Bears' Justin Fields to Get More Time with Starters Ahead Of 2nd Preseason Game

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 16, 2021

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 14: Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) reviews plays with Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy during a preseason game between the Chicago Bears and the Miami Dolphins on August 14, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy said Monday that rookie quarterback Justin Fields will get more practice time with the first-team offense as part of the "evaluation process."

Nagy added Andy Dalton is still the team's projected starter ahead of Fields and Nick Foles with two preseason games left before the regular-season opener against the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 12 at SoFi Stadium.

"It is the case," Nagy told reporters when asked about Dalton being the starter. "And I think for us to focus on the day by day and just everything that goes into it. The only thing that those guys care about right now is just being great at that position and if you ask all three of them, and that's what they're trying to do."

Fields' preseason debut lived up to the hype. The No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft completed 14 of his 20 passes for 142 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He added five carries for 33 yards and another score as the Bears claimed a 20-13 win over the Miami Dolphins on Saturday.

The 22-year-old Ohio State product explained afterward that he's worried about his own progression and not ultimately what he needs to do to take over the starting role from Dalton.

"I think when you look into the future you start worrying about way too much stuff," Fields said. "You start thinking too much ahead."

It's unclear whether it's even possible for Fields to overtake the 33-year-old veteran before the regular season kicks off next month.

In March, Dalton said one of the main reasons he signed a one-year, $10 million contract with Chicago in free agency was because the team promised him the starting spot.

"They told me I was the starter," Dalton told reporters. "That was one of the reasons why I wanted to come here. So every conversation I've had has been that, so that's the assurance that I've gotten."

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported in June that promise of the Week 1 starting role remained in place despite the selection of Fields in the first round in late April.

So, while Dalton is the favorite to start against the Rams on Sept. 12, giving Fields more work with the first-team offense against the Bears' defensive starters should give the coaching staff a strong indication about whether the rookie is ready to start at the NFL level.

It would qualify as a surprise if Fields doesn't end up making at least some starts for Chicago during the 2021 season, and he could ascend to the top spot on the depth chart quickly if the offense gets off to a sluggish start under Dalton, who posted a mediocre 87.3 passer rating for the Dallas Cowboys last year.

The Bears face off with the Buffalo Bills on Saturday before wrapping up their exhibition slate Aug. 28 when they visit the Tennessee Titans.