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Scout Team Can Have Benefits for Justin Fields

Playing scout team quarterback isn't the shameful use of Justin Fields' abilities many Bears fans have made it out to be, and serves a purpose until he actually takes over as starter.

It seems shocking when taken at face value, yet few really understand what goes on in NFL practices or it wouldn't be surprising.

Justin Fields has been designated the scout team quarterback and this isn't an insult.

"He'll be 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," 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. So that's what he understands and knows and that's where we’re at with him right now."

The 11th pick of the draft, the arm the Bears have waited for since Jim McMahon if not for the century-plus of the franchise's existence, and he's a practice player.

Take a step back, a deep breath and consider for a minute what this really means.

The disappointment is Fields hasn't been named the starter. Everyone knew this was coming since the day in June during minicamp when Nagy revealed this wasn't going to be an actual competition, and that Andy Dalton really was the starter.

If Fields' fate is not to start games, he needs to be running the scout team. It lets him keep developing even when he isn't playing.

"But we've just got to keep growing him like I know coach Flip (QB coach John DeFilippo) is doing and Justin wants to do every single day," Nagy said. "So that's kind of where we're at with that."

Here's why this can be progress and doesn't necessarily have to be a travesty.

1. Top NFL QBs have always run scout team

The Kansas City Chiefs used Patrick Mahomes as scout team quarterback in 2017 Nagy was helping in his development and former Bears assistant Brad Childress told the Washington Post Mahomes "... used to slice and dice our defense and throw no-look passes."

Aaron Rodgers did this while sitting behind Brett Favre.

This has gone on for time immemorial in the NFL.

2. It beats standing around

The way practices work in the NFL each week is offenses direct their energies entirely toward practicing the week's game plan, the plays they've designated best for attacking their opponent's defenses in various situations. Their practice time is limited by NFL rules. So they only have so many snaps to devote in practice to that week's game and most give all or 90% of the snaps at practice to the first-string quarterback. It only makes sense.

If Fields doesn't throw and face defenses regularly within the game plan each week, letting him get in his throws at practice against his own defense makes all the sense. He doesn't get hit at practice and he's finding different ways to throw.

3. Iron strengthens iron

Fields can only get better by facing the first-team Bears defense on a daily basis. If the defense is what they think, then he will be trying to beat one of the league's best groups on a daily basis. Of course, the strength is the front seven and not the secondary but Eddie Jackson is one of the better players at his position. If Sean Desai is the type of defensive coordinator the Bears think, Fields will be looking at secondaries in practice trying to fool him constantly with deceptive coverage disguises. This was Vic Fangio's reputation and he was Desai's mentor. Fields should learn to decipher coverages if he's devoting energies to this job instead of just throwing the ball.

Fields' arm strength and touch will be a better all-around threat to help sharpen the Bears' pass defense at practice, as well. 

It will benefit both Fields and the defense. Fields has an arm like few other quarterbacks in the league and will challenge them daily.

4. The Nick Foles situation

It's possible Nick Foles could get traded at any time before the end of October. Then they'd have no alternative anyway. 

Foles has been around for a decade and doesn't need to benefit by looking at various defensive alignments and throwing against them. Fields would.

Certainly they'd bring in a third for the practice squad if a trade came off, but until that player would get up and running with what goes on at Halas Hall they would still need to have Fields do it.

5. It doesn't mean he can't play

The scout team is not an official NFL designation. 

It's not as if scout team players are automatically practice squad players who are not on the 53-man roster. There are players on the scout team who are practice squad players and members of the regular roster.

 He can still play in games and if the Bears decide to use him in a specific package or a few plays like in short yardage or a gimmick play, then they can do it and he's eligible to enter games.

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