Bears seek improvement with Dalton at QB, Fields behind him
CHICAGO BEARS (8-9)
New faces: QB Justin Fields, QB Andy Dalton, OT Teven Jenkins, WR Marquise Goodwin, RB Damien Williams, OL Elijah Wilkinson, LB Alec Ogletree.
Key losses: QB Mitchell Trubisky, CB Kyle Fuller, LT Charles Leno Jr., RT Bobby Massie, KR Cordarrelle Patterson, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
Strengths: A defense led by three-time All-Pro Khalil Mack remains a strength despite a decline the past two seasons. The Monsters of the Midway have gone from ranking third overall in 2018 to 11th, and from leading the NFL with 36 takeaways to finishing tied for 25th with 18 in 2020. Mack had nine sacks in his second straight season in single digits. Getting NT Eddie Goldman back after he opted out of last season due to COVID-19 concerns should help clog the interior and boost a run defense that dropped from ninth in 2019 to 15th.
Weaknesses: The offensive line is a concern. Chicago signed 39-year-old Jason Peters, hoping the two-time All-Pro can solidify the left tackle spot. RG James Daniels (quad) and RT Germain Ifedi (hip flexor) have been working their way back from injuries. On the positive side, the blocking improved after the Bears shook up their line late last season. They moved Cody Whitehair from center to left guard and inserted Sam Mustipher at center.
Camp Development: The Bears signed Peters in mid-August and gave him a chance to become the starting left tackle because of Jenkins’ back injury that required surgery. The rookie will miss the start of the season.
Fantasy Player To Watch: Chicago’s most consistent playmaker, WR Allen Robinson, is coming off one of his best seasons. He was hoping for a multiyear deal after catching a career-high 102 passes for 1,250 yards. That didn’t happen, and he’ll play under the $17.9 million franchise tag instead.
FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: 50-1. Over/under wins: 7 1/2.
Expectations: The Bears gave their frustrated fan base a big jolt of excitement when they traded up nine spots with the New York Giants to draft Fields with the No. 11 pick. The former Ohio State star looked ready to play during the preseason, impressing with his arm, poise and his mobility. The question is when he will. The Bears have insisted Dalton, the three-time Pro Bowler, is their starter from the moment they signed him to a one-year deal in the offseason. And they’ve stuck with that since Fields’ arrival. No matter who is behind center, the heat is on general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy. The Bears went 8-8 in the regular season for the second straight year since winning the NFC North at 12-4 in Nagy’s first season. They then bowed out with a lopsided wild-card loss at New Orleans after making the playoffs as the seventh and final seed in an expanded field. Chicago promoted Sean Desai to replace the retired Pagano as defensive coordinator.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL