Andy Dalton has learned to live with the notion he’s not the people’s choice — soothed by coach Matt Nagy’s edict that he’s the Bears’ starting quarterback no matter what happens in the preseason.
But Saturday’s preseason opener against the Dolphins at Soldier Field seemed to show Dalton just how high the bar might be for him to keep the job. Rookie Justin Fields’ impressive performance in a back-up role in a 20-13 victory only added fuel to the idea that Fields is the future.
“Yeah, I mean, he obviously played great. I’m happy for him,” Dalton said. “I’m happy for him to get his first taste of what it’s going to be like out there. He did a good job.”
While the preseason opener was an almost revelatory moment for Fields, for Dalton and the first-team offense, it was one very small first step, if that.
As is customary in the NFL preseason, Dalton and the first-team offense made an almost token appearance, playing only the first two series. Dalton completed 2 of 4 passes for 18 yards. David Montgomery had one carry for three yards. Allen Robinson did not play.
“It’s hard to answer that question because you don’t get into a rhythm,” Nagy said. “To tell you the truth, with the ones it’s more so to just let them go through pregame, let them get out there and get the feeling of what it’s like to just run a few plays and then get out. It’s hard to evaluate that.”
Dalton’s two drives netted 14 yards on seven snaps with no first downs. On their opening drive, Montgomery and Damien Williams had three-yard runs, and Dalton threw incomplete to Darnell Mooney on third-and-four.
On the second series, Dalton threw a three-yard pass to Cole Kmet, and Williams gained 11 yards for a first down that was nullified by a holding penalty on Alex Bars. After a 15-yard pass to Rodney Adams, Dalton threw incomplete to Kmet on a quick-hitter over the middle. And that was that.
“We stalled early, and that was tough,” Dalton said. “Second drive, we got a first down and had the penalty that set us back. It would have been nice to get a little bit more of a rhythm. But it’s preseason one. The big thing is to get ready for Week 1.”
The preseason is perfunctory for Dalton after 10 years in the NFL. But the Bears’ offense needs the work.
“They do,” Nagy said. “And we have some timing that we’re continuing to work on. But A-Rob’s not out there. Marquise Goodwin’s not out there. A couple of guys on the offensive line aren’t out there. David comes out after two plays. So I guess as we get going, we’ll see more of that and be able to evaluate.
“But I think more than anything, we know what Andy can do when things are completely normal in a real game. We’ve got to see what Justin can do, and the only way we can do that is by getting him reps in the preseason to evaluate him.”