This was one of the most highly anticipated preseason games in Chicago Bears history, with acclaimed quarterback Justin Fields making his debut in the orange and navy. And while the former Ohio State Buckeye started slow, he quickly grew comfortable in an eventual 20-13 win over the Miami Dolphins.
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Cool Start, Hot Finish from Justin Fields — It took Fields a few series before he started to perform like the special quarterback Soldier Field was expecting to see. The 11th overall pick underwhelmed on his first three series. He led an offense that generated -0.57 expected points added (EPA) per pass play, and he fumbled the ball on a scramble.
But he then started flashing his playmaking ability. He was poised, made accurate throws on the run outside of structure and recorded his first touchdown as a Bear on a scramble, albeit in the preseason.
Make Justin Fields QB1 already ????️
— PFF (@PFF) August 14, 2021
From the fourth drive forward, Fields went 12-of-14 for 132 yards and a touchdown while generating 0.57 EPA per pass play. He also took three scrambles for 31 yards and a score. Overall, it was a promising debut.
Tua Tagovailoa’s Day Ruined by Late INT — Tagovailoa was wheelin’ and dealin’ to kick off his first snaps of 2021. He was accurate, threading balls into tight windows, and delivered a big-time throw to tight end Mike Gesicki for a big gain. But that all came crashing down on what was his final throw of the game. Tagovailoa made a poor decision deep in Chicago territory that resulted in an end-zone interception. Obviously, his 12 attempts should be taken with a grain of salt, but there were some encouraging plays from the second-year quarterback before the blatant mistake.
Austin Jackson Rusty in Pass Protection — Jackson was one of the questionable first-round selections of the 2020 NFL Draft. He subsequently struggled as a rookie and further brought those questions to the forefront. His performance in preseason Week 1 certainly didn’t help matters, either. The starting left tackle logged 25 snaps in pass protection, losing eight of them. And most came against Chicago’s depth pieces.
Duke Shelley = Secret Gem? — Chicago’s lack of proven depth at cornerback is one of a few concerns within the team, but Shelley — a 2020 sixth-round pick — had a performance that could ease the worry. He made a couple of defensive stops and forced an incompletion while dabbling in the slot and on the outside for the Bears. Shelley still needs to replicate this throughout the preseason, but he put his name on the map and is one to watch in the coming weeks.
Head Coach Brian Flores Has Legit Depth in Secondary — It was no secret that Miami boasts one of the more well-equipped secondaries in the NFL, and this contest further proved that. Non-starters Nik Needham and Noah Igbinoghene had themselves a couple of strong performances. Needham, a 2019 undrafted free agent, forced an incompletion and allowed only seven yards in coverage from the slot. Igbinoghene, a 2020 first-rounder, also forced an incompletion and didn’t allow a single yard in coverage from the outside. Both players have flashed in the past and look poised to make this secondary even better than it was entering the offseason.