While it’s definitely too early to label anyone from the 2017 NFL Draft class a bust, Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 Scout staff wants to lend a helpful hand by analyzing rookies deemed to be struggling and assessed how they could avoid that dreaded tag.
Two Bears pop up on BR’s radar – quarterback Mitch Trubisky and tight end Adam Shaheen.
Doug Farrar, the NFL1000 lead scout sees Trubisky as a quarterback who still has issues identifying open receivers on timing routes, which contributes to the struggles of the Bears’ passing game. After spending most of training camp and preseason behind Mike Glennon and Mark Sanchez, not having timing down with this group of wideouts is understandable.
What Trubisky lacks in timing he makes up with the ability to make big plays outside the pocket and down the field. He has flashed poise and arm strength on the road in overtime, touch on the deep ball on several different occasions, athleticism to move out of the pocket, and even a little flair for flash on that epic two-point conversion.
Despite his highlight-reel plays and raw skills, there is a belief Trubisky won’t develop the skills to be great at the position until he gets more opportunities to sling it. Naturally, that runs counter to John Fox’s conservative, run-based, risk-averse offensive game plan. Perhaps Trubisky will master the art of ball security and turnover prevention, which is valuable, but that can only take a quarterback so far.
Shaheen joins Trubisky on this list, which isn’t surprising considering how the tight end’s rookie year story arc.
The Bears have slow-played their second-round pick’s development. Shaheen has played in all nine games and has earned five starts, but hasn’t been much of a factor on offense. He has been primarily used as a run blocker, where he has played 72.6 percent of his total snaps. Shaheen was in on a season-high 31 plays in Week 10 against the Packers, but was out-snapped by backup Daniel Brown as the Bears continued to be hesitant to give him an extended look as a receier.
NFL1000 Tight Ends Scout Marcus Mosher believes it’s too early to consider Shaheen a bust and explains that while Shaheen’s ceiling remains high, it still might take some time for his skills to catch up to his upside. He also preaches patience regarding Shaheen’s development, as making the jump from Division II to the NFL while playing with a rookie quarterback should be taken into consideration when dissecting his slow start.
Improvement as a route runner should be a priority for Shaheen down the stretch. With Zach Miller on injured reserve and Dion Sims out with an illness, Shaheen should have ample opportunity to make waves in practice and contribute in the passing offense on game day – even if the coaching staff continues to give Brown a healthy chunk of passing-down snaps.
Considering their respective experience levels, slow starts should have been expected for Trubisky and Shaheen. As is the case with most rookies, they’ll show improvement with each practice rep and game-day snap they receive as the season goes along. The more they play, the better the chances of each player getting a feel for their role and their skills. Even though the Bears’ playoff chances likely died on the Soldier Field turf in Week 10, the Bears’ youngest players are playing for a better tomorrow.