Bears Insider

4 ways Nick Foles will change, improve Bears' offense

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Mitch Trubisky’s final throw before being benched was an interception, which was egregious enough on its own. But it was the last straw for Matt Nagy in large part because it came on third down.

Trubisky in 2020, on third and four or fewer, completed five of eight passes and only four of those resulted in first downs. Since the start of 2019, 24 of Trubisky’s 41 passes went for first downs on third down with fewer than four yards to go. Those are third downs that should be expected to be converted.

This is where Nick Foles’ proven competence operating run-pass option plays can help the Bears’ offense. Colleague Adam Hoge broke down how Foles uses RPOs to his advantage here – the point is, Foles’ ability to quickly read opposing defenses leads to either an advantageous running play or a high-percentage passing play on third and short. That should help the Bears be more consistent on those makeable third downs.

“Everyone thinks that RPO stuff is easy to do because they’re all short throws, but it’s not,” Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich – Foles’ offensive coordinator when he won Super Bowl MVP -- said. “There’s really an art to it and an accuracy to it that Nick excels at.”


Trubisky in 2020 completed just two of 15 passes that traveled at least 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, per Pro Football Focus, accounting for just 49 yards on those throws. Foles entered Sunday’s game and connected on three of nine deep shots for 86 yards – though it should’ve been four of nine if Al Riveron didn’t bizarrely overturn Allen Robinson’s third quarter touchdown.

Foles pushed the ball downfield more in part because the Bears were losing, sure, but it’s also a big part of his quarterbacking DNA.

“He throws a unique deep ball,” Reich explained. “A lot of guys that throw the deep ball today throw the ball a little flatter. Nick throws the ball with a lot of arc – he has more arc on his deep ball than most people do.

“… One advantage to that is it gives the receiver time to adjust and if you got confidence in your guys they can make the play, that’s what he’s (doing). He’s just assuming they’re going to make more plays than not and he’s had a lot of success in his career doing that.”

Trubisky’s hesitancy to take deep shots – and inaccuracy when he did – held back the Bears’ offense and made things easier on opposing defenses. Foles not only will throw it deep, he’ll complete more of those shot plays, stretching defenses and making things easier on Nagy and this offense.


Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey was asked about Foles targeting Javon Wims on a back shoulder throw – the pass was incomplete – and let slip a damning comment about Trubisky.

“The back shoulder throw – obviously we haven’t had a lot of those the last two or three years,” Furrey said. “And so that’s going to happen now. When you have an opportunity to start throwing the ball down the field and not just one time down the field, I think as you guys watched yesterday, we started stretching the field a little bit no matter who was in there.

“Now when defenses and corners start understanding that, now those back shoulder throws are going to become a very viable option. I think one of the greatest things is when Nick threw it and Juice (Wims) came off the sideline, Juice was like, hey, this is like college days again.

“If I’m not an option, it’s going to be back shoulder. That happens because we’re throwing the ball down the field.”

Allen Robinson is averaging the ninth-fewest yards of separation per route run (2.1) among qualified receivers this year, per NFL Next Gen Stats. He stands to benefit from Foles’ trust in those back shoulder throws, as does the entire Bears’ offense.


Trubisky bought into the expectation of him being a “point guard” for the Bears’ offense. As he said of his responsibilities in 2019: “Distribute the ball to our playmakers, and that's really all I've gotta do within this offense.” 

But he never really was that guy. If he were, this offense would’ve been gaining good amount of yards after the catch – yet, in 2018-2019, the Bears ranked 25th in percentage of passing yards gained from YAC.

Only 35.5 percent of Trubisky’s passing yards came after the catch in 2020. ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky did an excellent breakdown of Trubisky’s issues with this before the season – he might’ve completed a pass on a given play, but instead of it being a 25-yard gain, it went for 14 because he didn’t lead his receiver.

Those lost yards after the catch could be minimized with Foles, especially once he gets a few weeks in to really develop chemistry with Robinson, Jimmy Graham, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller, etc.

“As a basketball player, he would be a great point guard,” Reich said. “He’s just a magician with the ball. He can throw and deliver the ball from every angle. It just comes easy to him.”


First and foremost, you’re not going to see long scambles from Foles. Over his last 17 games, Foles has 40 rushing yards on 27 carries – five fewer yards than Trubisky gained on one scramble against the Falcons on Sunday.

But the Bears already were getting away from Trubisky’s running ability – he averaged 4.9 rushes per game and 6.2 yards per carry in 2018; those dipped to 3.2 attempts and 4 yards per carry in 2019 and 2.7 attempts in 2020 (though 10.9 yards per rush, thanks to that long scramble against the Falcons).

So going to Foles won’t really change much about the Bears’ offense – maybe a play or two a game that isn’t a scramble or designed run (which also could be a good thing).

More interesting will be if the Bears use more shotgun and 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three receivers) than they did to start the year with Trubisky. Only three of Foles’ 29 pass attempts came under center against the Falcons (10 percent); 30 percent of Trubisky’s passes in 2020 came from under center, according to Pro Football Reference.

And 64 percent of the Bears’ plays in the second half Sunday were in 11 personnel; only 51 percent of the Bears’ plays in the first 10 quarters of the season were with 11 personnel.

We’ll see this week if that uptick in 11 personnel – which, essentially, means replacing a tight end with Anthony Miller – holds with a full week of gameplanning with Foles, or if it was the product of the Bears chasing 16 points in Atlanta.

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