LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears open 2021 training camp Wednesday at Halas Hall. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
Sooner rather than later. The Bears are eager for Fields to emerge as a true franchise quarterback, but coach Matt Nagy insists Fields will not be rushed out there before he is ready. The Bears have waited 70-plus years to have a great quarterback so what’s another couple of months? The Bears are confident Dalton, who performed well in the offseason program, can do the job in the short term. Nagy anointed Dalton the Week 1 starter because the veteran is light years ahead of Fields in terms of experience and proficiency within the playbook. However, the gap is likely (hopefully for the Bears) to close quickly. Best-case scenario: Dalton -- and the Bears -- get off to a good start, which allows Fields to develop behind the scenes until they are ready to turn him loose. The most educated guess has Fields taking over around the midway point of the season, barring an injury to Dalton, which would sabotage the entire plan.
How hot is coach Matt Nagy’s seat?
Lukewarm, at best. True, the Bears backed into the playoffs last year, but Nagy looks like Vince Lombardi compared to his predecessors (John Fox and Marc Trestman). The Bears are not about to run a head coach out of town who has reached the postseason two of the past three years. After all, the Bears only have six playoff appearances since the turn of the century. Nagy will be the first to tell you the offense -- his main responsibility -- must improve. The offense has to be better, and Fields has to be a star. End of story. Nagy has at least two seasons to make that happen. Unless the Bears completely bottom out (unlikely, but always possible), Nagy should be around at least through 2022.
Can the defense still perform at a top-10 level under coordinator Sean Desai?
Absolutely. Desai is a great story as a longtime assistant coach who worked his way up from the bottom of the profession through sheer hard work and dedication. There is no reason the Bears' defense should experience a big drop-off under Desai. He’s been part of the program for years. It’s not like the Bears are bringing in an outsider to coordinate the defense. Nagy promoted from within this time following Chuck Pagano’s two-year tenure. The loss of cornerback Kyle Fuller in the offseason wasn't ideal, and nose tackle Eddie Goldman's decision to skip mandatory minicamp after sitting out last year due to COVID-19 related reasons is concerning. But the Bears should still have enough firepower to be an upper-echelon defense. What needs to happen is for the stars on defense to play like stars. That means Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Jackson must have great (and healthy) seasons. The rest takes care of itself after that.