I like Mondays as much as the next person.
Which is to say I don’t like Mondays all that much.
But once in a while, I find myself willing to embrace Mondays.
And today is that day. It’s a rarity, but it is here. This is the day where I’m willing to embrace the clean slate that comes with the calendar flipping to Monday. That is because today marks a good day for the Chicago Bears to get rookie quarterback Justin Fields reps with the first-team offense.
Full-blown practice reps.
I’m not talking about a handful of drills. Or a few snaps in situational reps. Instead, I am talking about live, full-blown, first-team reps. Get Fields in and out of the huddle with the linemen who will be blocking for him, receivers who will catch his passes, and backs he’ll hand it off to later this year. This is the week to do it. And today is the day to get the ball rolling.
The good news is that this seems to be the plan:
Matt Nagy says Justin Fields might get time with starters next week. #Bears
— Kevin Powell (@kpowell720) August 21, 2021
But the bad news is that this was supposed to be the plan last week:
Bears coach Matt Nagy indicates that QB Justin Fields will get more time with WR Allen Robinson and other starters and also against the No. 1 defense. He called it part of the “evaluation process” and part of their plan.
— Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) August 16, 2021
And the reps ended up being nothing more than a blip. Nothing memorable, to say the least.
Here’s my. beef. Mac Jones is getting those reps with the Patriots while splitting time with Cam Newton. Trey Lance is getting them as he builds a rapport with the 49ers. Neither quarterback is a lock to start for their respective team when Week 1 kicks off. But whenever either steps into the huddle this season, neither will be communicating with the first-team offense for the first time. Meanwhile, Justin Fields is getting a full-share of reps with players who won’t be on this roster when preparation for Week 1 begins. After that, Fields will be relegated to scout-team duties where he will continue to not get work with the first-team offense.
I think there is some value in building that in the type of low-pressure situation that a week of training camp practices bring. Nagy has alluded to seeing the importance in getting Fields reps with those guys. So … why not go through with actually doing it?
Head Coach Matt Nagy recently reaffirmed his stance that Andy Dalton will be the Bears’ starter in Week 1. He even went as far as to say: “We need to see him in the regular season.” Fine. Whatever. If you need one regular season game with your own eyes despite having more than 8,000 regular-season snaps worth of tape on Dalton, then so be it. And if you want to protect Fields from Aaron Donald and the remnants of Brandon Staley’s defense, then I can understand where you’re coming from (even if I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusion). But to me, saying you need to see Dalton in the regular season suggests your build up in camp and preseason isn’t what it needs to be in order to properly evaluate the team. And that is one heck of a way to tell on yourself.
Let’s be honest with ourselves and each other. This season is all about Justin Fields’ development. It is all about crafting and molding Fields. Not just for right now. But for a future in which he is leading this franchise for the next decade plus. And I’m not sure what holding him back from working with Allen Robinson II, Darnell Mooney, David Montgomery, and Cole Kmet does to accelerate that development. Even if it is for just a week. Because, otherwise, the next time Fields will work with those players will be on the off-chance he is thrust into a game situation when the regular season comes. Frankly, waiting until that moment feels like a misstep in whatever plan is in place.
However, that is a different post for another time.