CHICAGO -- As the Chicago Bears conduct an unusual training camp in Lake Forest, the Chicago Tribune takes a closer look at the quarterback competition.
-- QBs currently on roster: 3.
-- QBs projected on final roster: 2.
-- Roster locks: Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles.
-- Practice squad candidates: Tyler Bray.
-- Biggest offseason developments: The Bears let backup quarterback Chase Daniels' contract expire, then traded a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for Nick Foles. ... They declined the fifth-year option for 2021 on Trubisky's rookie deal. ... They hired John DeFilippo as their new quarterbacks coach and changed Dave Ragone's role from quarterbacks coach to passing game coordinator.
-- What to like
The Bears aren't in an ideal situation. Not anywhere close. Few championship-contending teams enter training camp with serious quarterback questions plus an open competition for the starting role. To make matters worse, with organized team activities, minicamp, preseason games and two weeks of traditional training camp practices canceled this year because of COVID-19, the competition that general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy envisioned in the winter will be significantly abbreviated.
But credit Pace and Nagy for at least taking a big step this offseason and agreeing they had a quarterback problem. After Mitch Trubisky faltered throughout 2019 with the Bears finishing in the league's bottom five in total yards and points, Pace and Nagy knew they couldn't leave themselves without a safety net for 2020. They agreed to upgrade the quarterback room, then aggressively went after Nick Foles, who has prior experience playing for Nagy, new quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
The Bears are hopeful that familiarity will ease Foles' challenging transition and that he can quickly pressure Trubisky for the starting job. Foles has expressed his comfort in the Bears offense, which is very similar to the one he ran with the Eagles during his fairy-tale run to a Lombardi Trophy in the 2017 season.
The Bears have reminded Trubisky he will get every chance to hold on to his job once practice begins. And the fourth-year pro has said he is highly motivated not to go quietly, aware of the avalanche of criticism that has come down on him since last season and determined to show he has made growth.
"You're always going to have people writing you off," Trubisky said. "It's got to light a fire under you. Which it has for me. I'm just trying to prove everybody wrong and prove my teammates right."
That kind of motivational fuel is never a bad thing. And the Bears are hopeful that, in a best-case scenario, their quarterback competition brings out the best in both Trubisky and Foles.
At the very least, one of the two has to emerge as a reliable starter who can be trusted to run the offense efficiently.
-- Biggest question: What exactly will this quarterback competition look like?
How will this be structured? How can the Bears make up for lost time without rushing things? What will Nagy and his staff be zeroing in on when practices finally begin in mid-August?
The clock is ticking and it's ticking loudly. The Bears won't have many practices to sort through the Trubisky-Foles duel. And Nagy has expressed his quest to make every drill and practice period as competitive as possible.
As for what the coaching staff will be looking for, Nagy wants to see which quarterback handles the process the smoothest. That, he said, means making proper pre-snap checks consistently. It means showing leadership in and out of the huddle. It means throwing the ball on time and on target.
The Bears will also be continually testing both Trubisky and Foles with third-down situations plus two-minute drill and red-zone opportunities.
"To me, you can sense it," Nagy said. "You feel it, the efficiency, the productivity within the special situations that you have. ... How accurate are you on specific throws? Are you playing smart in the red zone. What's your mentality? What's your communication like at the line of scrimmage with the wide receivers when you're going two-minute, no-huddle. And then how are you handling the coaching?"
Demonstrating an ability to bounce back from a bad day, Nagy said, also will be crucial.
-- Fresh face
New quarterbacks coach DeFilippo is expected to bring an energized yet demanding demeanor to the room. Nagy believes DeFilippo's emphasis on fundamentals will be a plus for both Trubisky and Foles and his assertiveness in the teaching process will be noticeable.
"Sometimes you can say we're going to take the gloves off and we're going to get at it now," Nagy said. "And I think Flip has that in his DNA. You'll see that and you'll take notice of that."
Earlier this offseason, DeFilippo said he wants his quarterbacks to play with "juice" and exhibit a blend of "passion, energy and swagger." He also offered his definition of command at the position.
"Number one," he said, "you need to have command of yourself in terms of the quarterback lifestyle we always talk about. (It's) living, breathing, eating, sleeping football. Number two, you need to have command of the offense and the scheme, knowing what the coaches are asking you to do. Playing within yourself. Then thirdly you need to have command of the team in some fashion."
-- You should know
In Trubisky's 42 NFL starts including the playoffs, the Bears offense has topped 20 points only 13 times, a rate of 31%. For a quarterback drafted with the No. 2 pick in 2017, Trubisky's inability to consistently ignite the offense has been problematic and now puts him in a fight for his future in Chicago. Last season the Bears finished in the bottom five of the NFL in total offense (296.8 yards per game) and scoring (17.5 points per game) and dead last in passing yards per play (5.67).
-- Quote of note
"If one of the quarterbacks is stinking it up and he's playing like crap, we're going to tell you you're playing like crap. And we're going to tell you that in front of the other one. They're both going to know when someone's playing good and someone's playing bad. So when the time comes when we inevitably need to make a decision (on the starter), trust me, it's not going to be a surprise." -- Nagy on the quarterback competition
-- Big number: 25
Over the last 20 seasons, the Bears have had 25 quarterbacks make at least one start, second in the NFL behind the Browns (30). The Bears have used 11 different Week 1 starters in that span. Only the Browns (16) and Redskins (12) have had more. Both numbers could tick upward for the Bears as soon as next month.
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