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Training Camp Diary Ends: Season Approaches. I Feel Nothing.

| August 26th, 2021


We should all be pacing our living rooms, ordering our game-watch merch for the season, diagraming fool-proof end arounds in the condensation of our shower walls. This should be one of the more anticipatory three-week periods in the history of the Chicago Bears organization.

But it’s not that.

We should be talking to our friends, tanked in the tavern, caffeinated in the coffee shop, toweled in the Turkish bath, about how much fun it’s going to be to watch Aaron Donald try to track down Justin Fields in the backfield, only to see Fields run from the pressure and complete a ball twenty-five yards down the field.

But we won’t be doing any of that.

Instead, the fan energy and enthusiasm generated by Fields this summer – seeing a quarterback do things we have never seen one do in a Bears uniform – has been thoroughly extinguished in the short-term by his head coach mangling the position all summer long. Instead, on September 12th, we’ll be forced to sit through an entire slate of Sunday football action only to see Andy Dalton take the starter’s reins on Sunday night.

Trevor Lawrence is starting. Zach Wilson is starting. Kyle Shanahan has given Trey Lance starting reps since the first day of camp and has already made it clear Lance will be part of the game plan from day one. Hell, even Mac Jones looks like he has a chance to start, after being given competitive reps with Cam Newton all summer long.

But not Fields.

Of course not Fields.

Why? Because Matt Nagy says so, that’s why.

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Training Camp Diary: Reflections on a Bad Weekend for the Bears

| August 23rd, 2021


These are (mostly) non-quarterback reflections on the weekend.

  • Rodney Adams welcomed a baby girl Friday night, slept on a hospital couch, and then delivered one of the only bright spots Saturday for the Bears. It is a crowded wide receiver room but Adams should stick on the roster over Javon Wims, who just doesn’t have it.
  • Adam Hoge argues for Justin Fields getting more first-team reps. But that’s not how the NFL works. Once the season starts, practice reps are severely limited and backups don’t get any. Fields most likely won’t see first-team reps until he’s named the starter. (Which should have happened a week ago.)
  • Far better performance from Trevis Gipson Saturday but he still looks and plays slight. I question whether he can be productive against starter-level offensive tackles.
  • This team has two viable kickers, with Brian Johnson looking like the real deal. Can they keep then both? Most have argued for sliding Johnson to the practice squad but I can’t imagine him being poached pretty quickly from there by a kicker-needy team, i.e. the Saints.
  • Khalil Herbert is doing what late-round picks need to do for playing time: he’s making an impact on specials. Telling that he was involved beyond kick returns Saturday.
  • Five players I thought acquitted themselves well:
    • Thomas Graham
    • Dazz Newsome
    • Sam Kamara (again)
    • Caleb Johnson
    • Charles Snowden
  • Three players that don’t need to be around much longer:
    • Riley Ridley
    • Elijah Wilkinson at left tackle
    • Jesper Horsted (Do you really need Horsted and JP Holtz on the same roster?)
  • What the hell has gotten into Pat O’Donnell’s leg? He is absolutely murdering the football in these preseason games. Could be a big season for him.
  • Sean Desai should understand that how the Bills approached this defense is how most opponents will approach them. The Bears are great up front, weak at corner. Offensive coordinators are not going to let Mack, Hicks, Nichols…etc. ruin games. They’re going to throw on early downs and get the ball out quickly. They don’t need elite-level CB play opposite Jaylon Johnson, but they might need elite-level tackling on that side to get opponents off the field.

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By Choosing Dalton, Nagy Chooses Irrelevance.

| August 22nd, 2021


What do the Bears think they are?

That’s the question that kept rolling through my brain as I watched Andy Dalton play quarterback on Saturday.

Do the Bears think they were this close to contending for a title a year ago and slightly better quarterback play will put them over the top?

Do the Bears think this roster is good enough now to run through Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and a Matt Stafford-led Rams in the tournament?

Do the Bears think Vegas has them all wrong? That they should have better odds than 65-1 to win it all? 35-1 to win the NFC? 6-1 to win the NFC North? 2-1 to make the playoffs? An over/under win total of 7.5?

The truth is, they must. Matt Nagy saying the team needs to see Andy Dalton in the regular season is so misguided, so out of touch with the reality of where this franchise currently resides, that no other explanation is possible. The Bears don’t need to evaluate a quarterback who has been in the league for a decade and consistently underwhelmed for the duration of that time. Andy Dalton is Andy Dalton. He’s perfectly capable of being capable. The Bears, with Dalton under center, have a ceiling of about nine wins and a wildcard weekend exit. (And even that would be an achievement.)

This season, the point of the entire enterprise, is Justin Fields. And it is abundantly obvious that no matter what Nagy saw from the young quarterback, he was never going to be given an opportunity to be the starting quarterback. Now, over these next three weeks of pivotal practices, Fields will be relegated to the second teamers and scout squad. If he gets his shot to take over the starting gig during the season, it’ll likely be that week he throws his first passes to Allen Robinson, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney in any structured kind of way.

It is malpractice, plain and simple.

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The Bears have played two preseason games. In the first, Justin Fields thoroughly outplayed Dalton. After that game, many expected Fields to be given increased exposure to the starters in practice. He was not. Why?

In the second game, with the exception of one bad throw that a Buffalo first, second or third-team corner easily knocks to the ground, Dalton was brutal. You want to blame the absence of Robinson, Kmet, Mooney and Montgomery? Go right ahead. But Fields came onto the field with a worse collection of skill guys and an offensive line of future real estate salesmen, and moved the team down the field. He used his athleticism. He used his mobility. He used his rocket for an arm. If any of the scrub receivers he was paired with could catch the football, he might have had a stat sheet similar to his first performance. Did Nagy see this performance and say, “It’s time to get Fields some reps with the starters”? Nope. He used the postgame press conference to name Dalton his official Week One starter.

He watched what we all watched. That was his conclusion. How?

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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: Preseason Opens, Fields Electrifies, Now What?

| August 16th, 2021

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE FIRST LADY OF DBB, SARAH K. SCULLY. 

I have never approached any preseason game with anticipation. That changed Saturday. Here are notes on what could prove to be an important weekend in Chicago Bears history. (Side note: They should knock off one more of these preseason games. Get that schedule to two games, one home and one away.)


The Story is Fields

Penalties and drops around him. Losing track of the play clock. Spin move in the open field, taking unnecessary contact, fumbling the football. It was the definition of a slow start.

But what did Fields say in his post-game presser? “So after that, I think I’m going to officially retire the spin move.” 

None of the struggles bothered him. Fields maintained his composure, displayed his command of the offense and let his athleticism take over the football game. Yes, he was playing with backups. Yes, he was playing against backups. But Fields did what he is supposed to do in that scenario: he was clearly the best player on the field.

  • Two quotes from Adam Hoge’s excellent game story:
    • On the 8-yard touchdown run: “They were playing man coverage. My man Jesse got tripped up. I was looking to go to him,” Fields said. “Of course, I knew my routes were coming my way backside, but I knew they were in man coverage so I knew nobody really had me so I just went to the left.” Does anyone think this kid isn’t ready for regular season action?
    • “Keep stacking days like he had today and understanding that in this whole process and this plan, as we go, what’s the ultimate goal for us as an offense? Scoring touchdowns, right? So keep leading the team down, keep getting first downs, keep getting touchdowns,” Nagy said when asked what Fields needs to do to be named the starter.” This is Nagy leaving the door open for Fields to be the Week One starter. This is the first time he’s done that, to my recollection.

Bears have no choice. Fields should be throwing to Robinson and Mooney today. He’s got to be given a chance to win this job with the folks who will actually be on the roster.

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Training Camp Diary: Feisty Practice, Ferocious Defense, Forecasting the Preseason Opener

| August 13th, 2021


Thursday was apparently a feisty practice throughout, which is actually nice to see. I don’t know why every team in the league doesn’t orchestra more of these joint practices. They are so much more valuable than in-house scrimmages.


Another day, another Fields gem. Why would any team leave a talent like this on the bench?


Bears corners have been good so far this summer, and the defense is playing healthy and fast across the board.


Is There Anything to Watch Tomorrow?

The truth is, who knows?

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Training Camp Diary: Bears Practice with the Dolphins

| August 12th, 2021

Yesterday began a series of joint practices with the Miami Dolphins that will culminate in the preseason opener Saturday. Weather delayed the day. Quick thoughts.


An Outside Opinion.

Nobody who has physically watched the Bears practice this summer has come away with any other opinion. It is a matter of time, and that matter of time should be around four days.


Mack. Back.

Mack’s practices have not been significantly valued due to the injuries on the Bears OL. Hearing he dominated the Dolphins should provide hope that he’s finally beyond his injury issues and ready to rejoin the best pass rushers in the sport at the top of the sack sheet.


Jon’Vea Johnson: Joe Anderson Boner Nominee

For those of you who don’t remember, this is the Joe Anderson Boner. Johnson seems to catch a big pass from Fields in every single practice.


General Notes on the Offensive Line

  • Once again, I don’t understand why Matt Nagy says some of the things he says. On 670 yesterday morning, re: Teven Jenkins: “We were well aware of everything with some of the back issues he had in college. This is kind of part of the process.” Why not just say, “He’s improving. But we’re not going to rush him.” Leave it at that. Even if this is a chronic condition, why point to that?

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