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Packers vs. Bears Q&A: Don't expect Chicago to unleash Mitchell Trubisky until 2018

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Jeff Berckes of SB Nation's Chicago Bears blog Windy City Gridiron answers our questions about Mitchell Trubisky's development, Tarik Cohen, and what he expects from Packers vs. Bears.

NFL: Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers face the archrival Chicago Bears for the second time in 2017. Jeff Berckes of Windy City Gridiron was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the Bears and provide insight into their strengths and weaknesses.

APC: Mitchell Trubisky enters his fifth week as an NFL starting quarterback. The Bears have yet to fully unleash the No. 2 overall pick, keeping him under 30 pass attempts in three of his four games. Why has the coaching staff taken such a conservative approach with Trubisky, and at what point do you anticipate that the team will take the restrictor plates off him?

Yeah, there are some good reasons for this conservative start. First, Mitchell Trubisky has very little real game experience with only one full season as a starter in college. He just doesn’t have the body of work that DeShaun Watson had coming out and it was always going to take a little longer for him to work into the starting role with full command of the offense. Second, the Bears lack receiving weapons. The failed negotiation to bring back Alshon Jeffery coupled with the unfortunate contract to Marcus Wheaton and injuries to Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, and now Zach Miller, have severely limited the number of legitimate receiving options. Third, the Bears have a good defense and a good running game with a conservative coach – that’s how they’re going to try to win games. It isn’t pretty but that’s how John Fox rolls.

The restrictor plates will come off in 2018 when the Bears hire a new coach and coordinator, investing the entire team’s resources into making Trubisky successful. As an aside, another writer at WCG and I have an over/under bet of 100 pass attempts for Trubisky over a 5 game period starting with the last game against the Saints. I took the over, so I’m off to a great start with 32 attempts and 4 games to go. But, really think about that bet – the under is totally defensible given the start to Trubisky’s career, something that would be unthinkable to about 30 franchises.

APC: The Bears' use of Tarik Cohen seems to fluctuate greatly, both as a ball carrier and a receiver. What accounts for this variance, and do you have any idea how the team plans to use him against the Packers?

In my weekly call with Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains, we discussed…okay, no, I have no idea how they’ll use him. If I were game planning, I would want to get him into space. Scheme him to get favorable matchups and take advantage of his quickness to get him the ball with space to operate. We’re talking about an incredibly skilled pass catcher with game breaking kick / punt return ability – he needs opportunities in the short to intermediate passing game.

In the running game, he’s the complementary piece to the workhorse, Jordan Howard. The variance in his carries doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the drop off in targets. He’s had 1 catch in each of the last 4 games. I’d like to see that number in the 4-6 range.

APC: The Bears have invested considerable resources into their defensive front-seven in the past few years, handing out contracts to Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, and Pernell McPhee while spending early picks on Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman. How far along has this unit come under John Fox, and where does it still need to improve?

As a Bears fan, there are a few, basic expectations to your experience. 1 – a good to great running back (Jordan Howard, check). 2 – a good to great defense. After the Urlacher era faded, the Bears defense was awful, and I personally didn’t know what I was watching. It was a weird, foreign feeling and I found myself gravitating toward watching other teams that played real defense to get my fix. The good news is that GM Ryan Pace, Fox, and Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio have rebuilt this defense from a 4-3 base to a legitimately competitive 3-4 squad. The guys you mentioned have all been good (McPhee has struggled with health) and it truly appears that the leadership understands what type of athletes they need to make their defense successful. You didn’t mention the safeties – second year man Adrian Amos and rookie Eddie Jackson have really stepped up and added a playmaking element on the back end the Bears have been missing since Mike Brown.

This unit is still a year or two away from being an elite unit, to be sure. The Bears need to invest resources at Cornerback and can use additional edge rushing help (like everyone). There is a lot to like here and my hopes are high that I’m going to be able to reclaim my comfortable state of being cheering for a football team with a great defense in the near future.

APC: If game planning against the Bears, how would you attack them on offense? On defense?

If I were a defensive coordinator, I would throw every exotic look I could come up with at the rookie QB. I’d also have my edge rushers focus on containing Trubisky and making him step up into the pocket to make his throws. He’s proven to be pretty impressive in breaking the pocket and throwing on the move. He’s also got good athleticism to make plays with his legs. At this point in his development, he needs to play instinctually, so keeping him in the pocket and forcing him to go through his reads will lead to sacks and a few mistake throws.

If I were an offensive coordinator, I would unleash a fire-breathing dragon who wears number 12 and pantomimes wearing a championship belt to do things with a football that are illegal in the state of Illinois. Short of that option, I’d try to throw away from Kyle Fuller, who has been very good this year. Be aware that Akiem Hicks has been destroying people this year and Leonard Floyd is coming into his own as an effective edge rusher. Hundley may need to get the ball out more quickly than he has thus far. Short, quick throws and screen passes may be the best approach.

APC: Finally, it's prediction time. Which team wins on Sunday and why?

Before I answer that, let me say that I have never and will never predict the Bears losing to the Packers. I can be fairly objective with 30 NFL teams, but I choose to lean into this rivalry full throated. So, having said that, the Bears are going to win this game because the Bears are a better football team than an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team. I have no confidence that Mike McCarthy can craft an offense around Brett Hundley and I see the Bears defense, fresh off a bye week, coming out strong and taking the next step in their progression. Trubisky and Jordan Howard will move the ball in fits and starts but enough to put 20 or so points on the board, which will be enough to win.

We'd like to thank Jeff and Windy City Gridiron for answering our questions. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over there, as well as their fantastic coverage of all things Bears. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Sunday for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Packers vs. Bears.