49ers, Bears staying patient with top picks after blockbuster deal

SANTA CLARA Fleeced might be a strong word. But the general feeling around this region was that the 49ers got the better of the Chicago Bears in April when the two teams completed a blockbuster trade near the start of the NFL Draft.

49ers general manager John Lynch traded the No. 2 overall pick to the Bears for the No. 3 pick, plus third and fourth round picks in that years draft, and a third round selection next year.

The 49ers still got the player they wanted in Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. The Bears shocked many with such an early selection of Mitch Trubisky out of North Carolina. With more capital in hand, Lynch then made more deals that also gave the 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, safety Adrian Colbert and New Orleans 2018 second round pick.

The marquee names in the original deal, though, have struggled to make an impact as NFL rookies.

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Trubisky has started the last seven games for the Bears and is 2-5 with four touchdown passes and four interceptions. Hes been sacked 19 times and has thrown for an average of 162 yards per game.

Thomas has 24 tackles and two sacks in nine games, fighting to be consistent a patchwork 49ers defensive line.

Just as the Bears knew there were going to be growing pains with Trubisky, Lynch said hes liked what hes seen from Thomas despite the so-so statistics.

I challenge anyone to say he hasn’t played extremely well. He’s been a very solid player. It will only get better, Lynch said when he recently met with reporters. Part of our vision for where he was going to excel was in the sub package, in the nickel stuff as an inside rusher.

We aren’t in a complete process there so we’ve to generate pass rush more, so that has taken away from his ability to line up on a guard and go to work on him. As we add pieces, he’ll get only better. I’m really extremely positive on his future for a long, long time for us.

In a conference call with Bay Area reporters this week, Bears coach John Fox said of Trubisky, Its new for guys when they come in this league just to (learn) the flow of an NFL work week. Youre not going to biology class anymore. Its all football. I think Mitch has done a fantastic job.

Thomas name was linked with Trubisky well before the draft.

Nearly 11 months ago, Thomas finished his time at Stanford with a seven-tackle performance against North Carolina in the Sun Bowl, clinching the game for the Cardinal by sacking Trubisky late in the fourth quarter.

Trailing Stanford 25-23 in the Sun Bowl, the Tar Heels were attempting to tie the game with 25 seconds left in the fourth quarter with a two-point conversion. Trubisky took the snap and ran to his right and when he didnt see anyone open in the end zone, he tried to turn and run back to the left.

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Instead, a trailing Thomas halted Trubisky, grabbing him by the jersey near the waist before a host of Cardinal defenders came to finish the tackle. Stanford recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock as Thomas was named the games MVP.

Just going full speed ahead there, Thomas said. Had him in my hands, tried to pull him down and pulled him down and the game was over. It was a great time for me and my teammates.

Perhaps some 49ers fans are still waiting for that type of standout performance from the third overall draft choice. Still, patience can sometimes pay off.

DeForest Buckner went through growing pains as a rookie after he was selected seventh overall in 2016, but might be the most consistent defender the 49ers have had this season.

There were similar expectations. The pressure, being the first draft pick for the team, Buckner said.

I told (Thomas), try not to think about all of that stuff. I mean, you got to this point by having a lot of confidence in yourself and your ability. You just have to keep doing what youre doing and just evolve.

Thomas missed the 49ers games against Arizona and the New York Giants with a knee injury before he came back for last Sundays game against Seattle.

He’s played with the same energy and effort that we’re used to, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Thursday. Do I think there’s a little bit of rust that he had to knock off? There is. I’m expecting some good improvement from him this week."

Thats what the Bears are hoping to see from Trubisky, whose selection at No. 2 was met with surprise and perhaps more than a little skepticism.

Those doubts only grew after Trubisky completed 17 of 33 pass for 147 yards with two interceptions in the Bears 31-3 loss to Philadelphia last week.

"I had bad footwork in the game and that usually leads to bad accuracy, then timing,’’ Trubisky told Chicago reporters this week. "Just not doing what I was coached to do. Overthinking or not being as focused. There might not be any particular reasons. Sometimes you feel those things as a quarterback and you’ve just got to fix them, and I will."

Thomas cant be solely blamed for the 49ers 1-10 record. Trubisky, though, seems to shouldering more than his share of the blame for Chicagos 3-8 mark, as they go into Sunday on a four-game losing skid.

Hes a great quarterback. He was hard to scout, fun to scout, Thomas said. Hes also pretty elusive. Well try to account for that, but its going to be fun to go against him again.