Whether playing or watching, Matt Nagy wants a focused Bears team for the preseason opener

BOURBONNAIS, IL - JULY 27: Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy looks on during the Chicago Bears training camp on July 27, 2019 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – It’s a common question that he’s gotten as he approaches the sixth NFL preseason game of his head coach career:

“How much is (starter) going to play?”

It’s been posed to Matt Nagy and other leaders of teams around the league as they approach their warm-up games over the next month. Every coach has their own thoughts and philosophies on it, with some choosing to get the starters in for a series, quarter, half, or sometimes not at all.

Fans remember Nagy’s decision to sit the starters in the second-to-last preseason game of 2018, a departure from the strategy of many teams, in hopes of keeping his team fresh for the regular season. It paid off with a very healthy season for the Bears as they went 12-4.

“I think so,” said Nagy when asked on Tuesday if the team’s good health in 2018 was confirmation that his strategy in the preseason worked. “Every team’s different. We had five games last year. This year we’ve got four. So we love where we’re at right now, depth-wise.”

But the question of who will play is one Nagy wouldn’t answer before the team’s first preseason game against the Panthers at Soldier Field on Thursday evening. Specifically, he was asked about starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on Tuesday, and while his answer wasn’t specific, he did outline a general rule for all of his players as they approach their first contest against a different opponent in the 2019 season.

“I think for all these guys it’s important, no matter if they play a little bit, play a lot, or don’t play at all, mentally they go through the whole process, alright,” said Nagy. “That’s big.”

One way or the other, don’t expect the starters to play very much. In a five-game preseason in 2018, Trubisky saw just eight plays in the second game, around a half in the third, then sat out the final two contests. Most of the starters were in the same boat, with Nagy electing to get his players the most rest he could before the season.

As for the quarterback, he’s ready for whatever the plan will be, even if that means he’s on the sidelines the entire time.

“Mental reps, mental reps,” said Trubisky when asked what he does if he’s kept out of the first preseason game. “You can always learn from other people, especially Chase (Daniel) and Tyler (Bray). They’ve taught me a lot over the span of the last year going into this year and we stick together. Just continue to have my head in the game, taking mental reps, and just go through the situational play and progressions and where would I go with the ball and what they’re seeing.

“It’s a little different, always being out there on the field, it’s easy from the sidelines than being in the pocket. Whatever it is, I’m hoping to get a bunch of reps, and if not, just got to stay in it mentally, and support our guys.”

As long as his mind is on the game, from the warm-ups to the finish, his coach will be happy.

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