Mitchell Trubisky wasn't caught off guard when his status changed abruptly from the Chicago Bears' quarterback of the future to their starter of the present.
Trubisky was promoted to the starting job after four games when head coach John Fox decided that the struggling offense, plagued by turnovers under veteran Mike Glennon, would perform better under the highly touted rookie from North Carolina.
The ride hasn't been completely smooth for Trubisky or the Bears in the last five games, but Trubisky's shown gradual signs of improvement and has a growing sense of comfort as he prepares for Sunday's home game against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.
"I think they had a plan in place for when they wanted to put me in, if and when I was ready," Trubisky said Wednesday in a conference-call interview with the Detroit media. "I felt like I was ready at the beginning of the season. I continued to stick with the plan."
The Bears have a 3-6 won-loss record and are in last place in the NFC North as they try to avoid a fifth straight season with a losing record. They are 2-3 in Trubisky's five starts.
Trubisky's stats are modest – three touchdown passes against two interceptions – but head coach John Fox said in his conference-call interview that he is seeing Trubisky develop.
"I think he's been tremendous," Fox said. "He's an extremely hard worker. He really studies the game, studies the game plan. I've been really impressed when you consider the number of starts he's had, to how he's executed in games."
Trubisky's only season as a starter at North Carolina was 2016, and that lack of experience was considered a red flag by many so-called draft experts. The Bears obviously did not agree. They traded up with San Francisco to draft Trubisky second overall.
The high draft position made it a foregone conclusion that Trubisky was on a fast track to be the starter, even after the Bears had signed Glennon as a free agent in March.
Trubisky has found that defensive coordinators try to take advantage of his inexperience.
"Defensive coordinators are probably going to try to mess with you more than the veteran quarterbacks," he said. "So far, every defensive coordinator has played us different than what they showed other teams."
How the Bears got to 3-6: The Bears' two wins under Trubisky were back-to-back in Weeks 6-7 – 27-24 in overtime on the road against Baltimore, and 17-3 the next week at home over the Carolina Panthers. Chicago's other win was 23-17 over the Steelers in overtime under Mike Glennon.
Light handed: Trubisky attempted only 23 passes with 12 completions combined against the Ravens and Panthers. He competed 8-of-16 for 113 yards and a TD against the Ravens and 4-of-7 for 107 yards vs. the Panthers.
View photos of the starters for the Chicago Bears.
The Bears had only five first downs against the Panthers. Rookie safety Eddie Jackson scored both of the Bears' TDs on returns – a 75-yard fumble and a 76-yard interception.
Trubisky: In his five starts he has completed 51.3 percent of his passes (59-115), for 809 yards and three touchdowns. He's had two interceptions, lost two of his three fumbles and been sacked 16 times. Trubisky has scrambled 15 times for 110 yards.
Glennon: Turnovers were his undoing. He had a decent 66.4-percent completion rate (93-140) but committed eight turnovers – five interceptions against four TD passes and losing three of his five fumbles.
Glennon was sacked only eight times – half as many as Trubisky – and he ran four times for two yards.
Offense – on the run: With minimal contributions from the receivers, the Bears are led again this year by second-year running back Jordan Howard, one of the surprise rookies of 2016.
As a fifth-round draft pick out of Indiana, a former college basketball power, Howard rushed for 1,313 yards and six TDs. He is on pace for a repeat performance through four games, with 716 yards and four TDs.
Howard has not been as effective as a receiver, averaging 5.6 yards on 14 receptions compared to 10.3 on 29 catches in 2016.
Defense – coming on: It ranks ninth overall, mainly on the strength of its pass defense and pass rush. The Bears have given up only nine TD passes, fourth fewest in the league, and are tied for seventh in total sacks with 26.
Up front in the Bears' 3-4 scheme, Akiem Hicks leads the team with seven sacks. Leonard Floyd, drafted ninth overall last year, began to produce late in his rookie season and has continued that with 5.5 sacks to rank second on the team.
The Bears have only four interceptions, but two were returned for TDs.