Andy Dalton Focused with Pressure All Around

Whether it's Aaron Donald and the Rams, or the possibility of losing his starting job to teammate Justin Fields, Bears quarterback Andy Dalton is able to continue looking ahead to the task at hand.
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Andy Dalton better keep his focus ahead because Aaron Donald could be there Sunday night when the Bears open at SoFi Stadium against the Los Angeles Rams.

No sense looking behind because Justin Fields is back there pushing for Dalton's job.

"That's the worst thing you can do is look over your shoulder," Dalton said.

Dalton has maintained focus throughout the preseason on the opportunity to start and keep the position by playing well, so he's not about to start looking in the rear-view mirror with the season days away.

"We're talking about tuning out the stuff you don't need to focus on and knowing where you need to put your time and effort and all that kind of stuff," Dalton said. "I think that's just where I'm at. You don't worry about all the other stuff."

Dalton's 10 years of starting experience prevent him from getting too caught up in all the fan talk about Fields, just like it keeps him focused on the Rams and the challenge of playing against dominant pass rusher Aaron Donald.

"It's been great, and I think that’s one thing that I'm fortunate–I have a really good routine of how I've gone about preparing for games," Dalton said. "I've done it for a long time, and it fits right in to the way that these coaches and everybody work and operate.

"So I think it's been really smooth and really good for me to just kind of get through the game week."

Dalton better keep his attention on the task at hand because the Bears on offense have a miserable record to rectify. They finished last in the league last season at the all-important statistic of third-down conversions, at 33.49%. Facing pass rush pressure from Donald can't help in this regard.

"One, talking about pressures and stuff–first thing we can do is we can be good on first and second down," Dalton said. "That makes it easier to be good on third down. When you can be efficient and effective on early downs, that will definitely help it out. Then also, you get in these longer situations–understanding pressures, understanding coverages, understanding what they're trying to do, and being smart with the ball."

Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor sees Dalton as a potential reason why they can convert more third downs. Dalton's experience lets him maintain composure in tough situations and against All-Pro pass rushers or tricky defensive schemes like the Rams operate.

"It's hard to put something up there that he hasn't faced at some point," Lazor said. "Not that we aren't going to have the same answer for it that he has, but there tends to be very little panic from a guy who's faced it before and has had success.

"That's just kind of what he brings to the table. That gets pushed onto (teammates) when he's calling the plays."

Left guard Cody Whitehair sees the benefits of Dalton's calm, which is good considering he'll be the one blocking Donald much of the time.

"He's calm. He's very confident in the huddle," Whitehair said. "As a quarterback, that's what you want. We break to the huddle, we get to the line. He and (center) Sam (Mustipher) do a great job communicating and putting us in the right situation to be successful in the play. That's all we can ask for."

The calls go out daily from Bears fans for Dalton to give way to Fields, but it's been coach Matt Nagy's stance all along that Dalton would start. Dalton said it was promised to him when he arrived. That was a long time ago, though, in March during free agency.

"There's a lot that's gone on since March, but all that's led to this point right here," Dalton said. "Regardless of everything that's gone on, we're here at Week 1, and this is exactly what I wanted. I wanted this opportunity.

"And now we’re looking forward to making the most of it."

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