LAKE FOREST – It took Andy Dalton 11 practices to commit his first mental error with the Bears.
“I’m frustrated. I forgot to send the motion,” the quarterback admitted Wednesday.
It was actually Matt Nagy who revealed Dalton made the error in Tuesday’s practice and the head coach did so because he was bragging about his starting quarterback. Ten practices without a single mental error is impressive.
“When they told me that was my first my mental error, I said, ‘Well, I expect to not have any of them. It’s one too many,’” Dalton said.
Good response. Even if it is unrealistic.
And reality came in the form of the Miami Dolphins Wednesday, who visited Halas Hall for the first of two practices before Saturday’s preseason game at Soldier Field. Dalton’s impressive start to training camp is not overblown. He has appeared to be in full control of the Bears offense with very few – if any – wasted reps. But there have also been limitations to Dalton’s game over the last 10 seasons, even if he has been a more than capable starting quarterback in the league. Wednesday’s practice showed that not every day is going to be an impressive showing and it’s not surprising that the Dolphins’ blitz-happy, man-heavy defense created a challenging change-up compared to what Dalton has seen against his own defense.
“It was a lot of just in-your-face man coverage and they expect you to go out and win. It’s great for our guys to get that,” Dalton said. “I thought we handled it well. There were times that there were things we could do better.”
One play that could have gone better was a Dalton pass that was picked off by Dolphins safety Jevon Holland. From the end zone view, it looked like a dangerous throw at the release point and the end-result was not surprising.
Still, there has been far more good than bad from Dalton in camp so far, which is why Nagy continues to praise his starter.
“He could play tomorrow in a game and I would feel great about it. Our players would feel great about it,” Nagy said.
Fields has throw of the day
While you might hear or read about the 40-plus-yard bomb Justin Fields completed to wide receiver Jon’Vea Johnson, it appeared to come against a busted – or at least very poor – coverage. The far more impressive throw from my vantage point was a deep ball Fields threw to Johnson down the right sideline. It was an absolute dime against tight coverage and Johnson made a great catch.
It wasn’t a perfect day from Fields, however. He appeared to lead wide receiver Rodney Adams a little too much over the middle on one throw and it resulted in Adams deflecting it right to a Dolphins defensive back, who picked it off.
In general, both defenses won the day and the Bears offense could have been sharper.
It wasn’t surprising to hear Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa praise the Bears defense after practice, because Khalil Mack & Co. were in his face all day long.
“I think this defense is really good up front. When you’re hitting your back foot on your throws, they’re right there and kind of in your face,” Tagovailoa said.
It started in 1-on-1 pass rush drills. Bears defensive tackle Bilal Nichols was especially effective against Dolphins rookie left guard Liam Eichenberg, beating him multiple times. Akiem Hicks, Mario Edwards Jr., Jeremiah Attaochu and Mack also looked impressive in the period. That pressure continued right through team drills as well.
Without the pass rush, Tagovailoa had more success in 7-on-7 and especially seemed to like targeting veteran wide receiver Mack Hollins, who kept getting open.
Joining a new trend
Offensive linemen on both the Bears and Dolphins wore padded Guardian Caps over their helmets Wednesday, which is a growing trend in football. Some college programs like the University of Wisconsin have their entire rosters wearing the padded headgear in practices.
“Without getting into major specifics, it’s something that we’re testing out for a lot of different reasons,” Nagy said. “(General manager Ryan Pace) and (equipment manager) Tony Medlin and those guys with the equipment, they’ve done some studies and looked at it and we just wanted to see it and test it out. The o-linemen and d-linemen were willing to do it and see. I guess as the days go by, we’ll know more as there’s some more thumping.”
The Bears already have had two offensive tackles suffer concussions, as both Larry Borom and Lachavious Simmons have missed time. Simmons returned to practice Wednesday.
Guardian Caps claim to reduce impact by up to 33 percent. While nothing can eliminate concussions, the soft, flexible shell is designed to limit repetitive, cumulative blows to the head, which are common among linemen in the trenches. They were approved for use in NFL practices in 2020.
While nasty storms continue to wreak havoc on the Bears’ training camp setup (they’ve had to continually move tents and fences that have blown around), Wednesday morning’s line of storms were the first that impacted an actual practice and inconvenienced fans in attendance. Shortly after practice began, the lightning horn blew, which forced both teams and hundreds of fans inside the Walter Payton Center to take shelter.
After about an hour and 20 minute delay, practice resumed inside the Walter Payton Center, but fans were forced to leave because of space constraints. Then, after just one period, practice moved back outside and was completed.