Mitch Trubisky’s targets left much to be desired last season, but that didn’t stop the rookie QB from posting an impressive passer rating in 3rd-and-long situations:
On 3rd and long, Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky ranked 3rd in passer rating! pic.twitter.com/LazUApUXbX
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 26, 2018
Trubisky’s 107.4 passer rating on third down attempts of six yards to gain or longer was the third best in the league in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus. Only Carson Wentz (127.0) and former Bears signal caller Josh McCown (112.6) were better. And sure, you don’t necessarily want Trubisky in this situation often, but it’s sure as hell encouraging to know he excelled with his back against the wall.
Trubisky finished his rookie season with an 88.7 passer rating on third down, making it his most productive down. He completed 61 of 99 passes for 777 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. That’s not all that bad. And on 133 total third-down plays in which he didn’t hand it off to a running back, Trubisky threw for 36 first downs and ran for six more. Unfortunately, he was also sacked 19 times in 118 third-down drop-backs. Clearly, Trubisky could stand to improve on a whopping 16.1 percent sack rate in those situations.
It’s even better knowing Trubisky’s overall efficiency on third-down as a rookie was better than that of Wentz and Jared Goff during their rookie seasons. Wentz improved his third-down passer rating by 56.7 points in his second year, with a whopping 123.7 rating that made everyone forget about a lowly 67 passer rating he earned as a rookie. Goff bumped his up by 36.2 points, finishing with a 107.6 third-down rating after posting a less-than-impressive 71.4 rating in his first season.
If Trubisky is going to emulate their rise to stardom by taking a significant leap in his development in Year 2, it’s nice knowing he is in a better place than they were when it came to third-down throws. Of course, the Eagles and Rams improved their quarterback’s pass-catching options via the draft and free agency.
So maybe keeping Kendall Wright around is a good idea. Wright caught 11 of the 13 passes thrown to him in 3rd-and-long situations by Bears quarterbacks. Wright’s 10.9 yards-per-catch is awfully nifty, as was the 102.2 passer rating posted by Bears quarterbacks when targeting him on 3rd-and-long. Wright is a free agent, but could be brought back after building a solid rapport with Trubisky during his rookie season.
The way we’ve written about Albert Wilson might blow his status as an under-the-radar target, but quarterbacks posted a 99.4 passer rating when throwing to him on 3rd-and-long situations the last two seasons when Nagy was the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator. Wilson is on the cusp of hitting free agency and is seen as a cost-effective alternative to Jarvis Landry.
Speaking of Landry, he has more of a sample to draw from when breaking down his third-down effectiveness. Quarterbacks targeting Landry on 3rd-and-long have completed 67.8 percent of their passes and moved the chains on 28.7 percent of those attempts. If the Bears are to acquire Landry, they’ll need to execute a trade with the Dolphins, who extended the franchise tag to the NFL’s receptions leader in 2017.
Perhaps adding Allen Robinson to the mix as a game-breaking receiver on the outside would help matters. During his Pro Bowl season in 2015, Robinson caught just 5-of-21 passes thrown in his direction – but still gained 94 yards and scored a touchdown. Impressive work considering Blake Bortles was slinging the pigskin at a 58.6 percent completion rate.
Back in December, we explored Trubisky’s third-down success. And it’s encouraging to see he finished strong in that particular category. Finding Trubisky some reliable third-down targets could go a long way toward helping him take that next step in his development.