Has Bears rookie Mitch Trubisky arrived earlier than expected?

The Bears must put rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky's dazzling debut through the proper filter, sifting through the

's eyes bulged. The receiver knew what he had seen. Sure, it was only one play in one exhibition game, one flash of brilliance during one August snapshot of 's rookie development. But man …

Third-and-18 from the 44. Out of the shotgun, Trubisky dropped and set. Thompson couldn't see defensive end Zach Kerr barreling towards his quarterback. The Bears receiver's head wasn't even turned when Trubisky fired. As Thompson broke inward on a dig route, he felt the crowd of defenders nearby. Yet all Thompson saw was a bullet whistling toward his face mask.

"By the time I put my foot in the ground and turned my head, the ball was exactly where it was supposed to be," Thompson said. "Just a small window. But it looked great."

Trubisky's dart arrived on time and on the money. Gain of 24. First down.

"That's an throw, man," Thompson said. "That's an NFL throw."

This was the tone of Mitch-a-palooza Thursday night at Soldier Field with the young Bears quarterback completing 18 of 25 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.

Never mind that Trubisky's production came mostly against fringe defenders, many who won't even have jobs in three weeks. Never mind that his final two drives stalled or that the Bears lost their exhibition opener 24-17. Those are merely footnotes.

What most everyone agreed on: when the lights came on, Trubisky showed no stage fright.

The rookie led a 2-minute drill for a touchdown on his first drive. He completed his first 10 passes. He helped produce 17 points on his first three series.

Sure, the sample size (44 exhibition plays) remains miniscule. But it's impossible to deny the hope that bubbled up inside Soldier Field and the instant buzz that spread across social media.

After a predictably uneven two weeks of training camp in Bourbonnais — fumbled snaps, poor reads, -like lasers on the run — Trubisky's emergence Thursday revived the imagination of a success-starved football city.

So this was what general manager had seen before the draft convincing him Trubisky had to become a Bear. This was Trubisky at his best, all his strengths on display. The arm strength and accuracy. The composure. The moxie.

But now what? How do the Bears put Thursday's debut through the proper filter, sifting through the hype and hope for actual meaning? And how does Trubisky's early success square with the big-picture plan Pace has repeated emphatically since May — that is the undisputed starter for 2017; that Trubisky seems better suited for a redshirt season; that properly developing the rookie will take an abundance of time and patience?

By Friday morning even Pace had to be asking himself the question that suddenly had barged to the forefront of the city's sports conversation: Why wait?

'It's his team'

Trubisky has stressed his NFL readiness won't materialize magically. So it was no surprise his postgame victory lap Thursday was, well, vintage Trubisky.

He acknowledged the rhythm he found but first credited his teammates. He cracked wise about the mobility he showed, particularly on one third-quarter scramble in which he spun out of the pocket and turned a disjointed play into a 12-yard gain.

"Who wants to get sacked?" he quipped. "Not me."

Most notably, Trubisky insisted he had done nothing to loosen Mike Glennon's grip on the starting job.

"Mike's the starter," he said. "It's his team."

That unwavering buy-in, Pace believes, is an intangible that will prove invaluable, particularly as the outside noise amplifies.

Trubisky isn't a prima donna. He isn't thin skinned. Even as the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft, he willingly has embraced being the No. 3 quarterback on his own depth chart — for now.

"I loved that they had a plan in place," Trubisky said a week before his exhibition debut. "I respect that. And I believe in that plan. From a young age, that's always how I've been. Whatever plan they have for me, I'm going to embrace it and believe in it all the way."

Pace knew he was creating a somewhat tricky situation this spring when he made the bold trade to draft Trubisky, then vowed to sit him behind Glennon. But the Bears GM also knew Trubisky embodied a team-first attitude that would soften any perceived quarterback controversy.

"Mitch has been spot on with balancing his desire to compete and play with his respect for the process and the organization's vision," Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. "We've encouraged him, 'Hey, you need to be the competitor you are. You should never be content. But right now you're not competing against Mike Glennon or . You're competing against yourself to become a better football player.'"

The next step


That's the word Loggains has been throwing at Trubisky daily, a firm acknowledgment of what the rookie truly needs to gain to become NFL ready.

Command. It's the trait Trubisky has been striving to build, understanding it can turn promising young quarterbacks into 10-year standouts.

"Everyone in this league can throw the football and make plays," Trubisky said. "But it's the mental part of the game that separates (the best). How you watch film, how you prepare, then how you go out and execute."

Sounds simple. But under the umbrella of that one word — command — comes a longer list of boxes Trubisky still needs to check.

Command, Pace asserts, is about fully understanding the speed of NFL defenses, the wide variety of schemes and coverages and all the details within the Bears' voluminous playbook.

It's confidently delivering the play call in the huddle.

It's body language. It's voice.

It's the pre-snap ability to get 10 other teammates lined up properly and the defense scanned.

Command in its purest form, Loggains emphasizes, is "complete ownership of the offense."

It's the ability to work the play clock and vary snap counts. It's a full understanding of down and distance. Time and score.

"It's thinking ahead before things happen," Pace added. "It's how to navigate through adversity within a game. It's going to the sidelines and communicating with your teammates on what you're seeing and what they're seeing. All those things."

Recently, Loggains found himself watching "America's Game: The 2009 ." In a series of clips, the NFL Films documentary showed directing traffic before the snap. Here was Brees reminding to be ready for a hot route in the flat. Here was Brees directing tight end Billy Miller to motion to the right of the formation. Here was Brees asking receiver to shift up to the line of scrimmage.

Here he was again with Bush, on the sidelines this time, ordering the running back to commit to his path on an option route.

"Be decisive, OK?" Brees directed. "Either you're running and you're outrunning him now or you're putting your foot in the ground and coming back. You make that determination and make it quick."

Loggains pulled his iPhone out, took a video of the sequence and texted it to Trubisky. That, he wanted his young quarterback to know, is command.

"Command is where you know it all so well that you can teach it," Loggains said. "We want a battlefield commander who is ready to take this group and win a bunch of games."

Sticking to plan

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