Analysis

Bears QB competition: Why Nick Foles just took the lead

Analysis

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Tuesday appeared to be a significant day in the Bears’ quarterback competition for two reasons:

1. Both quarterbacks threw more passes than they had in any other practice open to the media in camp.

2. For the first time, Mitch Trubisky truly struggled with his accuracy.

Following an hour-long lightning delay at Halas Hall, the Bears managed to get their full practice in, although it required some an encouragement from head coach Matt Nagy after a sluggish return to the field.

“I thought it was a little slow start at first, so we had to get on them a little bit,” Nagy said. “I think that’s a little bit natural, but they reacted well after those 1-on-1s and we were able to get in our long drive drill there at the end of practice where we go 18 plays with the (first-team). It gets them a little bit conditioned.”

Catch Up: Nick Foles shows improvement in 'game-like' practice

The long drive drill was one of two new wrinkles in the quarterback competition. With the starting offensive line going 18 plays in a row, the quarterbacks split the reps, each getting nine snaps. Prior to that period, we saw a “slot-pass drill,” featuring two wide receivers against the three defensive backs.

“You got a nickel, a corner and a safety versus two receivers and then you just work combo routes (against) different types of coverages,” Nagy said. “It’s advantage of defense so if it didn’t look good on offense, it’s advantage defense the whole way.”

 

Like most of the quarterback competition, the results were mixed for both Trubisky and Nick Foles. Here’s a look at how both quarterbacks performed in Tuesday’s practice:

Mitch Trubisky

The slot-pass drill gave the defense an advantage and it resulted in Trubisky’s first interception of training camp in team drills. He threw a pass behind rookie wide receiver Darnell Mooney and it was picked off by cornerback Duke Shelley. However, two passes later, Trubisky delivered one his best passes of camp, uncorking a dime to Javon Wims on an out-and-up down the right sideline. Unfortunately, two high passes to Ted Ginn Jr. in the period were a warning sign of what was to come. In 7-on-7s, Trubisky forced a pass to Wims downfield when he had an option open underneath (more on this in a minute). Later, he was way late on a throw to Jimmy Graham and was inaccurate on several throws in the 11-on-11 period.

“There’s a couple balls I think he would want back, a few here or there just with the accuracy might not be exactly what he wanted,” Nagy said.

Simply put: it wasn’t a great day for Mitch Trubisky.

Nick Foles

Foles was also guilty of an interception in the slot-pass drill, although it appeared to be more on Mooney, who was the intended target on the play. In 7-on-7s, Foles forced one to Cole Kmet and it was picked off by rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson. It was a bad decision, but it was also his only significant mistake of the day. Two snaps later, Foles threaded the needle on a really nice touchdown pass to Anthony Miller, who was more active Tuesday. Foles also hit Wims on a deep cross in 11-on-11s and was generally accurate throughout the practice, although the degree of difficulty was questionable compared to Trubisky (again, more on this coming up).

Tuesday’s winner

It’s not like Foles ran away with the day, but he certainly did not struggle to the degree that Trubisky did. Other than the interception, I only noted one other throw that was off the mark for Foles, while Trubisky had at least six passes get away from him. There’s no question Foles was the better quarterback and it will be interesting to see how Trubisky responds after two straight underwhelming practices. This could be a swing moment in the competition, or it could lead to a strong response from the incumbent.

Final word

First, a quote from Matt Nagy and then some context:

“I thought both of them, there’s a couple progressions with the eyes making sure – especially in 7-on-7 -- test it downfield instead of taking a checkdown. I thought you saw a little bit of that from both of them today. (7-on-7s) is a good time to test it, even if it’s not so much the greatest read, test it and see what some of these players can do. That’s okay though. We just keep rolling, we keep getting after it.”

 

The interesting thing about Nagy’s comment is that I actually thought Trubisky did take some chances downfield in 7-on-7s to the point that it hurt him. The previously mentioned throw to Wims in double-coverage is one example. One snap later, he tried Ridley downfield and it fell incomplete. A long fade to Rodney Adams also didn’t work out.

Foles, meanwhile, had the interception to Johnson and the touchdown to Miller, but otherwise didn’t force the issue much. I wonder if the coaching staff would like to see him be more aggressive to help evaluate the competition.

Regardless of the high-percentage throws, Foles won the day and, by my evaluation, he inches ahead in what remains a tight competition.

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