Chicago Bears backup quarterback still most popular guy in town

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The Chicago Bears finished the preseason with a 2-1 record after their 27-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans. It was the first start for Justin Fields and, more pertinent to Week 1, the entire projected starting offensive line. As always, the final result is nice, but the takeaways run much deeper than that.

Justin Fields is a really good backup plan for the Chicago Bears

Getting Acclimated

For the opener at least, Andy Dalton will be under center. That meant he got the rest in the final preseason game. It gave Fields a chance to show what he can do with the starters…sort of. None of the starting skill players played. Fields was left to break in the Germain Ifedi and the rest of the front five.

Fields finished the night 7-of-10 for 54 yards and a laser of a touchdown. The throw was to the man of the night, second-year tight end Jesper Horsted (more on him later). He also ran twice for 13 yards.

It wasn’t the most thrilling outing overall from a production standpoint. But Fields once again showed an ability to remain poised under pressure and make throws on the run. As it has been all preseason any praise (or criticism) is to be delivered with a grain of salt.

The rookie finishes the preseason having completed just over 61 percent of his passes for 276 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. His low completion percentage can be partly attributed to not having Allen Robinson or Darnell Mooney on the other end of his passes. But his zero interceptions could be attributed to a drop by a defender here and there too.

In the end, Fields probably could step in and start Week 1. He might even look better than Dalton will while doing it. But Matt Nagy has a plan and, so far at least, everything is going according to plan.

Like a Mad Scientist

This season is going to be incredibly trying for Nagy if the Bears offense continues to be the slow starter it has been most of his tenure, including this postseason. By holding out his starting skill guys he’s kept them healthy. But they haven’t been able to build an in-game rapport with either quarterback.

That gives him a reason to say the evaluation on either is incomplete, too. It’s essentially what he’s said regarding Dalton being the starter despite Fields looking like the more dynamic player.

Dalton ended his preseason completing just under 62 percent of his passes for 164 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

He hasn’t looked completely terrible. But he won’t win many if any games for them this season. But they are more than likely just hoping he doesn’t lose them more to buy as much time for Fields as possible. Getting the starting line out there was as much about that as anything else as well.

For his gamble, Nagy can go into the regular season with his young quarterback riding high, feeling ready to step in if called upon. His starter also knows he will get at least some support from his head coach as he is bombarded with questions about his inevitable replacement.

That’s a win-win, as long as everyone holds up their end of the bargain.

Set the Tone

The Bears are counting on a resurgence from a defense that has as many questions as the offense. Robert Quinn’s ineffectiveness has allowed 2020 fifth-rounder Trevis Gipson and undrafted rookie Charles Snowden to impress. Free-agent acquisition Desmond Trufant hasn’t been with the team, allowing last year’s other fifth-rounder, Kindle Vildor, to possibly start.

Rookie Thomas Graham could also be in the mix to start at cornerback but the real question is whether or not Jaylon Johnson is ready to be the top corner.

The defensive line, reinforced by the return of Eddie Goldman this season, looked as stout as ever and the depth at inside linebacker is good with Alec Ogletree looking like a nice late free-agency find and Danny Trevathan looking spry ahead of him.

Safety is still a question because the tackling this preseason has been mostly bad and Eddie Jackson has been in the crosshairs of a lot of criticism. Hopefully, his bad tackling and poor angles in his limited action were about making it to the regular season healthy and not a carryover from last year. 

Overall, they should make plays because they still have a lot of talent. But can they be the kind of unit that carries a team to victories under rookie defensive coordinator Sean Desai? A lot of that will come down to the production opposite Khalil Mack.

Horsted’s World

By now, “Have Yourself a Night” has been used to exhaustion to caption what second-year tight end and h-back Jesper Horsted did on the night. The former Harvard wide receiver caught five passes for 104 and three touchdowns. He caught Fields’ touchdown and both from Nick Foles, who went 10/13 for 142 yards, one of which was had a nice grab in traffic.

In what has become a position of strength for the Bears, Horsted is no better than fourth on the depth chart behind Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, and Jesse James. That means he’s no lock to make it unless they value him as an H-Back.

Foles is probably hoping his performance was enough to entice a team into parting with some sort of capital for his services. He had thrown just three passes before Saturday’s game for a whopping eight yards. Still, he’s good in the locker room and there could be a sense that he wasn’t put in the best positions under Nagy.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Bears Backup is the Future

Bears fans should feel some comfort that the majority opinion on Fields is that he’s the real deal. Having to wait for that to happen is like torture for this fanbase. First, we’ll find out if the Bears other pieces are ready to support him. That and Dalton not completely wetting the bed are the only things keeping Fields off of the field. It certainly isn’t his play. On to L.A.

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