LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The balancing act for Matt Nagy has begun.
The Bears coach made it clear as players reported Tuesday for training camp why the team is starting veteran quarterback Andy Dalton first before it turns to rookie first-round pick Justin Fields. The season amounts to weighing how much Dalton can win against the potential problems associated with starting a developing rookie like Fields.
“I think just keeping it very simple, like a lot of teams, owners and head coaches in this league and general managers, is, right now you've got to win,” Nagy said. “That’s keeping it really simple.
“That’s every team’s goal every year is to do that.”
Nagy realizes the excitement building throughout Chicago to see Fields play, but for training camp, preseason and at least the first game, the Bears know Dalton is the starter.
“We just say, ‘Listen, go play ball, be the best you can be,’ and trust me, just like everybody in here and our city, I want Justin Fields to be electric,” Nagy said. “That’s what we all want.
“But for us, we’re worried about today. That’s all we can.”
Today, means Dalton.
While Fields brings excitement, Dalton brings the Bears something they’ve lacked in recent years with their passing game. He anticipates where his receivers are coming open and make the throw in time. Former Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky seemed to struggle with that.
“The No. 1 thing that I see is the anticipatory throws,” Pace said about Dalton. “So in the passing game, Andy has all the leadership stuff, the stuff you look for where you break a huddle.”
The Bears see Dalton possessing real command of the offense in his 11th NFL season.
“But when the play’s going, anticipatory throws — man, those wideouts know that ball is coming regardless of the coverage," Pace said. “He knows where to go and (receivers) better get your head around.”
The plan is for Fields to play plenty in preseason, but time there is also limited.
“He’s going to get a healthy amount of the reps and we’re going to be able to see what he can do,” Nagy said. “But at the same point in time, Andy needs that, too.
“You know, this is his first time here in this offense and working with these players and timing and so we’ve got to be delicate with the balance and how we do it, but there’s going to be plenty of reps to go around for these guys.”
Dalton made nine starts in Dallas while filling in for Dak Prescott after the Cowboys starter was lost for the season with a severe ankle injury.
“To go to Dallas last year was taking a step back for me,” Dalton said. “I started in Cincinnati for nine years and then when I took the opportunity to play in Dallas last year I knew the position I was going into.
“I was going to be the backup for Dak and I wasn’t expecting to play. Dak has been one of the healthiest quarterbacks in the league since he’s come in. He hadn’t missed any games.”
So Dalton adjusted and started again. He feels better for the experience, and likes the offense he inherits. It lacks the explosiveness Dallas had, but there are weapons such as wide receiver Allen Robinson and running back David Montgomery.
“I feel like this offense and the players that we have, I think we can be pretty versatile,” Dalton said. “We can do a lot of different things. We can run the ball in tight formations or we can spread you out and throw the ball.
"So I think that’s the different thing. We don’t have to have one identity: ‘This is exactly what we are.’ We want to be multiple and do different things.”
Although Dalton is the starter, the Bears coach acknowledged it would be exciting if Fields came out and dominated defenses in preseason.
“That would be awesome,” Nagy said. “That would be awesome.”
Until it happens, they have the developmental plan in place for Fields.
“We understand who he is and what he can do, but we have to have a little bit of patience with how we do it,” Nagy said.
Notes: Edge rusher Robert Quinn had been sidelined last month at minicamp with a back injury, but Nagy and Pace reported he’s healthy and ready to practice. ... Pace said NT Eddie Goldman is expected on the practice field Wednesday. Goldman opted out last year and then missed all offseason work, including mandatory minicamp. ... RB Tarik Cohen is starting camp on the physically unable to perform list as he rehabs from a torn ACL. Pace said they’ll be slow to get him onto the field to avoid complications.
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