Chicago Bears: How long is Andy Dalton’s leash in 2021?

bears, matt nagy

Nearly a week away from the 2021 season opener, debates about the Chicago Bears naming veteran Andy Dalton the starting quarterback continue. Since signing with the Bears in March, general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy have reiterated that Dalton will be the starter. What the GM-HC duo hasn’t disclosed is how long Dalton will be the starter, fueling speculation about how many weeks Dalton will be the first-team quarterback.

No leash seems to exist. Nagy, who hopes to replicate the Kansas City model where Patrick Mahomes sat behind Alex Smith for 15 games in 2017 knows the best-case scenario is Justin Fields following in the footsteps of Mahomes, seeing very little action in 2021. There is an issue. Fields playing in 2021 will be inevitable at some point. The 11th overall pick will see the field his rookie season being Nagy’s handpicked quarterback.

Ownership in Chicago doesn’t appear to have a timeline for Pace and Nagy either. The assumption is that both have at least two seasons (2021 and 2022) with Fields while others say 2021 means both are on the hot seat with change likely coming when the calendar turns to January.

Dalton struggling early will lead to the clock ticking, forcing Nagy and Pace to evaluate whether or not Fields is really ready to play. When the Bears host the Detroit Lions in week 4, Fields could be under center. The best-case scenario for Dalton is that he plays well enough to lead the Bears to a winning record before Chicago begins a five-game stretch that includes playing the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens from mid-October to mid-November.

Simply put, the Bears need to play Fields when the franchise feels like he’s ready to go unless the Bears are one of the top teams in the NFC with Dalton leading the way, something that is unlikely to happen.

Chicago Bears: Team is making a mistake starting QB Andy Dalton

After seeing veteran quarterback Andy Dalton in action for the first time with the Chicago Bears, a number of questions remain unanswered for the Bears, who continue to insist that Dalton will be the starting quarterback to open the season. Dalton’s struggles in week 2 against the Buffalo Bills were more than apparent. After punting on three of the Bears’ first four possessions, Dalton’s lone highlight of the afternoon was a 73-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rodney Adams.

When rookie quarterback Justin Fields took over in the second half, Chicago once again showed signs of life, however, the Bears were unable to capitalize with just nine second half points. Dalton’s poor performance has led to questions, including a major one that will need to be answered soon: Are the Bears making a mistake starting Dalton?

The simple answer is yes. What the Bears do at the quarterback position in 2021 needs to be predicated upon two factors: Fields and what’s best for Fields. Starting Dalton takes away valuable reps for Fields, who’s proven more than enough throughout practice that the 11th overall pick deserves a chance to play with the first-team. When we say the word “valuable reps”, we are simply referring to reps with the first-team that would give Fields the opportunity to develop chemistry with playmakers such as wide receivers Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, and tight end Cole Kmet.

Head coach Matt Nagy insisted after Saturday’s loss to the Bills that Dalton would remain the starter. When Chicago faces the Tennessee Titans, the gameplan needs to feature heavy doses of Fields as the starter throughout the game. If preseason games are merely dress rehearsals and provide teams with an opportunity to evaluate talent, the Bears should be taking full advantage of the preseason to see what Fields is able to do with extended playing time and not just scripted reps that the coaches had preplanned for.

Chicago Bears: Dalton’s chemistry with Robinson Apparent

Allen Robinson, New York Giants

When the Chicago Bears signed quarterback Andy Dalton back in March, the expectation was that Dalton would lead like a veteran while upgrading the quarterback position. Through three weeks of training camp, Dalton’s leadership has been on display, holding players accountable while creating relationships that will define the 2021 season.

One such relationship involves Dalton and star wide receiver, Allen Robinson. Through three weeks of training camp, the QB-WR duo has gelled quicker than most expected, a relationship visible throughout practices.

“For me, I’ve obviously watched Allen throughout his career and to see what he’s been able to do and now actually getting to firsthand, see how he works, how he operates, to talk through how he likes to run routes, when he’s expecting the ball to come out on certain timings on these routes, I mean it’s been great, just the communication we’ve been able to have, I mean that’s what we’ve got to have this time of year,” Dalton said via the Bears official YouTube Channel.

Past experience will also play a big role throughout the season when discussing Dalton and Robinson, giving the Bears a veteran QB-WR duo that the franchise hasn’t seen since Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall headlined the offense nearly a decade ago.

“It’s so nice for both of us, we’ve played a lot of football, so we can talk through different looks and I think we both understand what we’re expecting to see,” Dalton said.

For an offense that’s starting from scratch in year four, the Bears know how valuable Dalton and Robinson’s connection could be when it comes to laying the foundation for the offense moving forward. A roster that features a perfect blend of younger players and veterans, what Robinson and Dalton do throughout training camp could be a defining relationship for Chicago.

Dissecting Andy Dalton’s vision for the Chicago Bears offense

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

Chicago Bears starting quarterback Andy Dalton took a direct approach when speaking about what the Bears’ offense could accomplish throughout the 2021 season. Dalton, who spent last season with the Dallas Cowboys after spending nine seasons as the starting quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals has continued to command respect throughout the offseason in Chicago.

Despite Bears’ fans’ desire to see rookie Justin Fields start, something cannot be denied when analyzing Dalton: Experience. Dalton has started 142 games since 2011 and has been to three Pro Bowls. Despite never having won a playoff game, the 11-year veteran has seen enough football to know what the Bears offense is capable of.

“I feel like with this offense and the players that we have, I think we can be pretty versatile,” Dalton said via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “We can run the ball, tight formations, we can spread you out and throw the ball. So I that’s the different things. We don’t want to have one identity of this is exactly what we are, we want to be able to be multiple and do different things.”

Chicago does have versatility at its disposal. Between running back David Montgomery, wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney, tight ends Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham, along with speedsters such as Tarik Cohen, Marquise Goodwin, and Damiere Byrd, Chicago can play multiple styles of offense.

The key aspect to keep in mind is whether or not Dalton will be able to ensure that the Bears offense executes at a high level, rather than resembling the 2020 Bears offense, which seemed to limp to the finish line at times.

“The best thing you can do is play,” Dalton said. “That’s the best experience you can get. You’re seeing new looks each week, you’re learning different defenses, learning different schemes, learning all the different pressures teams are going to be throwing at you. You’re going to know the offense. You’d better know the offense.”

As Dalton continues to help build the Bears offense, it’s clear that he’s got high expectations for an offense that underwent a major overhaul throughout the offseason, setting up for what should be an intriguing unit heading into 2021.

31 questions to Bears camp: Will Andy Dalton hold off Justin Fields?

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

When the Chicago Bears officially report to training camp, all eyes will be on the quarterback position which features veteran Andy Dalton and rookie Justin Fields. Dalton, who enters his 11th season in the NFL has been labeled at the week one starter for the Bears, a decision that many view as being made too soon.

Rather than let a quarterback competition decide the starter, all questions have now shifted as to whether or not Dalton can really hold off Fields. For Bears fans, it’s simple: Forget about Dalton and just start Fields immediately. Why waste any time getting a glimpse of what the future of the franchise can do?

The reality is that both Dalton and Fields possess unique advantages. Dalton has been a regular NFL starter since 2011, has experience with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, and understands the speed of the NFL game. Fields on the other has tons of time on his side and has a dual-threat skillset that Dalton lacks.

Throughout OTA’s and minicamp, Dalton has used his experience as a means of being vocal, especially for the Bears offense, whose oldest players include Dalton, tight end Jimmy Graham, and wide receiver Allen Robinson.

“It comes with experience and how things should look,” Dalton said this offseason via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “So, I think, playing the position of quarterback, you’re obviously going to have a voice but then you throw the experience in and how long I’ve been doing this into the mix and you’re in that leadership position and you want to make sure things are going the right way. I’m trying to do everything I can to make us the best team we will be come the Fall.”

Those outside Halas Hall simply see a bridge quarterback in Dalton, however, Dalton has clearly commanded the Bears offense this offseason as a means of continuing to hold of Fields until the Bears coaching staff is ready to play the 11th overall pick.

Chicago Bears: Biggest questions at the QB position

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The Chicago Bears will start training camp at Halas Hall in just over two weeks, with significant turnover at the quarterback position. The Bears moved on from Mitchell Trubisky this offseason, replacing the former second overall pick with veteran Andy Dalton and rookie Justin Fields. Set to return is also veteran Nick Foles, who started seven games for the Bears in 2020, winning just two games.

As Chicago continues to get ready for the 2021 season, what are three questions at the quarterback position? Let’s find out.

1) How long will Dalton hold off Fields?

The million-dollar question that has every Bears fan buzzing: When will Fields start? Bears head coach Matt Nagy has consistently said this offseason that a plan exists to develop Fields. Part of that plan is hoping Dalton plays well enough to hold off Fields, giving the Bears a stable bridge quarterback.

Chicago has a brutal schedule in 2021 but expect Fields to play at some point. Those in favor of starting the rookie quarterback hope that Fields is starting in Chicago’s week four contest at home against the Detroit Lions. Others prefer to let Fields sit the entire year, similar to how Patrick Mahomes sat behind Alex Smith for 15 games in Kansas City during the 2017 season.

Dalton will need to start off fast week one against the Los Angeles Rams and begin to stack consecutive wins against teams like the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, and Las Vegas Raiders to remain starter. That means winning at least four of Chicago’s first five games to have a chance at starting between weeks six and nine.

2) Will the Bill Lazor offense have an impact on Fields’ development?

When the Bears handed playcalling duties to Bill Lazor late in 2020, immediate life was sparked in Chicago’s offense. Heading into 2021, we know that Nagy will call plays but we don’t know what scheme the Bears will run. Should Chicago decide to run the play-action offense it ran with Lazor calling plays, the Bears will significantly slow down the game for Fields, allowing the 11th overall pick to play faster.

Fields has shown he’s a dual-threat quarterback who can hit any throw on the field or hurt a defense with his mobility. Expect the Bears offense to develop a pass-first identity with Fields first read being a deep throw down the field. A play-action offense would open more opportunities for Fields in the middle of the defense, creating additional opportunities for Chicago’s wide receivers.

3) Is Nick Foles more valuable than we all think?

It is a fair question to ask, especially since Foles won just two games in seven starts last season but has been labeled as an incredibly smart player who knows Chicago’s coaching staff and offense. Foles won’t receive any meaningful playing time in 2021 but he can serve as a mentor for Fields to speed up the 11th overall picks development.

Foles’ magical Super Bowl run should also serve as a reminder that any NFL quarterback can get hot at any time, especially in big moments. Fields has had his fair share of big moments at Ohio State but Foles’ presence will instill confidence in a young quarterback who’s willing to do anything needed to succeed, especially since Foles will serve as a sounding board in 2021.

Will the Chicago Bears be successful with the Patrick Mahomes model?

If there’s one phrase to describe the NFL, it’s copycat. One successful method ends up being used by other NFL franchises in hopes of emulating any sort of success. Such is the case for the Chicago Bears this offseason after overhauling the quarterback room with the additions of Andy Dalton and Justin Fields.

Head coach Matt Nagy, who was with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017, will be responsible for overseeing the development of Fields. Nagy did the exact same five years ago with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes, leading to speculation that Chicago could implement the same method for Fields development in 2021.

Before we get into actually examining if the Bears will be successful with the Mahomes model, there are few points to note. First, Mahomes started the final game of his rookie season, sitting on the bench for 15 games. Smith had 26 touchdowns to just five interceptions that year. Second, the Chiefs 2017 roster was more stable compared to the Bears. There may have been holes but the Chiefs boasted the sixth-best scoring offense and the 15th best defense that year.

The hope for Chicago is that Dalton plays well enough as a rookie quarterback to hold off Fields long enough. With a 17 game schedule coming up, Dalton has a tough task ahead, especially since any sort of slip up could entice Nagy to immediately play Fields.

“At that point in time, in 17, Alex was, there was a lot of reps he was getting,” Nagy said via the Bears official Youtube channel. “So a lot of times right now for these players, in particular Justin, there’s a lot of mental reps. Really what happens is this: You get the mental side down in the offseason, you’re able to come out here on the grass and see what the timings like.”

Fans may call for Fields to be the week one starter but Nagy and the Bears have continued to persist that it’ll be Dalton. The goal for Fields in year one isn’t just to get physical reps but also mental reps. Nagy knows the benefit of mental reps for a young quarterback, especially considering Mahomes spent 15 games on the bench as a rookie, continuing to watch, getting mental reps each week.

Chicago may not be able to emulate the Mahomes model entirely to its specificity but similarities will exist. The last time Chicago had a rookie quarterback, the franchise rushed Mitchell Trubisky into action out of desperation but with Fields, the plan is to bring him along slowly, emulating the Mahomes model.

Andy Dalton not phased by Chicago Bears drafting Justin Fields

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The Chicago Bears are the one NFL franchise that’s been searching for a true franchise quarterback for nearly a century. The Bears are notorious for taking multiple swings at the most important position in sports but continuously missing, leading to a hard reset all over again. The Bears’ latest attempt? Former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Chicago also signed veteran Andy Dalton this offseason, assuring Dalton that he’d be the week one starter for the Bears opening contest against the Los Angeles Rams. As soon as the Bears drafted Fields, questions began to circulate, especially regarding Dalton’s job security.

“I’ve had a lot of different conversations with everyone here,” Dalton said via the Bears official Youtube page. “I knew there was a possibility of it. And so when it happened, it is what it is. Justin’s a great guy, getting to know him the last couple weeks, getting to be around him, he’s going to make the quarterback room better.”

Chicago may have drafted Fields but Dalton made it clear in his second official appearance talking to Bears reporters on Wednesday from Halas Hall: 2021 is Dalton’s year to lose and the 33 year old quarterback will do whatever it takes to hold off Fields but also mentor the young quarterback.

“I’m trying to give him any advice I can on certain things, how I would view certain plays, what I do with my eyes on certain things, so just different things that come with experience,” Dalton said.  “Going into year 11, I’ve had a lot of ball. So for me, I’m just trying to help him as much as I can.”

There is a misconception regarding Dalton’s career in the NFL. Many assume that he’s just an average starting quarterback who spent nine seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, losing four playoffs game. Dalton has yet to win a game in the postseason but he does have 74 career wins and has tossed 218 touchdowns to just 126 interceptions.

Listening to Dalton speak on Wednesday afternoon, it was clear that the 11-year veteran isn’t here to lose his starting job. He’s here to help build a winning program, possibly even lead the Bears back to the playoffs and win his first career playoff game in the process. However, for now, Dalton doesn’t care that the Bears drafted Fields, he’s here to win as much as he can.

 

Why the Chicago Bears continue to insist that QB Andy Dalton will start

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

With a long summer just getting started, the hottest debate of all will be about who the Chicago Bears starting quarterback should be for the 2021 regular season. Fans continue to scream for Justin Fields to start. Through three days of rookie minicamp, Fields has continued to impress, leading to the question: Could Chicago legitimately name Fields the week one starter?

The Bears have continued to insist that veteran Andy Dalton will be the starter. On the surface, the Bears plan is simple: Start Dalton for a few weeks, let Fields learn from the sideline before handing the torch off to Fields at some point during the 2021 season.

On Sunday afternoon, head coach Matt Nagy reiterated who the starting quarterback would be. Backing Dalton should come as a surprise to nobody, especially since general manager Ryan Pace has also said Dalton is the starter going forward.

“As we work through with Justin and where he’s at with this offense, we know it’s going to take a little bit of time here this offseason and as we get into training camp,” Nagy said via the Bears official Youtube page. “Andy is the starter. Andy is going to get the one reps.”

The easy solution would be to start Fields day one. But the Bears are showing that they’ve learned from past mistakes. Rather than just throw Fields to the wolves, Chicago is doing everything the right way, bringing Fields along slowly. The franchise realizes Fields isn’t just a five-year investment. He’s a 15 to 20 year investment that should solve the quarterback position in Chicago for the first time in franchise history.

There is a simple piece of information that’s missing when it comes to Dalton starting. He may be the opening day starter in Los Angeles for the Bears but Chicago has yet to disclose how long Dalton will actually be under center for the Bears. It’s hard to see Chicago completely turning around and just naming Fields the starter over Dalton but the franchise that’s been cursed at the quarterback position for the last 102 years is finally trying to things the right way.

Chicago Bears admitted their mistakes this offseason

bears, matt nagy

At the start of the 2021 NFL offseason, uncertainty was one phrase used to describe the Chicago Bears franchise. The Bears had an aging defense, no long-term solution at quarterback, and soured relations with wide receiver Allen Robinson, one of the franchise’s best players. Fast forward to May, the defense may still be getting older, but the Chicago at least has a long-term solution at quarterback in Justin Fields.

When looking at the Bears offseason, Chicago admitted its mistakes this offseason, especially head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. By letting former second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky hit free agency, Pace admitted that the former North Carolina quarterback was a miss. Compared to last offseason, this is a big step forward for Pace as an evaluator because the seventh-year GM is finally learning to cut losses and move on instead of forcing and hoping everything works out.

Then there’s Nagy, who many labeled an offensive guru four years ago. That title hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype. Nagy didn’t only flop with Trubisky, he was a reason that the franchise traded for Nick Foles last offseason, guaranteeing Foles $21M in the process while giving up a fourth-round pick.

The Bears’ experiment with Foles didn’t exactly work out either. In seven starts, Foles would win just two games, throw 10 touchdowns, and toss eight interceptions. Foles stat line wouldn’t be bad for just Foles, it’d be bad for every starting quarterback over a seven-game stretch.

Chicago further admitted that trading for Foles was a mistake when the Bears signed Andy Dalton to a one-year, $10M deal in free agency. Dalton may not move the needle significantly for the Bears, but he is the winningest NFL-ready quarterback on the Bears roster.

The winds of change swept through Chicago this offseason. For a franchise that has traditionally been known to make multiple mistakes and move on from players too late, the Bears admitted their mistakes this offseason, resetting the timeline for the franchise to be competitive once again.