When the Bears signed Andy Dalton, fans and pundits alike dug into his game to see what he would bring to the offense. People mention his reliability, his relative lack of mobility. You hear about his ability to take care of the football, but also his limited ceiling when it comes to creating explosive plays. But something we don’t hear often is how a quarterback like Dalton can affect Matt Nagy’s offense specifically.
“For us to be able to see, ‘Ok, what does Andy do well?’ We’re starting to see that already now that we’re out on the grass,” Nagy said following Wednesday’s OTAs. “You could see this kid, when I say kid, you know, Andy, he is doing a great job of making anticipatory throws, throwing the ball early. If there’s one thing that these wide receivers are going to come out of this OTAs from and obviously from training camp, too, they’re going to see that when that ball is supposed to be there, that ball is gonna be there, so they better get ready to put their hands up to catch it. You better be at the right spot, at the right depth, and be doing your route adjustments accordingly. I think it really is impressive with how much he’s digested this playbook already and now he’s doing it with these players.”
In any offense, the ability to throw a guy open is essential. Holes in a defense open and close quickly, so that anticipation is necessary for a QB to succeed in the NFL. What’s unclear from Nagy’s praise for Dalton is whether he is truly exceptional at throwing the ball on time (meaning early), or if that’s one last dig at Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles inability to execute similarly last season.
In either case, Dalton says he’s already made great headway in terms of learning Nagy’s offense.
“As soon as I signed here, I was already starting to learn the offense,” Dalton said. “Fortunately, having been around, I think this is my seventh coordinator of my 11 years, I know how to adjust to a new offense. So to start from the beginning, I was trying to make sure I was on the same page, making sure that if I had any questions to reach out so that when we got to this time of year I wasn’t having to get so many questions answered and see how things were going. I’ve been in this and trying to learn and I feel really comfortable with everything we’ve done so far.
Nagy’s teaching style in particular may be one reason why Dalton’s transition into the offense has gone smoothly so far.
“It’s been fun to see Matt install all the plays and just to hear the way that he’s gone about talking about every read that we have, every progression,” Dalton said. “This is why we’re calling it, this is what we’re doing. Just his teaching. That’s what this time of year is for, it’s for the teaching, and Matt has done a great job.
“All these coaches are doing an awesome job of getting everybody to be on the same page and not thinking so much when we’re out there and teaching why we’re doing certain things.”
With Dalton things up quickly, Nagy says that learning trickles down to the Bears’ young receivers and Justin Fields too.
“You get a guy like that, like Andy, that can help Justin, too, and explain to him why he was early — meaning Andy — on a throw,” Nagy said. “Like for instance, all-go’s special, four verts, and you’ve got to cover one-high safety over the top, and you’ve got a nickel defender playing the flat. And you know that. You see it and you understand it. You already know you’re gonna look the safety off and throw it to the seam up the middle, or up the numbers. He knows that.
“Well, if he’s throwing that early and if those guys don’t get to that spot in cover-3 and they’re not looking for the football, they’re gonna get hit in the head. So he’s throwing them open, whereas some other guys might not have that right away until they get more reps. I think just experience, starter experience that Andy has is a big part of this and what he’s doing. And then you see it out here on the field.
“So for us, we have a lot of young wide receivers, and so there’s seeing that if you don’t get your tail to that spot, he’s gonna throw the football, and if you’re not there and it’s an incompletion and it’s your fault. Then we’ve got to figure out, are we going to keep letting that happen or are we going to get somebody else.
“That’s what I think is neat to see and Andy, he’s got red hair, too, so he’s like, he’s got that fire. He’ll get pissed now and tell you if you do something wrong. He’s gonna tell you. I kind of like that.”