Summer officially ends at 2:21 p.m. CT in Chicago, and I can’t help but think about how I was never able to cross “Chicago boat architecture tour” off my summer to-do list. Sigh. There’s always next year, I guess.
• It’s not officially official just yet. And knowing Matt Nagy’s history of secrecy, he’ll probably try to hide it until the last possible moment. But it sure sounds like Justin Fields will make his first start on Sunday against the Browns:
From @GMFB: Updates on all the many QB injuries — Derek Carr, Tua Tagovailoa, Carson Wentz, Andy Dalton and why Justin Fields is in line to start, and finally Tyrod Taylor going on IR. pic.twitter.com/Vxv04pYM0Y
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 22, 2021
• The update from NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport is simple enough:
“Andy Dalton … he is considered week-to-week, which you would think means Justin Fields – the highly touted rookie – is going to make his first start. It has not been made official, but certainly seems like it is heading in that direction for Chicago.”
• Nagy can talk about Dalton being the starter when healthy, but Dalton isn’t healthy. Hence, things are lining up for Fields to start. And if things go well, Fields can take the gig and run with it. The Bears might have had a desire to slow-play Fields’ development. But while humans plan, the football gods laugh. I don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse, but that is the reality of this situation — even if Nagy wants to live in denial.
• Thinking out loud: Would the Bears be wise enough to put Dalton on short-term IR? Doing so would open a roster spot, perhaps providing an opportunity to add an extra offensive lineman or defensive lineman to the rotation. It would also open a three-week window that would spare Nagy from answering questions regarding whether Dalton or Fields will start because Dalton would be unavailable due to his injured reserve status. And it could give the team a fall-back reset option if they don’t like what they see with Fields by going back to Dalton after his IR stint ends and proves to be healthy. Admittedly, there are a fair number of what-ifs in the scenario I’m laying out above. But it’s a thought rooted in the type of roster manipulation NFL minds tend to love.
• Here’s a fun thread highlighting how new Bears Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai is getting creative with his deployment of Khalil Mack:
Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai is trying to get creative with Khalil Mack
Here he is lined up at inside linebacker (right) and twisting on a blitz with Roquan Smith.
Gets a free run to the QB but Burrow got rid of it in a hurry pic.twitter.com/uTgGDyI8tY
— Lorin Cox (@CoxSports1) September 21, 2021
• In a surprising twist and change from previous attempts, getting creative with Mack isn’t simply to drop him into pass coverage. Brilliant! Moving your best player around an alignment to create leverage and favorable matchups shouldn’t be a foreign concept. And yet, it had gotten that way with Mack the last few years. Even though he has performed well, something has been missing. Maybe Desai knows or has seen something the previous defensive play-callers haven’t. Hence, this new wrinkle.
• Give Desai full credit for this tweak. I think there is an over-simplification of Desai being a Vic Fangio disciple meaning that he must run exactly what Vic did when he was in Chicago. A true Fangio understudy would know the value an importance of adding new things and building upon what you have in terms of a base/blueprint left behind. And in a nugget of irony, this is probably what Fangio would do if he was in Desai’s shoes.
• Elsewhere on the “D,” you’ll see that Jaylon Johnson’s film and technique study, as well as his football IQ, is showing up and paying off:
CB Jaylon Johnson
Good look at a bail technique here (top of the screen).
Johnson is driving on the throw — before the WR gets out of his break.
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) September 21, 2021
• Let’s travel to the other side of the turnover spectrum, where Justin Fields proving to be human with that interception he threw against the Bengals opens the door for Robert Schmitz (Windy City Gridiron) to analyze that teachable moment. Let’s be real with each other. Nobody likes interceptions, but they happen. The best thing to do here is look at what happened, realize what went wrong, and vow to never do it again. Before he was closing himself off to questions, Nagy used to beat the drum of the reality being that players will make mistakes — yes, even the best ones — but the key is learning from them and not repeating them. It sure would be neat if the head coach followed suit, but that is a different conversation for a different time.
• For your listening pleasure: The latest installment of the Hoge and Jahns Podcast showers Roquan Smith with love and explores the possibility of the Bears being good. In the end, I’m left with this thought I can’t shake: If Justin Fields is to his position what Roquan Smith is to his, then I feel like the Bears will be in good shape. I mean, sure, having an All-Pro skillset at inside linebacker and quarterback is two different things. But at the core of the discussions is this — if the Bears’ young players are great, then the rest will follow. This is how it tends to work on a leadership level. True studs lead, whether it’s with their words or their play. Smith has picked it up since the start of last year. Now, if Fields can follow … OH BABY!
• It’s always good to keep tabs on dudes traveling the tryout circuit:
#Bears reported RBs Brian Hill, Wendell Smallwood and Chris Thompson coming in for a tryout. Guess here is they are updating free-agent lists.
— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) September 21, 2021
• Speaking of keeping tabs on names:
DB Dee Virgin, who was released yesterday from the 49ers’ practice squad, is scheduled to work out this week for the Browns.
Other teams also are expressing interest in Dee Virgin.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 22, 2021
• I’m only here to share this in relation to the Bears playing the Browns this week. Moreover, I can’t help but wonder if Chicago should be hosting workouts for any and all able-bodied cornerbacks. But also: hee-hee!
• ManningCast is doing units:
The Manning Megacast drew 1.8 million viewers this week, up 138% from Week 1. ESPN said the viewership is a new high for an ESPN alternate telecast since the concept was adopted in 2014. More than half (931,000 viewers) were in the adults 18-49 demo.https://t.co/scoJpOPkZ3
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) September 21, 2021
• As someone with an affinity for North Carolina basketball, I’m supposed to strongly dislike JJ Redick. And when he was at Duke, I certainly did. But Redick’s arc as a pro was so different, I found myself admiring from afar. It’s a shame the Bulls couldn’t bring him in, as he would’ve been a nice fit. Enjoy retirement, guy:
As JJ Redick Announces his Retirement, We Remember that One Time He Was Almost a Bullhttps://t.co/9WTXSTEtrL
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) September 21, 2021
• Aren’t we all still chasing goosebumps?
Must-Read of the Day: Marc-André Fleury is Still Chasing the Goosebumpshttps://t.co/36Z2eWgXxO
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) September 22, 2021
• It’s a (very likely) farewell to Dillon Maples, an dynamic arm talent who never put it all together at the big-league level. I’ll always be a sucker for hard-throwing reliever types with wicked movement, even if I know there is a real chance they won’t pan out the way I’d like.