Preseason Week 3 Takeaways: Justin Fields Still Needs Some Time
A dozen NFL teams wrapped up the preseason Saturday. And while the final weekend of the NFL exhibition schedule is usually uneventful, the new three-week preseason means there has been some meaningful action throughout the league.
As you might expect, the focus was on a first-round pick who tried to prove Saturday night that he's worthy of starting early for his desperate team. Beyond that, though, there were several notable developments on and off the field Saturday.
Here are a handful of takeaways, starting with that young signal-caller in the Windy City.
Despite Promising August for Justin Fields, Bears Must Start Andy Dalton Week 1
With one remarkable touchdown pass on the run into a comically tight window in Saturday night's preseason finale against the Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields showed the football world why he almost certainly gives the Bears their best chance to contend in 2021.
That's a play that Andy Dalton and Nick Foles can't really make, which is why the Bears would be silly not to eventually use their No. 11 overall pick relatively early this season. And his final preseason numbers (30-of-49, three touchdowns, no interceptions, 92 rushing yards and a 97.0 passer rating) back that up.
Still, Fields was often in bubble wrap while averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt this month. The Bears didn't unleash him often enough to make him fully ready for the wolves in Week 1, especially when one of those wolves is named Aaron Donald.
Throughout this process, it was important to keep in mind that the Bears start the season on the road in prime time against the three-time Defensive Player of the Year and his Los Angeles Rams. It's a recipe for trouble, and exactly why you have a guy like Dalton serving as a bridge.
Fields will have his day, possibly in Week 2 at home and out of the national spotlight against the Cincinnati Bengals. But for now, Dalton should have the reins.
Gabriel Davis Could Make the Bills Extra Dangerous in 2021
We got our first look Saturday at the 2021 edition of the Buffalo Bills starting offense under reigning MVP runner-up Josh Allen and it was...something.
Allen completed 20 of 26 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns in a turnover-free performance as the Bills looked as crisp as they did throughout the 2020 campaign.
That had to fire up Bills fans who believe this could be the year they finally get back to the Super Bowl, and one particular performance was extremely encouraging.
That came from second-year wide receiver Gabriel Davis, who caught all five of the passes he was targeted on for 75 yards. It was enough to make you forget first-team All-Pro Stefon Diggs wasn't on the field, and enough to cause you to wonder if Davis just might have the ability to replace John Brown and earn more looks than Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders in 2021.
The fourth-round pick out of UCF has the quickness and separation skills to become an NFL starter. We saw glimpses of that throughout his rookie year, and he looks as though he's made a lot of progress in his first proper NFL offseason.
If Davis keeps rising and everyone else remains on track for the Bills, that offense could be unstoppable this season.
Jordan Love Isn't Ready in Green Bay
In that same game, Green Bay Packers backup quarterback and potential Aaron Rodgers heir apparent Jordan Love completed a solid 12 of 18 passes for 149 yards, highlighted by this dime to Malik Taylor.
But another unbelievably poor decision revealed just how lucky the Packers are that Rodgers ended up returning to the team for at least one more season. That came in the second quarter when the 2020 first-round pick stumbled under pressure and threw a gift interception into the end zone on first down.
"That's one I've just got to obviously learn from and just dump that to the sideline right there and play the next play," Love confessed after the game.
Fair, but a contender like Green Bay simply can't afford junk like that when the games matter.
Love ultimately led just one touchdown drive in two preseason outings, and that's all the Packers have seen from him in two years. There have been some promising moments, but nothing that indicates he'd be ready to carry this offense if Rodgers were unavailable in 2021.
The question now is whether or not they'll feel comfortable handing him the starting job if Rodgers departs after this season.
Houston Texans Shouldn't Rush to Trade Deshaun Watson
The Houston Texans used most of their starters for an extended run in their preseason finale Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it wasn't pretty as those starting units scored zero offensive points while surrendering two touchdown drives on defense.
It was another reminder that the Texans are very much not a candidate to make a Super Bowl run this season. With or without quarterback Deshaun Watson, they're a bad team.
And Watson faces 22 lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints from women accusing him of sexual assault or sexual misconduct committed while receiving massages (allegations he denies). He's essentially been inactive all summer and is reportedly on the trading block.
On Saturday, a report emerged from Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports that the Miami Dolphins had emerged as front-runners for Watson, with the Texans seeking three first-round picks and a pair of second-rounders for the 25-year-old three-time Pro Bowler. However, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that while the Dolphins "remain intrigued by the possibility of acquiring" Watson, they've balked at that asking price.
The Texans shouldn't budge, mainly because of what we established in the top two paragraphs above. Watson will cost them just $10.5 million this year, they're bad anyway and the roster is essentially already set. They might want to move on and put the Watson era behind them, but they're better off awaiting resolutions to Watson's legal situations (as well as a possible suspension or time on the Commissioner's Exempt List) so that they can get max value for one of the greatest active players in the sport at a later point.
There's just no reason to move fast if the return isn't what you want in this case.
Gardner Minshew Should Be a Legit Starting Candidate for the Eagles
Off the field Saturday, the Philadelphia Eagles pulled the trigger on a trade for Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, who became expendable with Trevor Lawrence taking over in Jacksonville.
However, Minshew should have a chance to push Jalen Hurts in Philly.
It became obvious this month that neither Joe Flacco nor Nick Mullens was going to do that for the Eagles, who can't be sure Hurts is the guy after he barely saw the field in the preseason.
They owe Hurts an extended early-season audition after he flashed in relief of Carson Wentz down the stretch in 2020, but that leash should not be 17 games long—especially now that Minshew has come aboard at the expense of a mere conditional sixth-round pick (nicely done, Howie Roseman).
Minshew might not have Hurts' ability, but he's a great improviser who was often magical as a rookie in 2019. He has a 37-to-11 career touchdown-to-interception ratio and a passer rating (93.1) that is nearly 16 points higher than Hurts' (77.6).
Maybe he's the third quarterback for now, but Minshew should gain a shot if Hurts struggles for an extended stretch at any point this season.