LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The NFL regular season is less than one month old, and the Chicago Bears find themselves in a precarious situation.
The Bears' top-ranked defense looks Super Bowl-ready, but quarterback Mitchell Trubisky looks far from it.
"[My confidence is] good. It's good," Trubisky said last week. "You just got to believe this week is going to be the week."
The Monday Night Football matchup against the Washington Redskins is Trubisky's 30th career start (including the postseason). Thus far, the 25-year-old quarterback's overall body of work has raised more questions than it has provided answers.
Trubisky puttered through a relatively nondescript rookie season in an offensive system that lacked any innovation or true playmakers outside of running backs Tarik Cohen and the since-traded Jordan Howard.
In 2018, Trubisky's second season, that changed. New head coach Matt Nagy ditched the archaic offensive style preferred by former coach John Fox. Nagy, an assistant in Kansas City under Andy Reid, brought a more dynamic, forward-thinking scheme.
He also worked wonders for Trubisky.
There were bumpy moments, but Trubisky finished with 3,223 passing yards (66.6 completion percentage), 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 421 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 95.4. The Bears also won the NFC North for the first time since 2010.
All signs pointed toward continued improvement in 2019.
So far, the opposite has happened.
Through two games in 2019, Trubisky's completion percentage (58.3), passing yards (348), touchdowns (zero), Total QBR (27.5), yards per attempt (4.8) and number of attempts that traveled 10-plus yards in the air (16) are substantially worse when compared to Trubisky's play in the opening two games of the 2018 season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"We haven't been executing the way we want to," Trubisky said. "There are definitely some things that we are missing on film, but we're coming together and we're correcting them."
Coming together won't be an issue. The young quarterback is popular inside the locker room, where he seamlessly meshes with teammates. Trubisky's work ethic has never been called into question.
"The biggest thing that I see is that the head coach is very hesitant to trust the quarterback," ESPN NFL analyst and former quarterback Dan Orlovsky said. "He's very hesitant to trust him with playcalls. When you get a playcaller that trusts you as a quarterback, they're constantly aggressive because they think, 'I know that if this guy doesn't make the throw here or if he doesn't like what he sees here, he'll check the ball down, get it out of his hands, and I'll call it again.' I'll call a chunk play again. And you don't see that from Matt Nagy right now."
Starting the season with the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos certainly isn't a good way to ease into the season. Both are giving up under 340 yards per game this year. And Nagy accepted blame for the uneven playcalling in the season-opening loss to Green Bay, when the Bears tried 50 passing plays versus 15 rushing plays.
But whatever the cause, the Bears' offense has lacked cohesiveness and explosive plays. The Bears have gained five or more yards on just 18 of their 51 first-down plays. That is in turn making it harder for Trubisky & Co. to keep drives going. Per ESPN Stats & Information, the Bears have faced third-and-7 or worse on 16 of 26 conversion attempts (62%). Last year, the Bears needed seven or more yards on just 43% of their third-down plays.
Trubisky hasn't helped his own cause much, often missing on the few deep throws he has attempted. Through two weeks, Trubisky has attempted just nine passes of 20 yards or more and thrown 19 balls at or behind the line of scrimmage. Trubisky's 4.8 yards per pass attempt ranks 32nd in the NFL.
"We just have to believe those explosive plays are coming," Trubisky said.
Trubisky has demonstrated big-play ability outside of the pocket. The former North Carolina Tar Heel is dangerous on the move, where he can use his exceptional athleticism to his advantage -- either as a runner or thrower.
But there are concerns about how Trubisky processes the game from inside the pocket.
"I just don't see enough consistency in the pocket," one NFC scout said. "I think when people pin him inside, you can see the wheels spinning a little bit. He'll make throws you like, sometimes ones you really like, but big-picture accuracy has to be better, and it's just an opinion, but I think if he had a better feel pre-snap of where [pressure] is coming from, he would do better with that first read and not force things."
Great quarterbacks are instinctual; it's almost as if they have a supercomputer in their brain that allows them to read a defense in milliseconds.
"He still looks like an athlete trying to play the quarterback position, rather than a quarterback with good positional instincts," former Bears receiver Tom Waddle said. "When he gets out on the edge and the play breaks down, he's brilliant, because he's just being an athlete and he doesn't have to process a ton of stuff."
Yet so far, that hasn't happened. Trubisky has attempted just nine throws outside the pocket. He has run the ball only four times.
"Let him run," ESPN analyst and former NFL defensive tackle Booger McFarland said. "Do what Baltimore is doing with Lamar Jackson. Let him run 10-15 times per game. Don't try to make him into something he's not. Just take what he is and build on it."
"He much more comfortable when things break down than when things are in structure, which is crazy, right?" Orlovsky added. "Normally it's the opposite thing for quarterbacks. He's a thrower that is a good athlete right now. He's not a quarterback that's a good athlete just yet. ...
"He also showed signs of being a quarterback that is a good athlete last year. That's the odd thing to me."
It's two games into the season, and although the Bears are 29th in total offense, Monday night could be a good starting point for the Bears and Trubisky to try to reach their form of a year ago. While Trubisky ranks 28th in Total QBR, Washington has the second-worst passing defense by Total QBR, where opposing quarterbacks are averaging an 89.0 rating.
"For Mitch and our offense, we have to make sure we have the earmuffs on and the blinders on," Nagy said. "It's hard in this world today. Because it's everywhere. People are talking and saying things and when you're doing real well, everyone's all about it. When you're not doing well, everyone's all about it. So we have to make sure that we control what we can control, and that's today's practice."