What progress will the Chicago Bears see from Justin Fields in week 3?

When the Chicago Bears take the field against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon, the Justin Fields era will officially be underway. The Fields era beginning also means an evaluation period for the rookie quarterback, who hopes to finally be the answer for the Bears quarterback woes.

During training camp, Bears head coach Matt Nagy discussed the progress Fields made since being drafted back in April. After mastering how to call plays into the huddle, Fields’ next step was learning to read defenses both in pre-snap and post-snap situations. When the Bears offense takes the field, Fields every rep will be under the microscope both in the moment and afterwards as Nagy and the Bears franchise hope to develop a quarterback the right way.

“Since we’ve drafted him you kind of start understanding okay big picture of where you’re at with him, things that he does well and then you just kind of see it in training camp and we were able to really get a feel for the things that we like or don’t like with him in in in training camp,” Nagy said via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “And then in the preseason so now we get together as a staff and we just talk through the things that we think he does well for us.”

The Bears will see progress from Fields when the coaching staff is willing to cater gameplans to Fields strengths. That means using play-action while getting the vertical passing game going. Expect to see wide receivers Darnell Mooney, Allen Robinson, and Marquise Goodwin, with a dose of tight end Cole Kmet to allow Chicago to continue developing the vertical passing game with Fields.

“Getting reps with the offense instead of just working with the scout offense so it’s definitely gonna have me more prepared this week and I’m excited,” Fields said via the Bears official YouTube channel.

Excitement surrounds Fields, who will return to the state of Ohio to play a meaningful football game for the first time since the 2020 season. The progress Fields makes this Sunday will be an indicator of what’s to come for the Bears franchise, with every game being a true test.

 

Chicago Bears: What message is Matt Nagy trying to send?

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On Monday morning, following a Chicago Bears victory in week 2 that saw rookie quarterback Justin Fields get extended playing time, questions arose regarding the state of the quarterback position. After veteran Andy Dalton left the game due to a knee injury, Fields entered, leading the Bears to a 20-17 win.

With Dalton out for the next several weeks, the opportunity to move forward with Fields as the starter presents itself. Head coach Matt Nagy doubled down on Dalton being the starter under one condition: Only when healthy. The Bears did send a representative from the public relations department to convey a message directly to Chicago media: Dalton would be the starter when healthy.

On the surface, Nagy is merely saying that once Dalton is healthy, the 11-year veteran will once again be named the starter but until then, it’ll be the Justin Fields show. Dive deeper into the entire situation and it’s clear that even Nagy seems to know that Fields will play at some point in 2021.

Let’s be honest, situations and circumstances can change and the Bears are no exception. Fields is expected to start in week 3 when the Bears face the Cleveland Browns. With no set timeline for Dalton’s return, week 4 will see the Bears host the Detroit Lions, followed by week 5, a road showdown against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Fields statistics may not reflect a player who’s ready to be a fulltime starter and averaging 4.6 yards per pass attempt won’t get the job done in the NFL but dropped passes that should’ve been touchdowns by wide receivers Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson didn’t do the former Ohio State standout favors either.

If Fields lights it up over the next three games, Nagy will have no choice but to keep Fields as the starter when the Green Bay Packers come to town in week 6. As much as Nagy would like to see his plan to develop Fields and keep Dalton as the starter throughout the 2021 season, Nagy’s message on Monday sent mixed results, implying that there isn’t necessarily a surefire commitment to Dalton, despite what words have indicated.

 

 

Assessing the Chicago Bears offense in week two

Sunday afternoon proved to be fruitful for Chicago Bears fans. Not only did the Bears come away with a victory but Chicago also got an extended look at rookie quarterback Justin Fields for the first time in the regular season with veteran Andy Dalton leaving the game due to a knee injury.

Fields playing a majority of the game doesn’t mean he’ll be the starter moving forward but the Bears coaching staff now has to make a decision to make: Should the Bears continue to roll with Dalton if healthy or start Fields and bring the future to the present? The final call with be made by head coach Matt Nagy but Fields performance on Sunday while leading the offense could be enough to name the 11th overall pick the starter.

Chicago’s offense showed plenty of positives on Sunday, including the ability to consistently move the ball through the air with a vertical passing game but for every positive, there seemed to be a negative. Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney each dropped two touchdown passes that would’ve iced the game by at least two possessions.

Fields’ mobility was apparent throughout the afternoon, as the rookie rushed 10 times for 31 yards, including a 10-yard rush with 2:55 remaining in the fourth quarter to set the Bears up with a first-down to end the game. Chicago did run some RPO looks, ensuring that Cincinnati’s defense would need to account for running back David Montgomery on every play. Montgomery, who rushed 20 times for 61 yards had three receptions for 18 yards, impacting Chicago’s passing attack during a busy afternoon for the third-year running back.

Overall, Chicago’s offense put together a solid enough performance to warrant being able to compete with any opponent. The Bears may not be explosive as Nagy wants to be just yet, something that will come with time but week 2 was encouraging for both the present and future.

 

Chicago Bears finish off Bengals, Justin Fields get some action

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Sunday afternoon saw the Chicago Bears welcome fans back to Soldier Field for the first time since the 2019 season and everyone got exactly what they wanted: An extended opportunity to watch rookie quarterback Justin Fields. After veteran Andy Dalton injured his knee midway through the second quarter, the Bears were forced to play Fields in a game where the 11th overall pick did just enough to lead Chicago to a victory.

The story of the afternoon revolved around Chicago’s defense, which forced Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow into throwing three interceptions during the second half, breaking the game wide open. The Bears also took advantage of a weak Cincinnati offensive line, sacking Burrow on five different occasions.

Chicago set the tone early, marching down the field on the opening drive, where Dalton connected with wide receiver Allen Robinson for an 11-yard touchdown, putting the Bears on the board first. Running back David Montgomery played an integral role in Chicago moving the chains with 20 carries for 61 yards, including an 11-yard run. Despite a victory, the Bears still dropped three potential touchdown passes with Fields in the game. Drops by Robinson and wide receiver Darnell Mooney led to Bears kicker Cairo Santos kicking two fields.

Fields didn’t exactly light up the Bengals’ defense but throughout the afternoon, the 11th overall pick did display poise, accuracy, mobility, and pocket presence, averaging 4.6 yards per pass attempt. Going 6-for-13, Fields had just 60 yards but tacked on 31 rushing yards, scrambling for 10 yards in a third-and-nine situation, giving the Bears a fresh set of downs to set up a Bears victory.

What’s next for the Bears? Chicago will return to practice early this week to prepare for a road matchup against the Cleveland Browns. The biggest question of the week will revolve around the quarterback position for Chicago. If Dalton is healthy, will the Bears coaching staff stick with Fields or go back to the 11-year veteran? Or will head coach Matt Nagy opt to stick with his handpicked quarterback in Fields? We’ll know next week.

Chicago Bears lose to Los Angeles Rams, time for week 2

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In a season full of anticipation, the Chicago Bears put together an inconsistent performance against the Los Angeles Rams in week 1, proving that the Bears have a long way to go before truly competing in 2021. Throughout the evening, the Bears did have some bright moments, including a three-yard touchdown run by rookie Justin Fields.

Nearly every bright moment was overshadowed by a bad moment. Chicago’s defense, which many consider the strength of the team, gave up two big passing touchdowns, including a 67-yard touchdown to Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson. The Bears did start out fast, with a 41-yard run by running back David Montgomery in a drive that ended with quarterback Andy Dalton throwing an interception in the redzone.

Chicago’s inability to establish rhythm should be concerning for head coach Matt Nagy, who heads into his fourth season as Bears head coach. Nagy’s offense limped to the finish line in both 2019 and 2020 and while week 1 provided us with the opportunity to see flashes of what the offense can do under Dalton, Chicago wasn’t consistent enough.

Moving forward, the Bears defense needs to limit big plays to have a chance against explosive offenses. For a defense that features a revamped secondary, Chicago needs more consistent play from safeties, along with a front seven that get after the quarterback consistently.

Dalton did have a solid outing, going 27-for-38 with 206 yards, and one interception. Dalton took what the Rams defense gave him, completing multiple throws underneath. Chicago does need Dalton to hit plays downfield to have a chance at really staying in games.

Another silver lining is that the Bears’ offensive line did look solid throughout the night. Rams star pass rusher Aaron Donald was neutralized on most plays and had just one sack and one tackle for loss. For a unit that played together just once throughout preseason, the Bears have to be feeling good about the offensive line moving forward.

What’s next for the Bears? Chicago will host the Cincinnati Bengals at home in week 2. Labeled by fans as the Andy Dalton revenge game, the Bears will have an opportunity to build on any momentum established in week 1.

Chicago Bears: Setting realistic expectations for Justin Fields in year one

Expectations in the NFL are necessary, especially when a franchise drafts a rookie quarterback. The same is the case for the Chicago Bears, who drafted Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Throughout the offseason, Fields has continued to impress but Chicago’s coaching staff has yet to name Fields the starter.

The Bears know what they have in Fields. An immensely talented quarterback who’s been labeled a “generational talent” by Ohio State head coach Ryan Day. Fields has everything needed to win rookie of the year and with a 17 game season, there is certainly an opportunity to produce at a high level.

One rookie season Fields can replicate is that of Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. The sixth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Herbert started 15 games as a rookie and passed for 31 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions, completing 66.5 percent of his passes. Should veteran Andy Dalton struggle, the Bears will be forced to play Fields sooner rather than later, giving Fields an opportunity to break rookie quarterback records for the Bears.

“Great things don’t happen all at once. I’m just going to be patient,” Fields said during the offseason. “I’ve been in this situation before where I’ve had to learn behind a guy, so this is nothing new for me. I’m just going to take it day by day, get better each and everyday. I’m going to trust coach Nagy and the whole coaching staff here to develop me and make me the best quarterback I can be.”

Fields will play at some point in 2021 but for now, the major question about when he’ll be named starter will continue to loom over the Bears. Each passing day means one day closer to Fields officially being named the starter. It’s not a matter of if but when meaning expectations in 2021 are higher than ever.

Chicago Bears: How long is Andy Dalton’s leash in 2021?

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Nearly a week away from the 2021 season opener, debates about the Chicago Bears naming veteran Andy Dalton the starting quarterback continue. Since signing with the Bears in March, general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy have reiterated that Dalton will be the starter. What the GM-HC duo hasn’t disclosed is how long Dalton will be the starter, fueling speculation about how many weeks Dalton will be the first-team quarterback.

No leash seems to exist. Nagy, who hopes to replicate the Kansas City model where Patrick Mahomes sat behind Alex Smith for 15 games in 2017 knows the best-case scenario is Justin Fields following in the footsteps of Mahomes, seeing very little action in 2021. There is an issue. Fields playing in 2021 will be inevitable at some point. The 11th overall pick will see the field his rookie season being Nagy’s handpicked quarterback.

Ownership in Chicago doesn’t appear to have a timeline for Pace and Nagy either. The assumption is that both have at least two seasons (2021 and 2022) with Fields while others say 2021 means both are on the hot seat with change likely coming when the calendar turns to January.

Dalton struggling early will lead to the clock ticking, forcing Nagy and Pace to evaluate whether or not Fields is really ready to play. When the Bears host the Detroit Lions in week 4, Fields could be under center. The best-case scenario for Dalton is that he plays well enough to lead the Bears to a winning record before Chicago begins a five-game stretch that includes playing the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens from mid-October to mid-November.

Simply put, the Bears need to play Fields when the franchise feels like he’s ready to go unless the Bears are one of the top teams in the NFC with Dalton leading the way, something that is unlikely to happen.

Chicago Bears: Team is making a mistake starting QB Andy Dalton

After seeing veteran quarterback Andy Dalton in action for the first time with the Chicago Bears, a number of questions remain unanswered for the Bears, who continue to insist that Dalton will be the starting quarterback to open the season. Dalton’s struggles in week 2 against the Buffalo Bills were more than apparent. After punting on three of the Bears’ first four possessions, Dalton’s lone highlight of the afternoon was a 73-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rodney Adams.

When rookie quarterback Justin Fields took over in the second half, Chicago once again showed signs of life, however, the Bears were unable to capitalize with just nine second half points. Dalton’s poor performance has led to questions, including a major one that will need to be answered soon: Are the Bears making a mistake starting Dalton?

The simple answer is yes. What the Bears do at the quarterback position in 2021 needs to be predicated upon two factors: Fields and what’s best for Fields. Starting Dalton takes away valuable reps for Fields, who’s proven more than enough throughout practice that the 11th overall pick deserves a chance to play with the first-team. When we say the word “valuable reps”, we are simply referring to reps with the first-team that would give Fields the opportunity to develop chemistry with playmakers such as wide receivers Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, and tight end Cole Kmet.

Head coach Matt Nagy insisted after Saturday’s loss to the Bills that Dalton would remain the starter. When Chicago faces the Tennessee Titans, the gameplan needs to feature heavy doses of Fields as the starter throughout the game. If preseason games are merely dress rehearsals and provide teams with an opportunity to evaluate talent, the Bears should be taking full advantage of the preseason to see what Fields is able to do with extended playing time and not just scripted reps that the coaches had preplanned for.

Chicago Bears: Recapping the win over the Dolphins and more

With the Chicago Bears opening the preseason up with a win over the Miami Dolphins, let’s recap some standouts and what to look forward to as the Bears prepare for the Buffalo Bills on Saturday, August 21st.

Standout Stars

1) QB Justin Fields 

Any list recapping the Bears game would be foolish to not include Fields, who finished the game 14-for-20 with 142 passing yards, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. Fields’ mobility kept the chains moving as the 11th overall pick scrambled five times for 33 yards, including a 21-yard run that was capped off by a touchdown to tight end Jesse James two plays later.

Fields may have started out slow but found his groove as the game progressed, which is good news for the Bears general manager Ryan Pace Pace and head coach Matt Nagy, who’ve invested the Bears’ future in Fields.

“It was actually kind of slow to me to be honest,” Fields said following the game. “I was expecting it to be a little bit faster but practicing, you know game speed, going at it with my teammates everyday, of course, you know we have a great defense. Me going against them everyday, it definitely slowed the game up a little bit for me. I felt comfortable out there.”

Fields showed enough promise to warrant being the week one starter. Don’t write off Andy Dalton but Fields performance was encouraging enough to warrant being given a serious chance with the first-team offense in training camp.

2) OLB Charles Snowden 

After going undrafted due to an ankle injury, it didn’t take long for Snowden to make an impression, despite playing just 22 percent of snaps yesterday. The former UVA product totaled two QB hits, one sack, and one TFL throughout the second half on Sunday. After Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, the Bears have Trevis Gipson, Jeremiah Attaochu, and Snowden to complete the OLB room.

Snowden will need to continue stacking strong performances to have an opportunity to make Chicago’s final roster but he’d also be an ideal practice squad candidate to develop as a player who could eventually take over in 2022 as a starter or rotational player.

3) RB Khalil Herbert 

The Bears needed to add some juice on offense this offseason and Herbert provided plenty yesterday as a runner and receiver. Averaging 6.3 yards per carry and 3.7 yards per reception, Herbert showcased his ability to be a dual-threat running back. Despite being buried on the depth chart behind Damien Williams and David Montgomery, Herbert’s strong showing yesterday was more of an indication of what’s to come for the sixth-round pick.

Herbert’s strong performance bodes well for the Bears, who are uncertain about when running back Tarik Cohen, who is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered early last season, will return. Too much depth in the NFL is never bad and Herbert can make the Bears offense expendable by creating mismatches throughout games.

4) CB Duke Shelley 

With uncertainty about who will be the starting slot CB, Shelley stepped up to the challenge on Saturday, putting together a performance that bodes well for his career moving forward. Entering his third season, Shelley spent 2019 and 2020 buried on the depth chart behind veterans Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine, seeing limited regular season action.

Shelley’s preseason debut in year three saw him with six tackles and one PBU. With the Bears competition at slot receiver being wide open, the 2019 sixth-round pick will have the opportunity to seize the starting role if he can put together strong performances against the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans.

5) LB Alec Ogletree

Very rarely do veteran players steal the show in preseason but there’s an exception to every rule and in this case, it’s Ogletree. After stealing the show at training camp with six interceptions, despite being a late additon, Ogletree racked up four tackles, including one PBU and one TFL.

Bursting onto the scene after starting just one game for the New York Jets in 2020, Ogletree has quickly emerged as the front runner for MLB3, a title that many thought would originally go to veteran Christian Jones.

6) The Bears offensive line

Believe it or not, the Bears had just two starters from last season present on the offensive line for Saturday’s contest: Sam Mustipher and Cody Whitehair. The rest of Chicago’s offensive line was injured, forcing the Bears to use a number of second, third, and fourth-string players.

Here’s a fun fact: Chicago allowed zero sacks on Saturday, a stat that will surprise many. Suddenly, offensive line coach Juan Castillo has instilled confidence into a unit that’s been ravaged by injuries, leading to questions about how good the OL can be when fully healthy. A unit that was solid in the running game yesterday was even better in pass protection. The question now remains: Can the OL keep this up until Teven Jenkins, James Daniels, and Germain Ifedi return?

One question for the offense

Will Fields strong performance yesterday make the Bears coaching staff second-guess who the starting quarteback should be on opening day? It’s too early to tell. Remember that Nagy did say Fields would receive a majority of the reps in the preseason, so the 11th overall pick playing about 63 percent of snaps was likely in the original gameplan.

The real QB competition will take place when Dalton receives a significant amount of reps against the Buffalo Bills. Chicago should give Fields the same amount of reps as Dalton, in order to truly see where both quarterbacks are at before making one final decision.

One question for the defense

Should we stop worrying about the status of DT Eddie Goldman, who opted out in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns? Probably. Rookie DT Khyiris Tonga had a pretty solid outing yesterday, including a play where he penetrated the offensive line, leading to a goal line stand for the Bears defense.

To be clear, Tonga’s performance is encouraging but Goldman would still take the Bears defense to another level. Factor this in: Goldman hasn’t suited up in nearly 20 months, so there will likely be plenty of rust to shake off before Goldman returns to form.

Who’s not making this roster?

I’ll tell you this much and the answer is pretty obvious: WR Javon Wims. After three seasons where Wims has underperformed but then also been the center of confrontation, leading to tension with the coaching staff, Wims needs to get cut. The false start penalty on Fields first drive should be the final straw for the Bears coaching staff, who are simply wasting time and reps by keeping Wims around. Rather than keep Wims around, how about signing another young wide receiver to take his place, creating some more competition?

What’s next for the Bears?

Mitch Trubisky will be coming to town for week two, which means the boo birds were certainly be out in full effect the moment that Trubisky takes the field. The last time I even remember there being some serious booing at a Bears preseason game is when Jay Cutler returned to Denver in 2009 to take on his former team after being traded just four months earlier.

As Patrick Star says in an episode of Spongebob: “You had your chance and you failed.” The same applies for Trubisky, who’s return to Chicago will be a storyline that dominates that week.

Buffalo’s defense should provide the Bears with another test to see where Chicago’s offense is really at, especially if the Bears decide to give their first-team starters a significant amount of reps throughout the game.

Chicago Bears: Justin Fields impresses in preseason debut

It was a cool summer afternoon at Soldier Field as the Chicago Bears opened up the preseason against the Miami Dolphins. Quarterback Justin Fields made his debut, playing in the second and third quarter, going 14-for-20, 142 yards, combined with one passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown. Fields’ mobility was also on display as the 11th overall pick rushed five times for 33 yards.

There’s a lot to digest when it comes to Fields preseason debut. After what appeared to be early jitters, the rookie quarterback slowed down, hitting wide receivers with quick, easy completions before, leading to a 14 point explosion for the Bears in the third quarter. This is just the start for Fields, who will look to improve as the season goes on. What’s noteworthy is that Fields did play more than veteran Andy Dalton, who played just two series and completed just two passes for 18 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt.

Throughout the afternoon, much of what made Fields such a pro-ready quarterback was on display. Accuracy, poise, mobility, ball placement, and solid decision-making. Nothing is perfect in the NFL, however, Fields debut was more good than bad, which is encouraging as the Bears continue to prepare for the regular season.

The highlight of the afternoon came midway through the third quarter when Fields scrambled for 21 yards, which then set up a 30-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jesse James just two plays later. Fields to James is a connection that has emerged quickly and showcases Fields ability to connect with pass catchers.

When the Bears return to Halas Hall on Monday to prepare for the Buffalo Bills, there will be a number of questions to answer. What will coaches make of Dalton and Fields’ preseason debuts? Is Fields going to make the Bears coaching staff second-guess naming Dalton the starter? With just about a month to go until the regular season, Fields appears to be trending in the right direction for the Bears and Saturday was an indication of the potential that the 11th overall pick holds.