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Friendly, Familiar Situation for Andy Dalton

Bear Digest on FanNation logo Bear Digest on FanNation 5/25/2021 Gene Chamberlain
a baseball player holding a bat in front of a crowd © Provided by Bear Digest on FanNation

2021 Bears Player Projections: Andy Dalton will have to keep from looking over his shoulder at Justin Fields this season, and his ability to do this depends largely on how well he uses one advantage he has with the Bears receiver corps.

Andy Dalton's career suggests one thing about his passing habits which bodes well for the Bears this season.

It also bodes well for wide receiver Allen Robinson.

Like many NFL quarterbacks, Dalton produces when he has the dependable X-receiver to use as his go-to guy.

While Chicago dotes over the prospect of Justin Fields at quarterback, Dalton is going to get first crack at it and coach Matt Nagy made this clear. The Bears staff made certain Dalton realized this shortly after Fields' selection. They put in a phone call to Dalton.

"Every one of you (reporters) on the (Zoom) call, including myself, would probably want the same phone call to know what's going on, why it's going on and where things are at," offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. "And Andy is a hell of a person. We've built a great relationship already in the short time that we've been together and I've just got too much respect for him."

There is no reason to think Dalton will be rushed to the bench, in the eyes of the Bears.

"When you go through it with our scouts and coaches, he can handle the drop-back game, he can handle the RPOs, the play actions, the movements," Bears GM Ryan Pace said after signing Dalton. "And we just felt, as we went through those free-agent quarterbacks, he's one of the more complete quarterbacks that we evaluated in free agency and we're excited to have him."

Besides this, Dalton has something working in the receiver corps to his benefit.

At Cincinnati, Dalton's best years came when he had a healthy A.J. Green as an X-receiver. With Dallas last year, Dalton didn't play poorly but he never developed that rapport with a go-to receiver the way he did in Cincinnati's offense with Green.

Not that this is necessarily a negative for Dallas, but Dalton seemed to struggle with which target to go to next, that is when he actually had time to throw as he dodged one pass rusher after another. It was almost as if Dallas had too many targets and Dalton had too little time to get adjusted to finding all of the different available targets in the offense. After all, it was his first time out of Cincinnati and was running a new attack.

In nine games Dalton started for the Cowboys, no receiver averaged seven targets. Amari Cooper had 62 targets, Cee Dee Lamb 59 and Michael Gallup 56.


Video: Andy Dalton's Edge in Bears QB Derby (Bear Digest on FanNation)

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Some would call a balanced offense desirable. If a quarterback has been with a team only a short time and is trying to get settled into a new offense, having that go-to, X-receiver type as a dependable player to throw to can't be overrated.

Then the rest of the routes open up after he's comfortable with the one.

When Dalton quarterbacked the Cincinnati Bengals, he had only one season when Green was below 8.25 targets per game and that was the rookie year for both players, in 2011. They made the playoffs then when Green averaged 7.6 targets on Dalton throws.

From 2012-2015, Green had 10.25, 11.1, 9.0 and 9.84 average targets per game from Dalton.

It wasn't like the Bengals had only one receiver during that time. They had weapons, just like Dallas did last year.

Good receivers came through Cincinnati and left but there were other good ones besides Green: Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell all played there, as well.

With the Bears, Dalton will have the X-receiver and other weapons.

However, there is no doubt who the X-receiver with the Bears is. Allen Robinson's contribution for the Bears started off on the low end in this regard as he slowly came back to full strength from a torn ACL in 2018. He averaged 7.2 targets a game that year and missed three games with injuries. The last two seasons Robinson averaged 9.6 and 9.5 targets per game.

Dalton should come in and feel more comfortable with an offense where his dependable X-receiver is his comfort blanket. He has that receiver who can average nine targets or more a game.

The only problem is he's not going to be getting reps with Robinson in OTAs because Robinson is a franchise free agent and won't be present. So, they'll need to make the most of the three-day minicamp and training camp to begin establishing that link.

Dalton might not be able to hold off Fields for long, and when a quarterback is drafted in the first round it should be expected he'll play as soon as possible.

But the Bears have given Dalton exactly what he needs to try to hang onto the spot, and now it's up to him to keep it.

Andy Dalton at a Glance

Career: 11th season, 74-66-2 record as starter, 87.5 career passer rating, 62.2% completions, 7.1 yards per attempt, 218 TDs, 126 INTs.

2020: 4-5 record starting at Dallas, 87.3 pass rating, 64.9% completions, 6.5 yards per attempt, 14 TDs, 8 INTs.

Key Number: 5, the number of consecutive seasons Dalton's teams have had losing records in his starts.

2021 Projection: 7 starts, 3-4 record, 63% completions, 13 TDs, 8 interceptions, 87.0 passer rating, 6.9 yards per attempt.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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