Arkush: Sure, it's preseason, but Fields' performance was invigorating
NFL exhibition games can be pretty awful. The Chicago Bears' performance in the first half Saturday vs. the Miami Dolphins, especially on offense, was worse than awful, in spite of the Bears' eventual 20-13 victory.
After the Bears managed just 8:52 of possession, 79 total yards, 2 first downs, 5 penalties for 35 yards and 1-of-6 on 3rd down in the first half, I'm sure the 18,000 no shows among the 61,183 fans who bought tickets were elated by their decisions to be elsewhere. Not to mention 42 of those yards, both first downs and their only three points came in the final 45 seconds of the half.
But let's be honest, this exhibition season in Chicago isn't about the Bears team. It's all about Justin Fields.
And after a rough start and a mostly awful second quarter, the kid put on a show in the third quarter to finish with some pretty nice numbers: 14-for-20 passing for 142 yards (with a 30-yard long), one touchdown and no interceptions. He managed a 106.7 passer rating and added 33 yards on five carries (with a 21-yard long) and a touchdown.
It's not just that these practice games don't count that makes them so frustrating. It's almost impossible to know what can be completely ignored, and a lot of it can, and what can or should be taken seriously.
What was real Saturday regardless of circumstances was how easy it was to see why Chicago is so excited and so much of the NFL is so intrigued by Fields.
For his head coach "calm" was the word of the day, with Matt Nagy telling us afterward that Fields was "very, very calm."
"I though Justin, and all these guys, did a good job," Nagy said. "But I thought because he played the most snaps, the one thing you felt from Justin ... was he was extremely calm the whole time."
To be clear, Andy Dalton is still very much the starting quarterback, for now, and Nagy made no attempt to sugar coat his six snaps, which yielded 14 yards, or how awful the first-team offense looked behind him.
But he was quick to point out how little it meant for the 10-year veteran, that he had no chance to right the ship after just two possessions and his rehearsals will get much more serious the next two weeks.
Then he went back to gushing over his prized pupil.
"I thought that Justin did a great job of worrying about today and he played smart football," Nagy said. "He made plays, and again it is preseason. We all understand that there's variables involved in all that. But at the same time, if you go back and look, is he doing what you want him to do? Absolutely.
"He was just very reserved and he also, with that scramble for the touchdown, you feel the vibe, you feel the energy, it was just very cool."
So what are these variables we all keep talking about that leave us all so skittish about getting too far out on a limb one way or the other in our evaluations?
Fields may have explained it best when he was asked how he felt about the speed of his first NFL game.
"It was actually kind of slow to me, to be honest," Fields said.
The one thing every NFL wannabe talks about is the increase in the speed of the game from college to the pros.
But when Fields came out for his first possession, half the Dolphins starting defense had already gone to the sidelines. His second and third possessions, also three-and-outs, were all against the second defense and that 45-second drive near halftime, plus the whole third quarter, were against the bottom of the Dolphins roster. There were a lot of guys on the field who will never take a snap in a real NFL game.
That doesn't discount what Fields did at all, but you have to take it with a grain of salt.
Fields clearly has a presence and command that Mitch Trubisky never did and that most top QB prospects struggle to attain. Seeing it in an actual game with live contact was exciting and invigorating.
Now you just have to keep telling yourself, "Hey Bears fan, it was just the introduction, not the epilogue."
• Twitter: @Hub_Arkush