With preseason done, what’s next for Bears QBs Andy Dalton, Justin Fields, Nick Foles?
Matt Nagy painted himself into a corner on his Week 1 quarterback decision months ago, but nothing is guaranteed beyond that.
All the fun and intrigue over the Bears’ quarterback situation and whether coach Matt Nagy might change starters is over.
He won’t budge. It’s Andy Dalton against the Rams in the opener with dazzling rookie Justin Fields stuck on the second string. That was the plan in April, and none of Fields’ rapid progress moved Nagy off his curiously early decision.
So now what?
Dalton gets two weeks of peace and quiet as he prepares for the Rams without Bears fans booing him or augmenting the awkwardness by chanting Fields’ name while Dalton is on the field. The soonest he’ll hear that again will be during the Week 2 home game against the -Bengals.
Dalton might not have known what he was getting himself into when he signed with the Bears six weeks before they drafted Fields, but he’s fully aware now. He has minimal margins. Nagy changed quarterbacks in Week 3 last season and said Fields’ opportunity will hinge on Dalton staying productive and healthy.
Dalton doesn’t have nearly Fields’ upside, but he’s the safer choice in terms of being less of a liability for turnovers than any rookie would be.
“Andy has seen NFL defenses for 10 years,” Nagy said. “That part is a major advantage. If it’s your first time in that game, things happen faster. Every year you’re in it, it slows down.”
Dalton is certainly the right call if the Bears’ intent is to scrape and claw and screen-pass to 17 points and hope that suffices. He is reliable and predictable, whereas no one can say for sure what they’ll get from Fields. It’s a much wider range of possibilities for a quarterback with a wealth of talent but a lack of experience.
But Fields’ high end makes him a compelling option, and the 20-yard touchdown pass he threw on the run while scrambling away from pressure to well-defended tight end Jesper Horsted in the preseason finale Saturday will linger in Nagy’s mind along with his elite speed as the Bears shift fully to Dalton.
Other than looking back at what he accomplished during the last month, there isn’t much Fields can do now besides watch and wait. He’ll be learning through observation as Dalton takes the bulk of the practice reps and all the game snaps.
“I’m not worried about that,” Fields said Saturday. “I can’t be defeated by there [being] no more preseason games. Every rep in practice and every play I get, I’ve got to treat it like a game.’’
He’ll mostly have to let his preseason games and practices speak for him, and that performance is loud in the conversation about who gives the Bears the best chance to win.
Fields’ preseason stats — 61.2% completion rate, 276 yards and two touchdown passes, plus 11 runs for 92 yards and a touchdown — are solid but don’t tell the full story. Between practices and games, he showed proficiency in dodging traffic in the pocket, precision when throwing to covered receivers and sharp timing on deep passes.
“He’s at a point right now where [he has exceeded] the level where we thought he would be,” Nagy said.
Nick Foles is the forgotten man of the Bears’ quarterback trio, and work is about to get very, very boring for him. His job might get so dreary that he’ll ask if the Bears can transfer him to accounting. He’ll likely be inactive on game days and running the scout team during the week.
Foles, who is owed $14.3 million over this season and next, clearly would prefer a trade to being a pseudo-assistant coach and did all he could to sell himself. Not only did he openly campaign for it in his lone news conference of the summer, but he wrapped up his preseason by going 10-for-13 for 142 yards and two touchdowns against the Titans.