LAKE FOREST — With the preseason in the books, the Bears have begun to turn their attention to the Los Angeles Rams. The Bears open the regular season Sept. 12 in Los Angeles.
NFL teams have an extra week to prepare for their Week 1 opponents with only three preseason games this year. Amid that extra week, teams also have to cut their rosters down from 80 players to 53 by 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Turning the attention to the Rams and the regular season means rookie quarterback Justin Fields will start preparing for his new role as scout team quarterback.
“He’ll be [on] scout team, and he’ll be out there trying to do everything he can to give our defense the best look that they can give,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “But within that, there’s a lot of concepts that we see and that we do that he can continue to make plays. Don’t go out here and be a guy that’s just throwing the ball around. You want to grow as a quarterback in that position.”
Fields finished his preseason Saturday against Tennessee with a beautiful touchdown pass in the final seconds of the first half, fitting the ball into a tight window.
It might infuriate a portion of Bears fans that Fields isn’t starting right away. But there are some positives in this, namely that Fields will be going against the Bears’ first-team defense every day in practice.
The other positive is that Fields remains the No. 2 quarterback ahead of Nick Foles, even if he also is doing scout team duties. Nagy said Monday that Fields would be the first quarterback off the bench if starter Andy Dalton were to suffer an injury.
Dalton confident in offensive line: Despite some struggles in the preseason when he was on the field, Dalton believes the Bears starting offense will be fine. He didn’t fault the offensive line – which played its starters Saturday – for its struggles because several of those starters haven’t had much time to practice together.
“With our group, [it’s] just getting them more opportunities to mesh as a unit,” Dalton said. “That’s the biggest thing, at this point, because with some of the injuries and some of the stuff that we’ve had happen, the more time that they have together, the more time that they’re able to work as a unit, it’s going to make us better.”
Nagy said he initially was disappointed in the offensive line’s performance Saturday but gained back some confidence after watching the tape.
“Schematically, some of the things that we were doing, situationally, in that game probably aren’t realistic,” Nagy said. “In the run game, there were some things they did better than I thought they did. So I feel better now than I did that night.”
Cuts looming: Amid this awkward week with no game, the Bears have to trim their roster. Tensions will be high for those at the bottom of the roster.
“This is the toughest time of year in football,” Dalton said. “You start the roster with 90 guy,s and at the end of the day you’re going to have 53 on the roster. That’s a ton of guys that are going to get released.”
General manager Ryan Pace and his staff were hard at work making those roster decisions Monday. Nagy said the coaches and player personnel staffs would convene Monday night to make final decisions.
“We’ll meet tonight as a staff, go through and really start finalizing,” Nagy said. “So this is that time right now where these guys have worked their tails off to get to this point, and unfortunately you have to have some tough conversations with them.”
Injury report: Nagy said the Bears will not be providing injury updates until the team is required to release its first injury report Sept. 8, ahead of the Week 1 game. He indicated he doesn’t want to give the Rams any additional information than what is required.
“We’re in L.A. mode right now, so Wednesday when the injury report comes out is when I’ll go ahead and be real specific with [injuries],” Nagy said.
This likely will be a light week of practice, anyway, to minimize potential injuries ahead of next week’s opener. The team has the weekend off, too.