EAGAN, Minn. — Mitchell Trubisky hadn’t thrown an NFL pass before he made the first start of his career in 2017, a game that came at home on Monday Night Football against the Vikings.
Fast forward 13 months, and the Bears quarterback is slated to face Minnesota’s defense again — both at home and in prime time.
But the Vikings know that the second-year quarterback they will see this Sunday night is a much-improved one than the rookie they beat twice in 2017.
“I just think he’s starting to feel more comfortable. You know, time helps with that,” said first-year Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy, whose offensive system has allowed Trubisky to flourish. “He’s really, essentially, a rookie in this system, as is most of our offense with a first-year offense. … Just being in the offense for the first time, he’s growing, he’s getting better, he’s getting more comfortable in the system.
“For us, it’s the same for me too, as a play caller. Just learning these guys and understanding what we like, how we like to run them,” Nagy said. “I like where he’s at, but we’ve got a ways to go.”
Trubisky, who was the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, has thrown for 2,304 yards with 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2018. The quarterback has surpassed his passing yardage from 2017, when he started 12 games.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he’s been impressed by what Trubisky has done in his second season in the NFL.
“I think he’s done pretty much everything,” Zimmer said. “There’s been times he’s had some free runners, and it looks like they’re telling him, ‘Hey, you have to get the ball out.’ He gets the ball out with accuracy.
“There’s other times he looks like Fran Tarkenton scrambling. Some of the runs he’s made are unbelievable,” Zimmer said. “They’re obviously using him in a bunch of different ways. I think the command of the offense is probably his biggest thing is being able to go through progressions more, now. When they’re in their no-huddle, they’re telling him what plays to call and things like that. It’s a little bit of that style.”
As Zimmer alluded to, Trubisky has morphed into a dual-threat quarterback at times as he has 320 rushing yards and three touchdowns, both totals that rank second on the Bears.
But with the game at Soldier Field, Vikings safety Harrison Smith knows that Minnesota’s defense will need to be prepared for Trubisky both on the ground and through the air Sunday night.
The Bears quarterback leads the league with 15 touchdown passes at home in 2018. Trubisky has 15 touchdowns in five home games and four touchdown passes in four road games.
“He’s a playmaker,” said Smith, who picked off Trubisky late in the quarterback’s first-career start. “He obviously has the athletic ability to make some big-time runs.
“If something’s not there in the pass game, then he has the arm to make plays on the outside and get the ball to his playmakers,” Smith added.
Diggs good to go for Sunday
Stefon Diggs was listed on the injury report all week with a rib injury, but he also practiced in full on each of the three days Minnesota hit the practice field this week.
The Vikings wide receiver was not given as designation on Friday’s injury report, so it appears Diggs will be back in the lineup after missing Minnesota’s Week 9 game against the Lions.
Diggs provided an update on his status on Thursday.
“I feel good now,” Diggs said. “I just needed a little bit of time.”
He also noted that he would have played against the Lions if it had been a postseason contest.
“I would have had to. I would have had to,” Diggs said. “I can’t miss anything like that. But you only get one chance to go to the playoffs, you only get one shot.”
Diggs has been successful with five touchdown receptions in five career games against the Bears. He has 18 catches for 295 yards in his career against Chicago.
Diggs said he’s looking forward to a much-anticipated game against the Bears on Sunday Night Football.
“I like playing at night, I like prime-time games, but it’s also an appreciation of the two teams,” Diggs said. “If two teams are playing well, you’re going to want it to be [in prime time] for everyone to watch. It’s definitely going to be a good game.”
Conklin could see expanded role against Bears
Vikings tight end David Morgan has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Bears, leaving Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Conklin as the only healthy tight ends on the 53-man roster.
That could mean an expanded role for Conklin, who was a fifth-round pick in the spring out of Central Michigan.
The rookie said he’s ready to help any way possible against Chicago.
“Just going through practice and seeing the game plan, I’m just doing whatever I’m told to do,” Conklin said. “Whether they want me to help in pass pro or the run game or in the pass game or just take a little bit of the load off of Rudy, I’m here to do whatever they need me to do. I think I’m prepared to help.”
Zimmer said Friday that he has plenty of confidence in Conklin.
“He has done pretty well,” Zimmer said. “He has done a good job in both areas, protection and blocking and routes.
"He’s been a tough guy since he’s been here … [his run blocking] has never bothered me,” Zimmer added.
Conklin has played 73 offensive snaps this season, which is 12 percent of Minnesota’s offensive plays. He has also played 83 snaps on special teams.
Conklin, who has two catches for 13 yards on the season, said he feels he has adapted well in his first season in the NFL.
“I would say just the speed of the game and knowing the offense better,” Conklin said. “That’s huge — the better you understand the offense, the faster you can play and start being yourself.
“Just kind of learning the offense more and more has really helped me out,” Conklin added.
And he would wholly embrace the chance for a bigger role, especially in such a crucial division matchup.
“The more playing time you get as a rookie, the better,” Conklin said. “That’s the growth you need, and you can’t really grow without playing.
“Sitting there and knowing what to do is different than actually going out there and playing against another team,” Conklin added. “The more experience, the better.”