Bears QB Nick Foles progresses, but still working on chemistry with receivers
Foles knows the offense, but Mitch Trubisky still has an edge when it comes to the personnel.
No one on the Bears’ coaching staff worries about new quarterback Nick Foles learning the offense, though he contends it’s more of a hurdle than it might seem from the outside, but getting in sync with his new teammates is a bigger challenge.
The only player Foles has any experience with is No. 3 tight end Demetrius Harris, so there’s a lot to learn. He’s studying everything from how Allen Robinson comes out of his breaks to where Jimmy Graham needs the ball in order to keep his stride to how center Cody Whitehair snaps.
“I’m getting used to how different guys run their routes, how they catch the ball, what they like, what they don’t like,” Foles said after practice Tuesday. “That’s something that I’m learning every single day. But the guys are working hard and are really making plays, so it makes it easier to get up to speed faster. But it’s still a process.”
Foles is very familiar with coach Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DiFilippo from playing under them before, so picking up the playbook over Zoom went smoothly.
However, fellow starting candidate Mitch Trubisky has an advantage in having played with most of the offensive personnel and being in the Chicago area for informal offseason passing workouts. Some players are also new to Trubisky, but he has already thrown 219 passes to Robinson in games and tons more in practice the last two years.
After two practices, Nagy has seen Foles hone in on his pass catchers’ various quirks and preferences, but the chemistry doesn’t look game-ready.
“There are some specific routes where you can see he is throwing to spots on time, he’s anticipating,” Nagy said. “That’s a strength of Nick’s . . . I think what they’ll do is just continue to watch tape together.
“It’s not where it needs to be yet, but that’s OK. We weren’t expecting that. So we’re just gonna hope that as the next couple days and weeks go by, we just see improvement in specific routes.”
For his part, Robinson will lead the way and have another productive season regardless of who wins the job. He has put up 1,000 yards with Blake Bortles and Trubisky as his quarterbacks.
Graham, however, has played his entire career with Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. So this might require a bit of an adjustment.
Brees, for example, completed 68 percent of his passes during Graham’s run with the Saints and has been at 70 or better the last four seasons. Trubisky was 18th in the NFL at 63.2 percent. Foles completed 65.8 percent of his passes in four starts for the Jaguars last season, but is at 61.9 for his career.
In Foles’ case, it becomes more challenging to master receivers’ tendencies when playing time is intermittent. That’s somewhat of the situation he is in now as the Bears try to decide between him and Trubisky, a process Nagy said will stretch “out as far as we possibly can” regardless of the benefits of getting one of them the starter’s share with ample time before the opener.
Foles took the field first Tuesday with the starting offense after Trubisky did so Monday, and Nagy plans to continue alternating them.
“We’re trying to split up the reps as evenly as we can,” Nagy said. “The biggest thing we’re looking for right now as a coaching staff between both of those quarterbacks is tempo, in and out of the huddle . . . Right now, as an offensive whole, we can be a little bit better. And we always start with the quarterback directing that.”
Foles will have a better chance if he gets a more consistent opportunity, but it doesn’t sound like that’s going to happen soon.