NICK LEARN­ING HOW TO CLICK

New­comer Foles work­ing on fa­mil­iar­ity, chem­istry with re­ceivers

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS -

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.

“I’M ET TING SD TO HOW IFFERENT U YR U EI ROUTES, HO THEY ATCH THE BAL WHAT HE LIKE AT THE DON’T LIKE. THAT’S METHIN THAT I’M LEARN EVER SIN­GLE DAY. BU TH GUYS ORKING AR AN AR RE­ALLY MAK­ING PLAYS SO MAKE IT EASIE TO ET TO SPEED FASTER. BUT T’ ST LL PROCESS. NICK FOLES, who is com­pet­ing with Mitch Tru­bisky for the start­ing quar­ter­back job

AP

Nick Foles (throw­ing a pass dur­ing prac­tice Tues­day) has the of­fense down, but Mitch Tru­bisky has an edge on know­ing the re­ceivers.

JA­SON LIESER BEARS BEAT jlieser@sun­times.com | @Ja­sonLieser

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