Justin Fields may be heading into the 2021 NFL season listed as a backup behind Andy Dalton, but the Chicago Bears reportedly plan to allow him a chance to shine in the preseason.
Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported the Bears plan to "give him a lot of work" in exhibition games. Fields is the quarterback of the future in Chicago after being selected 11th overall in April's draft, but the team has been adamant about pumping the brakes on him being under center in Week 1.
"Promises can get pretty crazy, but what we told Andy is that he's our starter. He knows that," Bears coach Matt Nagy told reporters last week. "That's what Justin knows. That's what Nick [Foles] knows and the rest of our coaches. … There were no promises, but we told him and I specifically told him you're our starter. And that's that."
Nagy also went on to confirm that Fields will not have an opportunity to beat out Dalton in training camp; barring injury, the veteran will be the starter.
Dalton signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Bears in March after spending the 2020 season in Dallas. After initially signing as a backup for the Cowboys, Dalton was thrust into the starting lineup when Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending leg injury. The three-time Pro Bowler threw for 2,170 yards and 14 touchdowns against eight interceptions in 11 games (nine starts).
While Dalton is far from a superstar, he will provide a steady hand the Bears have lacked at quarterback in recent seasons. Fields, like all rookies, is at risk of being a high-variance performer.
Getting Fields work in the preseason will allow him to gain experience without really threatening Dalton's status. Most veteran quarterbacks play minimally in the preseason at this point, though it could be tough to quiet out the noise if Fields is truly transcendent.