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A closer look at revamped Chicago Bears quarterback room
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A closer look at revamped Chicago Bears quarterback room

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The Chicago Bears overhauled the quarterback position in the offseason by signing veteran Andy Dalton and drafting Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

As training camp practices open Wednesday, here’s a closer look at the position. 

Currently on roster: 3

Projected on final roster: 3

Roster locks: Andy Dalton, Justin Fields

Good bets: Nick Foles

On the bubble: n/a

Practice squad candidates: n/a

Justin Fields

Quarterback Justin Fields warms up during Bears minicamp June 15 at Halas Hall.

Biggest offseason developments

After four years, the Bears let Mitch Trubisky walk into free agency, and the 2017 No. 2 pick signed a one-year contract to be the Buffalo Bills backup. After a failed attempt to trade for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, the Bears signed Dalton, a 10-year NFL veteran, to a one-year, $10 million contract. When Fields dropped to No. 11 in the draft, general manager Ryan Pace traded up from No. 20 to select him. Pass game coordinator Dave Ragone became the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo added that title.

What to like

Less than four months after the Bears finished an 8-8 season with a dispiriting playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints, the selection of Fields created a rejuvenating buzz at Halas Hall.

Pace gave up four draft picks, including 2021 and 2022 first-rounders, to move up to obtain a quarterback he believes has the talent, accuracy, athleticism, work ethic and experience to succeed.

Chicago Bears coaches talked at length about getting more from both Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin than just speed, and perhaps it should have been a tip-off about the coming trade of Anthony Miller.

Fields embarks on his NFL career after leading Ohio State to a 20-2 record and back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances. That production and the presence that was developed along with it are some of the many reasons the Bears believe they can develop Fields into the quarterback the franchise has long lacked.

“He’s played in some big-time games and had big-time moments,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said last month. “Whether it’s in practice, if there’s a bad play, if a play has to be called two or three times in the huddle, he doesn’t get flustered. He’s very, very stoic. I was telling one of the coaches walking out today that I think he’d be a pretty good poker player because he’s pretty straight-faced, and that’s good. … There’s a lot of bad that goes on in this game, like sports in general, and the great athletes are the ones that can respond from adversity and then can play a poor hand well.”

Nagy plans to let Fields’ development play out behind Dalton and has made it clear he expects the former Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys quarterback to be the Bears starter when they open the season.

Dalton was a three-time Pro Bowler over nine seasons with the Bengals. His last Pro Bowl season was in 2016, and he is several years removed from his best stretch of football. But he provides a more stable veteran solution than the Bears had last year with Foles.

Biggest question

When will Fields make his regular-season debut?

Nagy said last month that barring injury he expects Dalton to be the starter for the Sept. 12 season opener against the Los Angeles Rams.

Chicago Bears

Bears quarterback Justin Fields makes a throw during OTAs on June 9, 2021, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

But really it’s too early to tell when we might see Fields in the regular season.

The Bears need to see how quickly Fields progresses through the plan they set out for him. And how Dalton performs could influence the timetable as well, especially if Nagy is feeling pressure to show progress on offense. (For what it’s worth, Pace said Tuesday any concerns about their contract situations will not play into the timing of Fields’ first start.)

Nagy plans to play Fields a good amount over the three preseason games to test him in real situations and said it would be “awesome” if Fields lights it up in those opportunities. The Bears would make a decision about Fields’ readiness if they get to that point.

“Trust me, just like everybody in here and our city, I want Justin Fields to be electric,” Nagy said Tuesday. “That’s what we all want. But for us, we’re worried about today. That’s all we can (worry about). And you all saw that Giannis (Antetokounmpo), that little quote he said? That’s going up in all four of my kids’ bedrooms because we can’t worry about the past, you can’t worry about the future. Today — that’s all we can do.”

Fields, for his part, said he accepts the Bears’ development plan.

“If I don’t believe in it, then it’s not going to work out,” he said. “My job is strictly to get better, be the best quarterback I can be and help my team win. That’s what I am going to do whether it’s starting, whether it’s sitting, I’m going to do whatever is the best that is going to help us win.”

Fresh face

Ohio State University NFL Pro Day Football

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields runs the 40 yard dash during an NFL Pro Day at Ohio State University Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

While Fields is the Bears quarterback of the future, Dalton is the present.

Dalton, who previously worked with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in Cincinnati, joined the Bears after starting nine games in 2020 with the Cowboys in place of the injured Dak Prescott. He completed 64.9% of his passes for 2,170 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions as the Cowboys went 4-5.

Nagy told Dalton when he signed with the Bears in March he would be the starter, and Dalton publicly has expressed confidence in his situation even after the Bears drafted Fields. He said the attention Fields will receive “comes with that position.”

“He’s a first-round pick. I understand that,” Dalton said. “But I also understand that I’m the starter. ... That’s my focus. I’m not worried about all the stuff that’s going to be going on with Justin because that doesn’t affect me. ... Justin and I have a really good relationship and I’m trying to help him out as much as I can.”

The Bears have spoken highly of Dalton’s willingness to help Fields, who said the veteran has “just completely taken me under his wing.” They also are complimentary of Dalton’s attitude and work, with Nagy saying Dalton “really has (the offense) down.”

“Every offense you go in, it just takes a little time,” Dalton said. “It’s one thing to read a play, to see it on a piece of paper. It’s another thing to get the play called, be in the huddle, directing guys, making sure everybody’s on the same page with what you’re doing. ... I was thankful for that time (in the spring) to really get into and be in the offense.”

You should know

Despite occasional trade rumors in the offseason, Foles still is on the roster and will serve as the No. 3 quarterback and a mentor to Fields unless he gets moved to another team.

This role comes after the Bears acquired him from the Jacksonville Jaguars in March 2020 to compete with Trubisky for the starting job. Foles completed 202 of 312 passes for 1,852 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions over nine games last season. The Bears went 2-5 in the games he started, and he was on the bench for the final six games of the regular season.

Quote of note

“I’ve been in the spotlight since high school, so I kind of feel like I’m made for this. I’m built for this. It’s nothing new to me.” — Justin Fields on the pressure and scrutiny that comes with being a Bears quarterback

Big number

2

Seasons in which Dalton threw for more than 4,000 yards — two more than the Bears have had in franchise history. The Bears famously are the only team in the league never to have a 4,000-yard passing season, with Erik Kramer holding the franchise record of 3,838 yards in 1995. Dalton threw for 4,293 yards in the Bengals’ 11-5 season in 2013 and 4,206 yards in 2016 with the Bengals.

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