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Mitchell Trubisky and Mack Hollins shone in their NFL Preseason debuts

The former Tar Heel stars were two of the biggest stories of Thursday night.

NFL: Chicago Bears-Rookie Minicamp Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Neither Mitchell Trubisky nor Mack Hollins was expected to start right away. Trubisky, despite the Chicago Bears giving up significant draft capital to move up one spot in the NFL Draft to take him, was listed 3rd on the Bears’ official “unofficial” depth chart released earlier this week, behind journeymen Mike Glennon and Mark Sanchez. The thought had always been that Glennon would start this year while Trubisky took time to learn the NFL game after having limited starts in college. Hollins was listed as the Eagles’ 5th/6th receiver, even after turning heads all camp. The Eagles had signed two top receivers in Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, and Hollins was expected to be a developmental pick.

After Thursday night and their teams’ respective preseason debuts, they’re starting to change those notions.

Trubisky was clearly his team’s best quarterback on Thursday night, missing fewer throws than both his counterparts combined with more than twice the attempts, and showing off his athleticism and poise to boot. He came in after nearly an entire half of offensive futility from the Bears, and promptly led a perfect 2-minute drill that ended in a touchdown pass. He was 4-4 on the drive, and proceeded to complete six more passes before his first incompletion. He finished 18-25 for 166 yards and a score and led all three of Chicago’s scoring drives. He also ran three times for 38 yards, including this scramble: (click here for video with commentary)

NFL.com

Trubisky did just about everything right, besides the last play of the game, where he threw a prayer out of bounds. He was consistently accurate and led his receivers away from the defense, got away from pressure on numerous occasions, and delivered big throws when necessary, including a 24-yard completion on 3rd and 18:

He finished the day with a passer rating of 103.1. The obvious caveat is that he was playing against reserve players, many of whom will not be in the NFL in less than a month, but when the guys playing ahead of him posted ratings of 0.0 (Glennon) and 39.6 (Sanchez) (equivalent to throwing it in the dirt every play), it’s not hard to see who had the best day.

It’s also worth mentioning that the quality of players on Trubisky’s side was more or less equivalent to that of those on the other side. All in all, he looked like one would expect a starting NFL quarterback to look against fringe roster players. You can see all this throws from Thursday’s game here.

Hollins, on the other hand, got playing time with some first- and second-string players, and recorded his first catch on a pass from starting Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. As if that weren’t enough, he took said catch and bulldozed the entire Green Bay secondary en route to a catch-and-run touchdown:

This was a side of Hollins not often seen at UNC, as the tough yards-after-contact role was usually filled by running backs and Bug Howard for the last two years while Hollins usually just beat cornerbacks deep. He had flashed the ability to do this on a few occasions, but if he can make this kind of yardage creation a regular part of his game, the NFL, let alone Philadelphia’s 2nd string receivers, should be put on notice.

Hollins continued to impress throughout the day, bailing the Eagles out on a broken play later in the game and finishing his day with 4 catches on 5 targets for 64 yards and the touchdown, giving him a team-leading 16 yards per catch. That’s a stat that UNC fans are used to seeing Hollins lead, as he led the nation in YPC his junior year. With Nelson Agholor, the 2015 first-round pick, continuing to suffer drops issues in game situations (no matter how much Philadelphia media talks up his offseason), Hollins has a real shot at not only making the roster, but making it on to the field for the Eagles.

Ryan Switzer (Dallas), Elijah Hood (Oakland), Lucas Crowley (Pittsburgh), and Bug Howard (Indianapolis) have yet to make their NFL debuts, but they certainly have had a high standard set by their former teammates. Hopefully, they can match it.