Four days of practices made clear the current gap between starting Bears quarterback Andy Dalton and rookie Justin Fields.
Dalton efficiently and effortlessly moved the ball around in the offense to various targets with precision and on time. Fields occasionally did this but other attempts looked ugly. It's the difference between being polished or raw.
This is no reason to panic. It's expected.
"I think he’s learning the offense," wide receiver Damiere Byrd said of Fields. "He's learning how to be a pro quarterback. He's learning how to take command of a huddle. Obviously throughout the draft process, everybody knows he has a great arm, strong arm, accuracy. Things like that. Now he's just learning how to be a starting NFL quarterback."
While Fields is learning, Dalton already has done this. He's also getting more snaps in practice than Fields, which is increasing his mastery of the attack he is playing in for the first time. Coach Matt Nagy estimated Dalton is getting 10% more of the snaps than Fields.
"When you're a quarterback with as much experience as Andy’s had, you've been fooled many times by the defense and hopefully learned from it, which I think he's proven he has," offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. "He's also figured out some things you can do to take control of it and I think right now everyone is feeling that his experience brings some confidence with it.
"I think that’s rubbing off on a lot of people. He also brings a certain tempo of play, which I think is rubbing off on the offense. So I think it's been felt by everyone."
The offense is moving in sync with Dalton.
Coach Matt Nagy offered up a specific area where Fields needs to be better, and like in the earlier comparison this is expected.
"We have to, at times, have him understand if the progression in a play is low to high, if it's there, take it," Nagy said.
On many plays the quarterback is to look downfield first and then check down as he runs through his progression. On some plays, it works the other way and Fields is supposed to look short first and then downfield. This might go against his nature and also training in college.
"He's had a few of those where it's low-to-high and he's tried to put one in the second level, third level, 20 yards instead of taking the 7-yard completion down below," Nagy said. "Some it worked and some haven't. But at the same point in time, some of his strengths, if you go back and look at what he's done in college are those 20-yard throws, whether it's a dagger, whether it's a circus route on the outside, outside of the numbers."
This sounds like the Bears are trying to alter Fields or squash his strongest points to turn him into a short passer. However, Nagy said this isn't the case.
"So we want to work to his strengths, too, and be able to help him in other areas, but you don’t try to tame somebody too much," Nagy said. "You want to be able to let him go and do his thing, but you've gotta make sure that if we're telling the wide receivers, tight ends and running backs the progression of a play and they're open and they're No. 1 or 2 in the progression and they're not getting it because we're staying outside of that progression, then they start to get frustrated.
"And he hasn't done that, but we want to just keep him within the system."
The Bears worked three years in this offense with a quarterback who couldn't adequately put it downfield.
It sounds as if it will take at least a little time for them to learn to work with one who does this with ease, and until they've polished him more Andy Dalton will rule the day in the attack.