Wednesday's NFL: Fields to make first start for Bears with Dalton injured
Lake Forest, Ill. — The Chicago Bears planned to have Justin Fields adjust to the NFL while watching from the sideline as a backup to veteran Andy Dalton.
Well, so much for that.
Fields is set to make his first start when the Bears visit the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Coach Matt Nagy said Wednesday the team will go with the prized rookie quarterback with Dalton sidelined because of a left knee injury.
“Justin's gonna be our starter,” he said. “His prep starts ... right now.”
Nagy said Dalton remains the team's No. 1 quarterback for now and the plan is for him to be the starter when he is healthy. Nagy said the three-time Pro Bowler is week to week, though the Bears don't think he will be placed on injured reserve. Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles will be the backup quarterback.
Fields got his first extended look last week in a 20-17 win over Cincinnati when he took over on Chicago’s final drive in the first half after getting in a handful of plays earlier in the game. He led the Bears the rest of the way.
Fans have been calling for the team to go with the former Ohio State star since trading up nine spots with the New York Giants to draft him with the No. 11 overall pick. And now, they'll get their wish.
“I think I’m ready," Fields said. "I’ve been preparing for this moment for a long time. My mindset doesn’t change, I’m still going to have to play my football and just prepare the best I can. Like I said before, get a lot of practice reps and study, study, study, and get more comfortable and confident with the plays and stuff like that."
The Bears signed Dalton to be the starter when he agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract in March. They stuck with that plan after drafting Fields. Either way, they're banking on the rookie to develop in a way Mitchell Trubisky did not.
Fields gets a big opportunity on Sunday. He sees a chance to help establish himself as the starter even if the Bears plan to go with Dalton once he's healthy.
“I think every time I go in, I have that mindset,” Fields said. "Of course, I’m going to go out there on Sunday and play my best and just try to come out with the win and that’s my main focus. My main focus isn’t winning the starting job. I think that’s going to come with time, so my main focus right now is just to prepare the best I can and go out Sunday and execute at a high level.”
It would be hard to envision the Bears going back to Dalton if Fields performs well in his absence and the team wins.
“When that time comes, there’s a lot of stuff that can happen between now and then," Nagy said. "I don’t really want to go there other than just saying when Andy is healthy, he’s our starter.”
Fields, who ran for a touchdown in a season-opening loss at the Los Angeles Rams, showed some promise against Cincinnati with his mobility and ability to squeeze passes into tight spots. But by his own admission, it wasn’t a great outing. He completed 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards and threw an interception late in the game that led to a touchdown. He also ran for 31 yards after being in on just five plays the previous week.
Fields took the final three snaps of the possession after Dalton was injured on a 14-yard run early in the second quarter against his former team. Dalton was in for the next drive before Fields led Chicago’s final series of the half.
Now, it's not clear when the veteran will play again.
Dalton got off to a good start against the Bengals. He led a touchdown drive on the game's opening possession, finishing it with an 11-yarder to Allen Robinson, and completed 9 of 11 passes for 56 yards.
“There’s a human element when you play sports and these relationships that we all build. ... But his situation, that’s real. You feel for him," Nagy said.
Fields, meanwhile, gets a chance to show how ready he is to lead the Bears. He has impressed teammates since he arrived.
“Man, just seeing how much fun he has (in practice) after throws a ball,” receiver Marquise Goodwin said. “Whether it’s incomplete or complete, he’s back there, he’s celebrating. Or if it’s incomplete, he’s like `ugh,' he’s smiling, he’s having fun. At the end of the day, if you’re not having fun, then why are you doing it? So, I love to see that.”
Dolphins say Tagovailoa broke ribs, won't play vs. Raiders
Miami Gardens, Fla. — Tua Tagovailoa's bruised ribs are actually fractured ribs, and that means the Miami Dolphins will have a new starting quarterback this week when they visit the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Dolphins announced the updated diagnosis Wednesday after initial tests suggested Tagovailoa was dealing with bruised ribs. Further exams showed the fractures, and the Dolphins already have decided that Jacoby Brissett will start this weekend.
It's unclear how long Tagovailoa will be sidelined. Dolphins coach Brian Flores did not want to offer a timetable for a potential return but said Tagovailoa is already improving.
“This is a tough kid," Flores said. “He wants to play. He’s actually trying to play. We’re going to save him from himself a little bit on this and hold him out this week and then take it week to week from there.”
Brissett last started a game at the end of 2019, though he played almost the entire game against Buffalo last weekend. He's 12-20 as a starter, the role he said he prepares himself for each week.
“I think that’s been my mentality since I got in the league," Brissett said. “I've been in situations where I honestly didn’t know what my chances were and when my opportunities were going to come. So I just wanted to make sure when I went out there I put my best foot forward and just stick with that mindset that has put me in good situations."
For now, the Dolphins aren't planning to make a roster move. Tagovailoa hasn't yet been placed on injured reserve, a move that — if it happened — would keep him sidelined for at least three games. The Dolphins have Reid Sinnett on the practice squad, and Flores said he would serve as the backup quarterback this week.
Sinnett had a strong preseason finale for Miami last month, completing 22 of 33 passes for 343 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 29-26 comeback win over Cincinnati. He has not thrown a regular-season NFL pass.
“We’re just going to move forward with the guys we have available," Flores said.
Tagovailoa was injured on the second series of Miami's 35-0 loss to Buffalo last weekend. He took a hit on a fourth-down play from the Bills' A.J. Epenesa, then slowly made his way to the sideline where a cart was waiting to take him off the field.
Tagovailoa completed 17 of 22 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown when the Dolphins went to Las Vegas and beat the Raiders 26-25 last season.
Brissett completed 24 of 40 passes for 169 yards and an interception after entering the game as Tagovailoa's replacement last week. He was sacked four times — Miami allowed six on the day, a figure that doesn't even count the play when Tagovailoa got hurt.
Offensive line play has been a major concern for Miami this season, and Flores said the evaluation process to find the best five players there continues.
“There’s going to be a lot of competition in practice this week,” Flores said. “And when we come out of practice this week, we’ll make the decision on who will be out there.”
But Brissett pushed back on the notion that the biggest issue in the Buffalo loss was the offensive line. He said the blame should be felt by numerous positions, and that everyone should have felt like part of the problem.
“Look, it's not my offense or Tua's offense," Brissett said. “It's the team. We're going to go as the team goes, not as the quarterback position goes or whatever position goes. We're going to go as we go. And that’s what I relayed to the guys. That's what it’s all about. It’s not about who's starting at quarterback. It's about us understanding that objective that week and it’s about us every week and we've got to go take care of our business."