The learning process began almost as soon as Andy Dalton signed the dotted line.
“I was already starting to learn offense,” said Dalton. “Fortunately, having been around I think this is my seventh coordinator of my 11 years, I know how to adjust to a new offense.”
The 33-year-old Bears quarterback is finally in the Halas Hall building for some team activities this week. But the learning process has been going on for some time now.
Dalton and the Bears agreed to the terms of a one-year contract on March 16. The first step, according to Dalton, was to study the playbook and ask his coaches questions so that when OTAs start this week he can hit the ground running.
While Dalton has seen his share of offensive coordinators over the years, Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is one he knows well. The two worked together for three years at Cincinnati when Lazor was the quarterbacks coach (in 2016) and later the offensive coordinator (in 2017-18).
Much like a class in school, learning about an NFL offense begins with many revisions from the past year.
“We started by covering what we thought we needed to cover last year,” Lazor said. “And for new guys, like Andy in the quarter room, for example, that’s the introduction as well as the review. So it happens at the same time. A lot of that is done separately so that the guys can get specific, individualized training. As a coordinator, I can kind of get in and out of a lot of these meetings and see how they go. “
After learning their individual positions, quarterbacks will reunite with other groups of positions in meetings (which are virtually all held at the moment). QBs and the offensive line or QBs and receivers, and so on.
Once OTAs start, as they did this week, it all speeds up as they can work on the nuances of the offensive on the pitch.
“It was fun to see Matt (Nagy) put all the pieces together and just hear how he goes about talking about every reading we have, every progression,” said Dalton. “That’s why we call him, that’s what we do. Just his teaching.”
Nagy has been impressed with Dalton’s ability to make quick decisions on offense so far in OTAs.
“He does a great job doing early throws, throwing the ball early,” Nagy said. “If there’s one thing these wide receivers are going to come out of OTAs [with], and obviously from training camp too, they’re going to see that when that ball is supposed to be there, that ball will be there. So they better get ready to put their hands up to grab it. “
This is what OTAs are used for: building chemistry. This means creating chemistry between shift groups, but also creating chemistry within the shift room.
The Bears have one of the most intriguing quarterback halls in the NFL right now. There’s two seasoned veterans at Dalton and Nick Foles (who started a total of 197 regular-season games), then there’s first-round rookie pick Justin Fields, who is brimming with potential.
Dalton and Foles grew up passing passes through Texas high school fields around the same time in the mid-2000s. Dalton played for Katy High School outside of Houston and graduated in 2006. During this time, Foles played at Westlake High School near Austin, Texas, and graduated a year later in 2007. The two never met, but Dalton said he was aware of the return of Foles. then.
“It’s fun for me to be with him and follow his career from afar,” said Dalton. “We talked about it. Finally being able to be in the same room was great.”
Nagy said on Wednesday that Fields will take reps with the second team offense, while Foles will work with the third team. Fields is moving into a learning role this summer.
And few watch rooms offer as much experience as Dalton and Foles.
“I’ve been a part of it in meetings and training grounds, with the way it’s going, the dynamics, and it’s very natural,” Nagy said. “These guys support each other.”