Looking ahead to a season packed with optimism and soaring expectations, the Bears on Thursday will begin a six-week break before training camp, and the most improved player from this time last year has to be Mitch Trubisky.
It's encouraging to hear Trubisky say he has gotten a lot better in this offseason program, which concludes with the final minicamp practice Thursday at Halas Hall. More entrenched in the offense. More confident and raring to go when the Bears arrive at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.
Trubisky was still learning the intricacies of Matt Nagy's offense at this time last year, a process that really never ends, but now he's reacting more, able to trust his eyes and instincts, the kind of thing that can lead to improved play a year after he set the franchise record for completion percentage at 66.6.
"I've got a lot better grasp of the offense," Trubisky said. "We're way ahead as far as timing, operation, getting to the line of scrimmage, getting in and out, adjustment on all of our plays and just knowing where to go with the football, especially against all of these different looks that the defense is throwing at us. So I feel like we've done really well. I feel like I have improved my game. We just have to keep getting better."
General manager Ryan Pace made a concerted effort to overhaul the wide receiver corps last offseason and added to it again in April with the selection of Riley Ridley in the fourth round of the draft. Pace also has rebuilt the backfield with the signing of Mike Davis and selection of David Montgomery. The moves have surrounded Trubisky with more talent, raising expectations for the quarterback and the offense as a whole with more explosive results expected this season.
"It is literally night and day in all the right ways," offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said of the quarterback. "Our standard for him is extremely high. But just as far as the operation of not only what he's supposed to do, what the defense is doing, manipulating protections, just the air about him, it's way different. And everybody's noted that, observed that in various ways.
"Therefore, people around him are playing better, and that helps too. Everybody else, they not only know everybody's name, but they know, hey, when we say this, it means that, when we go to this drill, all that stuff adds up. We just need to keep him making those strides."
Nagy has described the process of graduating from Offense 101 to 202 and like a freshman becomes a more confident sophomore, there are less unknowns and a greater assuredness in the huddle, in the locker room and throughout the building.
"Us having a second year under our belt, the terminology is expanded," wide receiver Taylor Gabriel said. "It's more detailed. We know what Mitch wants. Mitch kind of can feel our speed, the tempo of what we're doing. So we're connecting and we're going outside the playbook of what Nagy has kind of (drawn) up. We've kind of been going to what Mitch wants us to do, 'OK, you want us to do a back shoulder, you want us to do this.' It's kind of turning into our offense.
"It's confidence. Mitch is confident back there. He's confident in switching the play calls. He's confident in giving us a double move. We've got a lot of double moves out there. He's confident in what he's looking at. He's not just trying to figure out what the play is. Now he gets to look up and look at the coverage. It's just a drastic change from last year."
Where things head from here, no one knows. It will be a telling season for Trubisky, Nagy and the team.
Interestingly, the Eagles extended the contract of quarterback Carson Wentz last week. Wentz was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft, a year before the Bears chose Trubisky with the same pick. Wentz's four-year extension is worth $132 million with $66 million fully guaranteed.
It's not out of the realm of possibility for the Bears to be working on an extension for Trubisky at this time next year. In fact, that's a best-case scenario for the organization because it will mean he'd be coming off a blockbuster season. Trubisky is represented by Rep1 Sports, the same agency that advises Wentz. Every young quarterback playing on a rookie contract — Jared Goff, Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes and Trubisky — took notice of Wentz's deal.
"It was pretty cool to see," Trubisky said. "He got it done. We have the same agent, so I got to hear a little more about how they got it done, and from what I heard it was beneficial to the player and the organization. They're very happy with it, and I know my agents were pumped with it as well. I'm not very good with the numbers and details and the language of contracts. I just want to play football."
If Trubisky plays to the level the Bears envision him reaching, a deal after only three seasons would make sense from the standpoint that the sooner it's done, the more palatable the numbers will be for the team moving forward.
There's no rush to reach a second contract for Trubisky and there is a lot of football to play, but like the quarterback and Helfrich says, things look a lot different as the team heads into summer break.