Matt Nagy can try to control the narrative as much as he wants. The head coach continues to insist there is no quarterback competition for the Chicago Bears. Andy Dalton is the starter and will continue to receive reps in practice as such. Justin Fields will get plenty of attention too but he will be the primary backup until further notice. Yet nobody is convinced. It is a long time before the regular season arrives in September. Things can easily happen to change minds in that span.
It certainly didn’t help Dalton’s case that at the end of OTAs he had a rough outing that included three interceptions. All while Fields had the highlight of the summer thus far with a 50-yard bomb touchdown to Damiere Byrd. While it was only one practice, it was a clear warning sign. If that trend continued into training camp, it might prove difficult for Nagy to justify maintaining the 33-year old as the starter.
Thankfully those concerns seem to have been premature.
As mandatory minicamps got going this week, Dalton made it clear he wasn’t going to back down from the challenge Fields’ presented. According to Adam Jahns of The Athletic and others, he had one of his best practices to date with the Bears on Tuesday. One that included him torching the defense not once but twice for long completions. A small reminder that he actually has ability people tend to forget.
“The longer the deep ball over the middle hung in the air, the better it looked.
But this time it wasn’t thrown by Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields.
It was starter Andy Dalton who lofted the perfect deep ball on the first play of team drills during the Bears’ veteran minicamp on Tuesday. Dalton hit speedster Marquise Goodwin in stride against the Bears’ starting defense for a long gain and an ensuing celebration…
…A few plays later, Dalton did it again. He hit a streaking Goodwin — who has been one of the Bears’ most impressive players during the offseason program — down the left sideline for a touchdown.”
Fans are so quick to dismiss Dalton in this story. One can understand. Everybody knows Fields is the future. Why bother with this “plan” Nagy keeps droning on about? Let the kid play. His reasoning is simple. Dalton is good enough to where he can win football games for the Bears. The longer he can buy the rookie to learn the offense and speed of the NFL, the better. It is all about the big picture.
Andy Dalton can be effective when he has help
He proved that again last year with the Dallas Cowboys. After a rough start trying to replace the injured Dak Prescott, which included a concussion and bout with COVID-19, he really played well down the stretch. This includes over 1700 yards passing with 13 TDs, five interceptions, and a 95.1 quarterback rating in his final seven games. This despite playing behind an injury-riddled offensive line.
If the Bears can reasonably protect him and the receivers can get open with any consistency? He’ll put some points on the board. Then it becomes a matter of whether the defense is still good enough to do their part. Fields’ time will come. Of that fans can be certain. If Nagy has his way, it will be when the young QB is well-prepared. Until then, Andy Dalton can be trusted with the torch.
If nothing else, it’s good to see this kind of response.
Other quarterbacks might’ve wilted under the pressure of knowing they have a talented 1st round pick nipping at their heels. Dalton doesn’t seem phased by that challenge. He’s no stranger to being doubted. Here’s hoping he does better than Mike Glennon did four years ago. That ugly four-game stretch in 2017 is likely a big reason Bears fans are reluctant to give him a chance.