LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Saturday was supposed to end a competitive week of work against the Denver Broncos that would have featured multiple head-to-head practices and a preseason game. Instead, the Bears did their best to simulate game-like situations Saturday afternoon at Halas Hall.
While the starters didn’t get any “live” action, the coaching staff simulated kickoffs, punts and full offensive possessions, frequently moving the football to setup special situations. The entire practice featured 11-on-11 action, providing quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles their best – and most significant -- test of the quarterback competition thus far.
“We were able to get a lot of reps in,” head coach Matt Nagy said. “I think it's a transition time for just the players' mindset of going from the sideline back onto the field for a four-play drive, back to the sideline, back to the field for a nine-play drive. It simulates some game situations. It's not perfect. But it just changes it up a little bit.”
Essentially, Trubisky, who went first, was able to operate an offensive series before going to the sideline while Foles had a possession. Instead of the frenetic pace of practices earlier this week, Saturday's pace was more game-like.
And like much of the first full week of training camp practices, the results were mixed. Both quarterbacks had some really nice throws Saturday, but the mistakes were more prevalent too. The defense even managed to snag its first interception of camp.
Here’s a look at how each quarterback performed:
After seeing a steady increase in accuracy through the first four practices, Trubisky wasn’t as dialed in Saturday. One pass to tight end Eric Saubert was too far behind, while another to tight end Demetrius Harris was overthrown. Two end zone fades were unsuccessful and a deep pass to Cordarrelle Patterson had nice touch but was ruled incomplete because the throw pulled Patterson out of bounds.
On the other hand, Trubisky avoided the big mistake and he threw the best pass of the day on a deep shot down the middle of the field to tight end Jesper Horsted.
“That was one where I got excited and told him I just thought it was a hell of a throw,” Nagy said. “Great vision, great anticipation and you give a guy a chance to catch the ball and run that's all you can ask for. So that was a great play.”
Despite throwing the first official interception of training camp, Foles looked better Saturday. And he didn't get much help from his receivers. Three well-thrown balls downfield were dropped, including one by Javon Wims in the end zone late in practice. Nagy also singled out a nice throw to Ted Ginn Jr. that was completed near the right sideline as an example of great anticipation.
On the other hand, Foles got away with a dropped interception in the end zone by safety Marqui Christian and wasn’t as lucky when he chucked one downfield in the vicinity of Eddie Jackson, who hauled it in for the pick.
“I've got to go back and watch the tape but I think there was a little bit of pressure on that throw where he pulled back a little bit, yanked the core where he threw it and the ball kind of floated in the air,” Nagy said.
In fairness, it was third down and the interception essentially served as a punt, but it did go down as the first interception of the week.
Despite the interception, Foles was the slightly better quarterback Saturday. If not for three drops, he would have had four downfield completions on really nice throws.
Frankly, there hasn’t been much separation in the competition thus far. Both quarterbacks can be much better, but neither has looked incapable of winning the job either. Foles had been underwhelming until Saturday, but he took a step forward in an important practice.
Five practices in, this competition is relatively even.
The final word
Nagy on Trubisky’s throw to Horsted and Foles’ completion to Ginn Jr.:
“Those are the type of throws that we look for. Are these guys anticipating where that wide receiver is going to be at? And when you do that and you throw it on time, it really helps out the O-line. And then there's other times too where you got some movement in the pocket. I thought they both did a good job moving in the pocket, seeing the defense.”