The home stretch: Nick Foles feeling stronger every day
After a slow start getting acclimated to the Bears, his teammates and Matt Nagy’s system, the veteran QB could be set up for a strong finish. But does he have enough time to win the job?
Quarterback Nick Foles is in a six-furlong race. But he needs a mile.
“Every day I’m getting more and more comfortable,” he said. “The more we rep plays and the more we talk through them, the more I get comfortable with the guys out there. That’s happening every single day.”
When the Bears acquired Foles in a trade with the Jaguars in March, he was pegged by many as a replacement for Mitch Trubisky or the likely winner of a quarterback competition. But the limitations because of COVID-19 altered that scenario, with Foles “learning” the offense virtually via Zoom meetings — not even getting on the field with his new teammates until August.
Foles might still be the winner of the open competition with Trubisky for the starting job. But he seemed to acknowledge that the shortened time frame to get acclimated to a new organization, a new offense and new teammates has been a factor.
“It’s been a really unique situation with everything going on in the world — and this year, not having OTAs and getting here, everything’s expedited,” Foles said.
“Not only are you trying to play football and learn this new offense, which has similarities to what I’ve done before, but there’s still a ton of new [things]. You’re meeting a lot of new people and trying to build those relationships and learn their names while also learning the area. So all that pulls from your energy.”
Foles has never won an open competition before. He lost one at Arizona as a sophomore. He lost one to Michael Vick (and Matt Barkley) with the Eagles in 2013. He has done his best work in the NFL as a backup with a higher degree of familiarity replacing a starter in an established offense.
That doesn’t mean he can’t excel as a No. 1 from the start. He’s used to learning new systems and developing chemistry with new teammates. But he seems to thrive on familiarity more than most. And that takes time.
“It’s not the first time I’ve done it, but it’s the most expedited,” Foles said. “It’s been different, but I’ve been enjoying it and just sort of leaning in and embracing [it] because that’s the time, and that’s where we’re at.
“The tough part is [that] you’re trying to expedite building relationships, which isn’t always easy. But that’s the situation we’re in. I’m doing my best to lean in and embrace that.”
The focus might be a little more on Foles because Trubisky has been unable to parlay his familiarity with Nagy’s offense into a standout training camp. He looks like the Mitch Trubisky he has been — some good, some bad, but nothing extraordinary.
“I feel like I’ve had a good camp, and I’m just trying to get better every day,” Trubisky said after practice Saturday at Soldier Field.
Asked what he would like to do better this week as decision day gets closer, Trubisky was clear.
“Just running the offense,” he said. “I would like to show the coaches that I can create more explosive plays of offense throwing the ball downfield and just make great decisions overall and run the offense. But, really, get on the same page with [Nagy] and just figure out where we’re at and see what in his eyes I can continue to improve to either separate myself or get a good chance to help lead this team.”
Trubisky will get that opportunity Monday, when he has a chance to run the same full-field, two-minute drill that Foles ran expertly last Wednesday — arguably the only time one quarterback clearly has distanced himself from the other.
Unfortunately, those opportunities are rare in an open competition. So Monday’s drive is huge for him. It’s an additional -opportunity for Trubisky, a chance to show he can come through with the pressure on.