he got good at that, and then we get to training camp and we get to put the pads on and we can see what can he digest. You can see his arrow is up. He wanted more carries [in the preseason opener]. I would have loved to give him more carries, but you have to be smart.”
Speed back: Another rookie running back, Kerrith Whyte Jr., rushed for a game-high 35 yards on six carries against the Panthers, including a 23-yard scamper.
A seventh-round draft pick from Florida Atlantic, Whyte had missed part of training camp with a hamstring injury.
“You can see his speed … and he stuck his shoulder pads down and lowered boom, which was good, showed that contact,” Nagy said. “I'm glad he came back, you know, from that hamstring that he had. He came back, he fought back and got ready to go. It's going to be a nice three weeks for him coming up.”
Good thing: Daniel looked sharp against the Panthers, completing 11 of 13 passes for 120 yards and a 105.1 passer rating while being sacked twice.
“Even though it's my 11th year, I still get anxious for these football games, even though it's preseason, and I think that's a good thing,” Daniel said. “I think that means I care. As backups we may not get to play a lot in the regular season, or at all, so anytime you can put something good on tape and on film, it's a good thing.”
Daniel’s best pass of the game resulted in a 45-yard completion to rookie tight end Ian Bunting, which set up Elliott Fry's 43-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. Daniel put nice touch on the ball, dropping it over a linebacker and into Bunting’s waiting hands.
“We called a play for verticals,” Daniel said. “They were in perfect coverage, single ‘I’ coverage, and he was matched up on the linebacker. I saw the linebacker even off and was able to loft it over him, and he did the rest getting us into field-goal range. We practice every day in practice this stuff so for us to come out and do it in a game, it was cool.