NFL News & Analysis

Justin Fields intensifies Chicago Bears' quarterback competition with promising NFL preseason debut vs. Dolphins

Aug 14, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) walks onto the field before the game against the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Eileen T. Meslar-USA TODAY Sports

The Justin Fields era in Chicago is off to a hot start. 

While Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy has been unwavering in his interest to start veteran Andy Dalton in Week 1, Fields’ debut preseason performance should give Nagy ample reason to consider giving the wily Ohio State product the nod. 

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Fields overcame a slow start to go 14-of-20 for 142 passing yards, 33 rushing yards, one 30-yard passing touchdown to a wide-open Jesse James and a score on the ground against the Miami Dolphins on Saturday. A whopping 80% of his 142 passing yards came through the air (before the catch), and 8-of-14 completions went for first downs. 

All 33 of Fields’ rushing yards came on called passes. He scrambled four times, including a 21-yard scamper for a first down and an eight-yard touchdown run. He also put the ball on the turf on one of his scrambles but recovered the fumble himself. 

On PFF’s first review of the broadcast film, Fields earned just a 66.0 overall grade. The head-scratching fumble and zero big-time throws pull his overall and passing grades down significantly, but his ability to recoup from easy mistakes and return to action with composure and decisiveness are obvious highlights. His third-quarter PFF grade (seven total snaps) was an impressive 90.5 before All-22 reviews. 

Fields earned a 32.2 PFF grade (on first review) and the Chicago offense totaled one yard on his first three drives of the game. He completed 12-of-14 passes for 132 yards, rushed for 31 yards and totaled two touchdowns en route to a 84.1 PFF grade on his final four drives.

Pressured on four dropbacks, Fields scrambled (and fumbled) on one but completed passes on the three others for 25 total yards, including an impressive first-down strike to veteran Justin Hardy in the second quarter.

A pre-draft knock on Fields’ was his tendency to hold onto the football (especially when pressured), and that showed on a lot of his dropbacks. His average time to throw (3.20 seconds) is the third-longest mark for any quarterback with 10-plus dropbacks this preseason. 

Dalton didn’t draw the standing ovation Fields received when he started the contest, and he failed to earn one in limited action. The 33-year-old veteran signal-caller completed just 2-of-4 passes for 18 yards before bowing out in the first quarter. 

If Nagy’s sentiment toward the Dalton-Fields competition doesn’t waver after Saturday, it may never. His next opportunity to evaluate the two signal-callers will be Aug. 21 when the Bears host the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field. 

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
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