Through two days of practices at Halas Hall – only one of which was a full practice – the Chicago Bears’ quarterback situation looks as expected.
Justin Fields is more talented. Andy Dalton is more polished and has a better command of the offense.
Meanwhile, you have to wonder what’s going through Nick Foles’ head as he picks up the scraps of the rep share against third-teamers. As much as Foles struggled last season, it’s admittedly odd watching a former Super Bowl MVP in his current situation. But hey, the gig pays well.
For the purposes of these practice reports, we’ll focus mainly on Dalton and Fields unless something drastically changes. And there are already details worth examining from the first two days of practice:
Wednesday’s shortened, closed practice did not appear to be a good one for the rookie. Fields held onto the ball too long and forced the ball into coverage too many times.
It turns out, he was supposed to.
“Yesterday was kind of a unique day of practice in the fact that it's all carded and we're telling you, 'You've gotta throw here, you've gotta throw there.' So it's not really fair that way,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy explained Thursday morning. “We'll get back into things today. But he's a competitive kid. He wants to be great. He wants to do things the right way. That's what I love about him.”
Thursday’s practice – with fans in attendance at Halas Hall for the first time – provided a more accurate look at the first-round pick, but it was still obvious that Fields is a rookie and Dalton is a veteran. While Fields had a few very impressive moments – including a good anticipatory throw to Riley Ridley that was dropped – he also had a couple balls sail on him and he took a bad sack on third down in the seven-minute drill that almost pushed his team out of field goal range.
On the other hand, the zip that comes off Fields’ throwing arm is natural and impressive. Through two practices, he’s looked exactly as expected for a rookie going through his first training camp.
One thing that stood out about Dalton Thursday is his ability to change arm angles and get throws through traffic around the line of scrimmage. His deep ball has looked good the first two days, although he did overthrow a wide-open Darnell Mooney down the left sideline Thursday.
One impressive moment came in the 7-on-7 period when Dalton put a ball in the only spot he could and Allen Robinson dove under it for a nice mid-range completion. Dalton completed every pass thrown Robinson’s way Thursday, which is encouraging as they develop their chemistry together.
On the other hand, neither quarterback was all that impressive in either the two-minute or seven-minute drills. Still, Dalton looked comfortable and mostly polished running the first-team offense in his first full training camp practice with the Bears.
Emptying the notebook
- Akiem Hicks was not seen at practice Thursday and was not among the injured players mentioned by Nagy before practice began. As of publishing, the Bears had not provided an update on Hicks’ status.
- Rookie left tackle Teven Jenkins was held out of practice with back tightness. The Bears don’t seem too concerned about it, but missing reps isn’t ideal as the team hopes Jenkins can emerge as the starting left tackle in Week 1.
- Second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson briefly left practice and was looked at by the training staff before returning. It happened on the play where Dalton overthrew Mooney, who was open because Johnson got banged up. After practice, Johnson joked that he didn’t remember the play.
- Among the key defensive players who appear to be in great physical shape as camp begins: Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, Eddie Goldman and Bilal Nichols. Watch out for Nichols this year, especially after his breakout season in 2020. He looks hungry and is in position to earn a big contract as he enters the final year of his rookie deal.
The setup at Halas Hall for the first ever practice with fans in attendance was impressive. The vibe, however, was pretty dull. Despite a fast-paced practice on the field, there really wasn’t much cheering and there didn’t appear to be as much interaction/playing up to the crowd as there used to be in Bourbonnais.
Granted, the smaller capacity and limited ticket availability due to COVID-19 certainly factors into that, as only approximately 1000 fans will be allowed to attend each day. Still, it seemed like there were enough fans to provide more energy. Perhaps the vibe will improve as both the fans and team adjust to a new training camp venue, but Day 1 certainly lacked the juice seen and heard in Bourbonnais.