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Training Camp Diary: OL Gets Some Bodies, Bears Get Ready for Bills, Q Brothers!

| August 20th, 2021


Thoughts on Thursday’s Practice (Closed to Public)

  • Jason Peters practiced for the first time and Larry Borom returned to practice. Strong chance these are the starting tackles Week One, if Ifedi is unable to return on time.
  • Andy Dalton is slated to play a quarter and a half Saturday, per Nagy. That means Justin Fields will see a ton of useless action. Having Fields play with backups, against third stringers, achieves nothing. (I hope my disappointment is resonating in those sentences.)

Looking Ahead to Saturday’s Practice Game

  • Dalton is the story. The Bears could name Justin Fields the starter right now and that decision would be entirely warranted. Fields has done everything a rookie quarterback needs to do in the off-season to start on day one. The reason he’s not the starter is the presence of Dalton but that presence has to come with production. If Dalton plays poorly Saturday, the volume of the Play the Kid Chorus will grow louder, and louder, and louder.
  • There really aren’t that many positional battles to watch on this roster, but there are a few areas possibly worth looking at:
    • With Khalil Herbert receiving Matt Nagy’s praise this week and having a strong camp, his roster spot is safe. Will they end their open call for kick returners and let Herbert settle into the gig this week? Does Artavis Pierce have any path to this roster?
    • Is Dazz Newsome ready to start returning punts? If not, this is a battle worth watching.
    • Robinson, Mooney, Goodwin, Byrd and Dazz are locks for this roster. Is there space for another wide receiver? Are these the final days in a Bears uniform for Wims and Ridley? Can Adams or Johnson make their way onto the practice squad? (You would think an endorsement from Fields would almost guarantee it.)

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Training Camp Diary: Teven Jenkins Has Back Surgery; What if Dalton Stinks on Saturday?

| August 19th, 2021


Teven Jenkins Has Back Surgery.

  • It is now unlikely the second-round selection will see the field this season. Back injuries are bad news for offensive linemen, and pretty much everyone else on the planet.
  • Trading up for a player with known injury concerns, even despite the potential/ability, is a suspect decision. Often times draftniks will argue that players “fall” in the draft but the truth is many organizations don’t touch guys with lingering injury concerns. Ryan Pace has to own this failure, including the decision to release Charles Leno, leaving the club extremely vulnerable on the edge.
  • Once again, I question why Matt Nagy says the things he says publicly. Why say the Jason Peters signing has nothing to do with Jenkins’ health FOUR DAYS before the latter has surgery? Does that give the club a competitive advantage? No. All it does it devalue any other public statements you make. After a while, everyone is going to just tune the coach out. (I’m pretty damn close.)
  • There will certainly be some urgency inside the Bears when it comes to Jenkins’ recovery but their entire focus should be readying him for the 2022 season. If this is a redshirt season, so be it. He’ll still be an immensely talented tackle next off-season.

What Do the Bears Do if Andy Dalton Stinks on Saturday?

Justin Fields is the future at the quarterback position.

Justin Fields has shown command of the offense and composure at every stage of the off-season program.

The only thing seemingly keeping the Bears from giving Fields the first-team reps in practice and naming him the starter is the presence, and behavior, of Andy Dalton. (If the Bears only had Nick Foles on the roster, you think he’d be getting starter’s reps?) Dalton was signed with the “promise” of the starting gig and has been a model soldier during his short tenure with the organization. Dalton doesn’t have the resume to keep Fields at bay. He hasn’t lit up training camp. He’s been fine. He’s been…Andy Dalton. And that seems to be enough.

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Training Camp Diary: Benching Hope a Short-Sighted Decision

| August 18th, 2021


[Yesterday was a rather uneventful practice for the Chicago Bears, and most of the coming practices will be the same. As the season approaches, the team will show less and less “relevant material” to fans/media. These are secretive organizations and this, outside of the lead-up to the draft, is their most secretive period.]

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Here’s the difference in watching, covering, writing about the 2021 Chicago Bears as quarterbacked by Andy Dalton and Justin Fields.

If the Bears lose to the Rams on opening night, say 17-10, with Dalton at quarterback, the headline is simple:

Bears Lose Opener to Rams; Fields Decision Looms

If the Bears lose to the Rams on opening night, say 17-10, with Fields at quarterback, the headlines can be many:

Bears Lose Opener to Rams; Fields Shines Late

Bears Lose Opener to Rams; Fields Struggles

Bears Lose Opener to Rams; Fields…etc.

With Dalton, the Bears are the thing they are. With Fields, the Bears are the thing we hope for them to be. And that’s the difference. Fields’ play in 2021, snap-to-snap, drive-to-drive, quarter-to-quarter, will be but the overture to what we all hope will be a great American musical. We’ll see bits and pieces of what’s to come.

The Bears are not winning the Super Bowl in 2021. Andy Dalton isn’t winning the Super Bowl. A rookie quarterback isn’t winning the Super Bowl. History tells us that. And this ain’t the group that’s going to buck history.

The future is the focus.

The future is Fields.

That future is exciting.

But until he plays, that excitement remains on the bench.

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Training Camp Diary: Fields Needs to Stay Dominant

| August 17th, 2021


The calls for the young quarterback eventually got too loud to ignore; the coach finally opened the door and let the youngster get his run with the starters.

The result was underwhelming.

Rookie Mitch Trubisky ran out onto the field with the starters to begin the third quarter against the Tennessee Titans in the third preseason game of the 2017 season. The result was two incomplete passes, a negative-four yard run and a punt.


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The next series had promise before a sack put them behind the chains. They faced a fourth-and-one, but the young quarterback couldn’t get the snap off in time. A delay of game forced a punt.

And there died the argument that Trubisky should start the season over Mike Glennon — who went 11/18 for 134 yards and a touchdown in the game. Trubisky didn’t take advantage of what could’ve been his opportunity to overtake Glennon before the season began. Instead we had to sit through four weeks of Glennon struggling even to hand the ball off. For what it’s worth, if that rookie season proved anything, it’s that Trubisky wasn’t ready.

But Andy Dalton isn’t Mike Glennon and Justin Fields isn’t Mitch Trubisky. Unlike Glennon, Dalton has played reasonably well in camp and has been an established quarterback in the league for a decade. Unlike Trubisky, Fields has the physical tools to excel even if he isn’t quite NFL ready.

But the crossroads are the same.


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Justin Fields is said to be getting his opportunity with the starters and he needs to take advantage of it. He needs to show the coaching staff that he can make throws down the field in a messy pocket. He needs to show Allen Robinson that he can trust him. He needs to be efficient and explosive. More succinctly stated, Fields needs to win the job convincingly.

Because there was buzz for Trubisky his first summer too. Terrific camp and preseason performances turned what wasn’t supposed to be an open competition into one. The Bears hoped Trubisky would take the job and run with it, but he couldn’t.  If they needed evidence that he wasn’t ready, they found it. Now it’s up to Fields to give the current coaching staff the confidence that he can do the job.

This week will surely determine who the starting quarterback entering the 2021 season will be.

The ball is in Fields’ court.

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Training Camp Diary: Addressing Three Fallacies When it Comes to Starting Justin Fields in LA

| August 11th, 2021


Fallacy #1. The Soft Landing Spot

Where did this premise come from?

“No, Jeff, you can’t start Justin Fields in the opener because the opener is against the Rams on the road. And the Rams are very good.”

It’s not the landing spot that is soft. It is this mode of thinking from fans and media. What kind of a message would that send to the kid? “Hey Justin, we think you’re ready to be our quarterback but we’re going to wait until the bad teams. We don’t think you’re ready for the good ones yet.”

Rookie quarterbacks struggle. Aaron Rodgers was a mechanical nightmare. John Elway tried to take a snap from his guard. Terry Bradshaw got benched. Troy Aikman went 0-11. Peyton Manning threw 28 picks. Josh Allen looked like he was destined for the CFL.

You’re not going to prevent a rookie quarterback from struggling by cherry-picking his opponents. The Lions are just as capable as the Rams of showing Fields a coverage disguise he hasn’t seen before. Rookie quarterbacks struggle. And that’s okay.


Fallacy #2. The Unhealthy Offensive Line

Deshaun Watson has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league the last three seasons. In those three seasons he was sacked 62, 44 and 49 times. He’s had one thousand-yard rusher. The only thing that’s made Houston’s rushing attack seem productive is Watson himself. His team mortgaged their entire future to attain…an offensive lineman.

Russell Wilson has been complaining about his offensive line, and rightfully so, for five years. Josh Allen is often running for his life (and making plays on the run) in Buffalo. They were two of the five best quarterbacks in the league last year.

Why?

Because they’re great. And the great ones produce. The great ones make the players around them better. And if the Bears are going to wait for their offensive line to be at full strength before handing the reins over to Fields, there’s no telling how long that wait might be. This is the NFL. People are injured constantly.

If Fields is the guy, make him the guy. Let him learn how to throw it away under pressure. Let him learn when to take off with his legs and when to sit in the pocket and absorb contact. Let him learn how to release the football quickly when the offensive line is struggling to stay healthy.

The Bears need to see the imperfections of this situation not as impediments to development, but as teaching tools.


Fallacy #3. The Veteran’s Summer Performance

Nothing Andy Dalton does this summer should have ANY influence on the team’s decision at quarterback.

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Training Camp Diary: A Good Problem To Have

| August 10th, 2021


Justin Fields seems like he’s ready to play, but Andy Dalton is trying to make it so he doesn’t have to.

The reports from Chicago Bears training camp are nearly unanimous in that both quarterbacks are well ahead of where either Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles were a year ago. That puts the Bears in a good situation at a position they’ve rarely been able to say that about. If they want to throw the young stud out there, he won’t drown. But they can let him take his time.

At this point, the throw Fields made during Sunday’s practice has spread around the internet enough times that Bears fans surely don’t need a description of it.



Whether it’s practice or games, that was as special a throw as you’ll see. It was the kind of throw only a handful of NFL quarterbacks can think about making. It’s hard not to get carried away when envisioning what Fields could do in this offense. And it’s hard to imagine a world in which he won’t get his shot, quickly. But unlike Mike Glennon with Mitch Trubisky in 2017 or Matt Flynn with Russell Wilson in 2012, Dalton isn’t giving the job away.

When the star wide receiver raves about you, as Allen Robinson has about Dalton, you’re in a good spot as a quarterback. Playing against the Bears defensive starters without most of his starting offensive line, the reports on Dalton have been consistent. He puts the ball where it needs to be, when it needs to be there.

Yet even at his best, Dalton can’t deliver the splash plays of Fields.  While early reports indicated some wild accuracy at times from Fields – and an interception on a screen pass – the gap certainly seems to be closing quickly.

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Training Camp Diary: Dalton an Essential Piece of the Nagy Evaluation

| August 3rd, 2021


Tweet one. Adam Jahns.


Tweet two. DBB.


There is an eagerness to get Justin Fields on the field. And, as Jeff illustrated, that eagerness seems to be okay with shipping Andy Dalton east. But like it or not, the Chicago Bears need Dalton as much for the future of the franchise as the present. Because developing Fields is the single most important thing the franchise is trying to accomplish right now and making sure he has the right coach is an important part of that. Through three years, we still don’t really know if Matt Nagy can outsmart opposing defensive coordinators. Dalton could help us get that answer.

The numbers aren’t pretty. Through three years:

  • All three years in the bottom twelve, in terms of yardage.
  • Two scoring offenses in the bottom ten.
  • Bottom five in rushing twice.
  • Bottom twelve in passing yardage all three years.

Judging by the numbers alone, one could only conclude that Nagy is a bad offensive coach.

But we know it’s about more than the numbers.

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Training Camp Diary: A Series of Summarizing Tweets!

| July 30th, 2021


My rule with injuries over the summer: none of them matter until mid-August. But Jenkins needs to get on the practice field.


Somehow, a vaccine became political. Because we’re a fundamentally stupid country. From a football standpoint, this is great news.


Andy Dalton is not a great player. But he is a professional quarterback. And I just don’t see him pulling a Glennon or Nate Peterman and being so bad the organization is forced to play the young kid. Fields will play, and likely by midseason, but it won’t be because Dalton fails.


I refuse to believe Scooter Harrington is a football player and not a character on Happy Days.

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Training Camp Diary: Camp Begins Today, Opening the Definition of a Transitional Season

| July 28th, 2021


And so, camp begins.

Two nights ago I was sitting in my local and two guys, for no other reason than the Aaron Rodgers “thaw” news being broadcast on the televisions above us, asked me what I expected from the Bears this season.

My answers were wishy washy, ineffectual, nebbish.

The paragraphs were peppered with you knows and who knows and maybe, I guesses. Normally, as training camp begins, I have a pretty solid grasp on what is to come over the next 5-6 months from the Chicago Bears. (2019 being a signature exception, wherein I believed the quarterback was going to take a significant leap.) But this season, not only don’t I have that grasp, I don’t see their performance over these next 5-6 months as particularly important.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be into every game. I am not one of these Bears fans that sees upside in losing. (You would think the events of the 2021 NFL Draft would put an end to that stupidity.) I’ve written many times that some of my favorite moments as a fan of this franchise were during forgettable campaigns. I want the Bears to win every single time they play football.

But 2021 seems like the very definition of a transitional season. Look at the details:

  • The quarterback of the future is on the roster but unlikely to see more than a half season of work.
  • The quarterback manning the position is a solid veteran option but isn’t going to take the club, in all likelihood, beyond wildcard weekend.
  • The team is littered with veterans, specifically on defense, who are unlikely to be on the roster in 2022. This includes the team’s entire pass rush.
  • It is the defensive coordinator’s first season on the job.
  • The cornerback position won’t be solidified until next spring.
  • The left tackle isn’t a left tackle. I happen to believe he is going to be a terrific one in the future but as a rookie? History says no.

None of this is to say the Bears can’t win a bunch of games this season. They can. But is it Andy Dalton winning those games? If yes, okay, that’s nice. But is it better for the 2022 Chicago Bears for Dalton to go 10-7 as a starter or Justin Fields to quarterback the last eight games to a 4-4 record while looking the part of frontline NFL starting QB? Of course the answer is the latter because there is 0% chance Dalton is starting for the Bears next year unless something goes terribly wrong. (Do you feel the nebbish here? I’m practically writing in Woody Allen’s voice.)

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