It’s Andy Dalton’s time in Chicago, according to Andy Dalton and as of now, Matt Nagy. But that’s not going to keep the Rams from preparing to see the other Bears quarterback.
Rams coach Sean McVay was asked about how Chicago’s quarterback situation — a job predetermined to belong to Dalton for the time being, even if Bears fans aren’t happy about it — and was honest in his response. Essentially, any adequate coach with even a speck of wisdom isn’t going to assume a team with two potential participants under center isn’t going to deploy each at one point or another.
“I think it would be naive for us not to prepare for them to be able to utilize him in some form or fashion,” McVay said of Justin Fields, the rookie signal-caller for whom Bears fans are clamoring to see. “But Andy is a winning quarterback in this league. (He) does a great job. I really have seen a lot of film of Andy, even going back to when Jay Gruden was his (offensive) coordinator at Cincinnati. So, very familiar with what a really good quarterback he is. He does a great job, accurate, anticipation, recognizes the looks defensively, can straighten up protections.
“Andy Dalton’s a really good quarterback and he’ll be a great challenge. And then you see the ways that Justin (Fields) made a lot of plays going back to his career at Ohio State (and) what he showed in the preseason. So, I think you got to be ready for either or, but it’s going to be challenge, for sure.”
McVay clearly wasn’t shy about ensuring he showered compliments on Dalton, a quarterback who once helped the Bengals to perennial playoff contention, but nothing more than a first-round exit. There’s no use in providing an opponent with even the slightest evidence of disrespect that can be tacked on their bulletin board before a Week 1 meeting, of course, and as McVay has been known to do, he’s dug deep into the Dalton tape in his preparation.
But a Fields element might not materialize in the way many expect from another team planning on working with an incumbent and a newly minted heir apparent. While the 49ers spent their final preseason game toying with situational insertions of Trey Lance, whose entrance added an element of unpredictability, Chicago hasn’t appeared ready to do the same with Fields.
If Fields were to be out there, it would likely be for every snap, not just some. He’d be in because Dalton wasn’t good enough to stay in, or had to exit due to injury. Then again, Nagy could find a burst of creative inspiration that involves using Fields in a specific scenario.
Generally, this is not about package-specific preparation, but about knowing strengths and weaknesses and planning accordingly. These Rams are playing their first game without defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who is now the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. That job now falls on Raheem Morris, who should be ready to defend a Dalton-led offense. And if Fields trots out unexpectedly, he’ll need to know how to react.
As McVay said Monday, Morris will likely be ready in the event the Bears send Fields to the, well, field. As the saying goes, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. McVay’s Rams don’t have failure on the agenda.
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