Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) rushes for a 26-yard touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields looks to pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)
CLEVELAND (AP) There was going to be a point, maybe later this season or early next, when Justin Fields was going to become Chicago's starting quarterback.
The day arrived quickly.
With veteran Andy Dalton sidelined for the time being by a knee injury, Fields will make his first NFL start on Sunday as the Bears visit the Cleveland Browns, who are still waiting to put together a complete game after two uneven performances.
Ready or not, Fields is on the field.
Dalton's injury forced Bears coach Matt Nagy to make the switch and come to a decision some Chicago fans finalized the moment the team drafted Fields, the former Ohio State star, with the No. 11 overall pick.
The plan was to bring Fields along slowly. In the NFL, plans can change in a snap.
''I think I'm ready,'' Fields said shortly after Nagy announced his start. ''I've been preparing for this moment for a long time.''
The 22-year-old has gotten a taste of what to expect after playing in select packages in Week 1 against the Rams and then getting more reps last week after Dalton got hurt against Cincinnati, his former team.
Starting will be different, of course, but Fields is no ordinary rookie. He played on big stages with the Buckeyes, and that experience should help him deal with Cleveland's howling crowd and a hostile environment inside FirstEnergy Stadium.
Fields has impressed the Bears with his poise, which he admitted has not always been a strength.
''I used to not be this way,'' he told reporters. ''I definitely learned from past experiences, past first starts. I still remember my first start in high school, I was nervous as can be. I think being more this way just being stoic and being even-keeled, I think that just keeps my mind calm and allows me to think more.''
Cleveland's defense, which has had its issues through two games, particularly on third downs, will try to rattle Fields by disguising coverages and pressuring him. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski has seen enough of Fields on tape to know he can be dangerous.
''Dynamic,'' Stefanski said when asked what jumped out to him. ''He made plays with his arm. He had a nice throw into the end zone there in one of those drives. Made plays with his feet late. There is no shortage of things they can do with him, and I am sure now with a full week of practice they can expand upon that.''
Nagy has stressed that Fields is just holding down the starting job until Dalton's healthy.
That plan could be in jeopardy next.
Odell Beckham Jr. appears ready to roll.
Barring a last-minute setback, Cleveland's speedy wide receiver is expected to play for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury in October. As he went through months of grueling therapy, Beckham said he never considered retirement.
''I'm not the kind of fighter who got knocked out on the last fight and I'm going to hang it up,'' he said. ''I've got to come out and fight again.''
The Browns could use Beckham after losing dependable and durable receiver Jarvis Landry to a sprained knee last week. Landry, perhaps the team's strongest leader, will miss at least three games after going on injured reserve.
The Bears got the bounce-back performance they needed last week after being shredded by Rams QB Matthew Stafford in the opener.
Chicago's defense forced turnovers on four consecutive possessions, picking off three straight passes by Joe Burrow. Linebacker Roquan Smith ran one of the picks back for a touchdown, but the Bears got just two field goals off the other three takeaways.
''We need to fix that,'' tight end Cole Kmet said. ''If we want to be the team we want to be and make a run this year, that stuff can't happen. So we need to be able to capitalize on those opportunities.''
Cleveland's offense is clicking, the defense isn't.
It's one thing to give up chunk yardage to Kansas City, but Houston ripped off big plays last week and might have beaten the Browns if quarterback Tyrod Taylor didn't get hurt.
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods, under fire by a vocal segment of Cleveland's demanding fan base, believes his group - with so many new players - is starting to get it together.
''It's progressing. It's the NFL so they are not going to wait for us,'' he said. ''It really comes down to all of us just really playing together. For us as coaches, just making sure that we are game planning and putting the guys in the positions they need to be in to make plays. We are going through that process.
''It looks good at times, and at times we know there are things that we need to fix.''
The Bears figure to have a little more defensive depth.
Lineman Mario Edwards Jr. is set to return from a two-game suspension for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing substances. He had four sacks last season, his first in Chicago.
''I've been ready,'' Edwards said. ''I've been doing what I need to do to stay ready. I'm excited to be out there.''
It wasn't clear if nose tackle Eddie Goldman will play this week. He missed the first two games because of a knee injury after sitting out last season because of COVID-19 concerns.
Dallas Cowboys starting safety Damontae Kazee was arrested early Tuesday morning on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, according to the police. Kazee was booked on a Class B misdemeanor and was released after posting $2,500 bond. The 28-year-old has started all six games this year and has 17 tackles (13 solo), an interception and a forced fumble for Dallas' improved defense. The Cowboys are on their bye in Week 7, but Kazee could be facing a suspension from the league and may not be available in Week 8 against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Chicago Bears placed defensive back Deon Bush (quadriceps) on Injured Reserve and linebacker Robert Quinn on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. Bush was injured in the Week 6 loss to the division-rival Green Bay Packers and will now be forced to miss at least the next three games. The sixth-year pro has 15 tackles and two passes defensed through the first six games of the year. Safety Teez Tabor was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad as a result. Quinn has 5.5 sacks, 19 tackles and five tackles for loss so far in 2021, so Chicago's defensive line could be at less than full strength in Week 7 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if he isn't cleared from the league's protocols this week.
The Carolina Panthers placed wide receiver Brandon Zylstra (hamstring) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday. Zylstra has not been a very big part of Carolina's offense through six weeks, catching all eight of his targets for 139 yards and a touchdown. He will miss at least the next three games after landing on Injured Reserve. The injury to Zylstra should open up more opportunities for both rookie wide receivers Terrace Marshall Jr. and Shi Smith. Smith, a sixth-rounder out of South Carolina, caught his first two NFL targets in the Week 6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings for 20 yards.
The New England Patriots placed linebacker Chase Winovich (hamstring) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday. Winovich injured his hamstring in the Week 6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and will now miss at least the next three weeks. He hasn't been a big part of New England's defense, playing just 19% of the snaps, but he's contributed more frequently on special teams. The 26-year-old has recorded seven tackles (four solo) and a QB hit in six games on the season. Defensive back Myles Bryant was signed to the active roster off the practice squad to take Winovich's spot on the roster.
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said that "all signs" are pointing toward offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (head) entering the league's concussion protocol this week. Lewan was strapped to a stretcher and carted off the field in Monday night's win over the Buffalo Bills, so all things considered, this has to be good news. The 30-year-old won't be guaranteed to return in Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs, but it looks like he has avoided a serious neck injury. Kendall Lamm replaced Lewan at left tackle for the rest of the Monday night game and would likely get the start on quarterback Ryan Tannehill's blind side if Lewan isn't cleared for this weekend.
Denver Broncos pass-rusher Bradley Chubb's (ankle) return isn't quite around the corner, according to head coach Vic Fangio. Chubb had a walking boot on his surgically repaired ankle on Tuesday and has been on Injured Reserve since he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his ankle on Sept. 22. Denver's defense got off to a hot start against some of the worst teams in the NFL, but they've come crashing back down to Earth and allowed a season-high 34 points to the division-rival Las Vegas Raiders in the Week 6 loss. They could certainly use Chubb's pass-rushing help, but it doesn't look like it's coming anytime soon. Despite Denver's struggles on defense of late, they'll be on the streaming radar in Week 7 on Thursday night against a banged-up Cleveland Browns team.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III (hip) was upgraded from a limited practice on Monday's estimated report to a full practice on Tuesday. Gordon has been dealing with some nagging injuries in recent weeks, but it hasn't kept him from playing on game days, and he continues to split the backfield work right down the middle with rookie Javonte Williams. The 28-year-old should be good to go for Thursday night's clash with the Cleveland Browns. Williams has been more efficient and has shown more big-play ability through six games, but Gordon is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has scored two touchdowns on 332 rushing yards on 70 carries. He'll be on the RB2/3 borderline again this week.
The New Orleans Saints designated wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (hamstring), linebacker Kwon Alexander (elbow) and defensive end Marcus Davenport (shoulder) for return from Injured Reserve this week. The Saints will now have 21 days to activate the trio from Injured Reserve. Michael Thomas (ankle) is also getting closer to a return, but Smith appears to be ahead in his recovery. Smith has only played in one game in Week 4 before getting injured, and he wasn't targeted at all in the passing game. Marquez Callaway currently leads all Saints receivers with 13 receptions on 21 targets for 222 yards and three touchdowns on the season, with Deonte Harris actually leading the team with 236 receiving yards. Smith could have a bigger role before Thomas returns, but it's hard to get excited about him in this low-volume Saints passing attack.
The Denver Broncos cut wide receiver David Moore on Tuesday, according to a source. The move isn't unexpected after the team added John Brown last week. Moore was active for two games but didn't record a reception on his two targets. The Broncos are also looking forward to the return of Jerry Jeudy, who remains on Injured Reserve after suffering a high ankle sprain in the season opener. Jeudy has resumed workouts but has a less than 50% chance to return on Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns. There's a much better chance that Jeudy will make his return in Week 8 against the Washington Football Team. The second-year wideout figures to return to a considerable role in Denver's offense and should be rostered in all leagues.
New York Giants wide receiver C.J. Board (arm) was placed on Injured Reserve on Tuesday after suffering a broken arm in the Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Board will miss at least the next three games while on IR, but he'll probably be out longer. The 27-year-old has just four catches on six targets for 51 yards through the first six games of the season, and he hasn't played more than 31% of the offensive snaps in any one game so far this season. With Kenny Golladay (knee) and rookie Kadarius Toney (ankle) unlikely to play in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers, the Giants could be down to Sterling Shepard, Dante Pettis, Collin Johnson and John Ross as their primary receivers.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder) missed another practice on Tuesday. His DNP designation on Monday came on the estimated practice report, but he actually missed practice on Tuesday. Beckham is looking truly questionable after missing some game time in the Week 6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It could be a death blow to Cleveland's offense, as they'll also be without both starting running backs Nick Chubb (calf) and Kareem Hunt (calf). If OBJ cannot play on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins and rookie Anthony Schwartz would operate in three-receiver sets if Jarvis Landry isn't ready to come off Injured Reserve. Peoples-Jones would be the most attractive after going for nine catches (11 targets), 171 yards and two touchdowns in the last two weeks.
New York Giants OT Korey Cunningham and WR Dante Pettis were signed off the practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Rashard Robinson was signed off the practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 19.
The New York Giants placed left tackle Andrew Thomas (ankle, foot) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday, so he'll be forced to miss at least the next three games. Thomas is dealing with a right foot injury and also a left ankle issue, so he was pretty hobbled in the Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Giants offensive line will be more vulnerable in the near future, beginning in a Week 7 matchup with the Carolina Panthers. It's bad news for quarterback Daniel Jones, especially if he's without starting running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) for a second straight game this weekend. Expect Matt Peart to fill in on Jones' blind side in the immediate future.
Denver Broncos WR David Moore was released Tuesday, Oct. 19.
New York Giants rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney (ankle) is expected to be out for at least one game, according to a source. However, as of right now, it doesn't sound like the Giants plan on placing Toney on Injured Reserve, which would require him to miss at least three games. The 22-year-old first-rounder exploded for 10 catches and 189 yards in Week 5 when Kenny Golladay injured his knee, and he was in line for another big role in the Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams before he aggravated his ankle on Sunday. Toney should remain involved in the passing game whenever he returns from his ankle injury, so he's worth stashing in deeper leagues. With Golladay not a lock to return in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers, Sterling Shepard could be in line for a massive target share.
Chicago Bears S Deon Bush (quad) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 19. DB Teez Tabor was signed off the practice squad to replace him on the roster.
Free-agent RB Chris Thompson was signed to the practice squad of the Chicago Bears on Tuesday, Oct. 19.