Bears coach Matt Nagy has the skill players, QB he wants, so now what?
He’s had substantial input in turning over the roster the last four seasons. Now that he has what he wants, the Bears can’t stay stuck near the bottom of the NFL in offense.
Set aside for a moment, if you can, that the Bears’ offensive line has fallen into such disrepair that they put in a call to 39-year-old Jason Peters to see if he can help. Yes, that unit is an enormous problem with no clear solution.
But the rest of the offensive personnel looks good. Really good. It’s the best crew of skill players and quarterbacks that coach Matt Nagy has had since he took the job in 2018.
When Andy Dalton led the first-team offense to the line for its first series against the Dolphins on Saturday, he had wide receiver Darnell Mooney to his left, tight end Cole Kmet on his right and David Montgomery behind him in the backfield. That’s a good start, considering the Bears gave top receiver Allen Robinson and third option Marquise Goodwin the day off and Tarik Cohen is progressing toward a return from tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.
This collection of offensive weapons is talented, fast and reliable. Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace have gradually sifted out anyone who doesn’t check all three boxes. And the majority of that core is young enough to set up rookie quarterback Justin Fields for success well beyond this season.
Montgomery foreshadowed that future after Fields took off on third-and-12, tried to spin through traffic and lost control of the ball at his 18-yard line. He was fortunate it skittered out of bounds before the Dolphins recovered it. When Fields got to the sideline, Montgomery immediately pulled him aside and said, “You’re good,” and showed him better technique for protecting the ball in that scenario.
“David is a great teammate, he’s a great brother,” Fields said. “It’s no surprise to see him trying to come to me on the sideline and keep my [morale] up.”
Dalton is more competent than anyone who played quarterback for the Bears last season — not that that’s saying much — and Fields’ high end far exceeds his. It’s a win-win for Nagy regardless of how long he hangs on to Dalton and holds off the start of the Fields era.
It also turns up the pressure on Nagy. The offensive roster has been thoroughly remodeled to his liking, and he has had plenty of input. He and Pace have their fingerprints on the plan to replace Charles Leno with rookie Teven Jenkins and fill the right tackle spot with either Germain Ifedi or fifth-rounder Larry Borom.
There’s no one left to blame but Nagy if he can’t lift this offense out of its prolonged malaise. This isn’t a fully loaded offense such as the Chiefs’ or Packers’, but it certainly has the pieces to be at least league-average. That would be a strong step forward for the Bears.
They finished 29th in scoring in 2019 and 22nd last season, and Nagy would be somewhat justified in throwing his hands up over the underperformance of Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles, Anthony Miller, Leno and others.
He took the job knowing Trubisky was the franchise quarterback but couldn’t fix him. He obviously had a voice in the Foles discussion, but he never embraced that publicly the way he has with Dalton.
This roster, however, is one of his choosing, and it looks strong. There’s no doubt Nagy has improved Pace’s judgment when it comes to picking players on offense. But now that he’s gotten everything he wanted, he needs to show he can do something with it.