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Goff defends Fields, young QBs: 'You're never ready to play as a rookie'

It has been a tough start to the 2021 NFL season for rookie quarterbacks.

As we head to Week 4, all five of the quarterbacks taken in the first round this year have played, though San Francisco's Trey Lance has taken only seven snaps with no starts. The other four – Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Mac Jones – are a combined 1-10 in their starts.

The Lions square off against the Bears in Chicago Sunday and could face Fields, who completed six passes and was sacked nine times in his first career start last week in a loss to Cleveland.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff knows what it's like to try and play the quarterback position as a rookie in the NFL. The former No. 1 overall pick in 2016 was Case Keenum's backup for the start of his rookie season, but was put in a starting role the final seven games of the year. Goff went 0-7 with a 54.6 completion percentage with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.

"We do this every year where these kids get drafted in the top 10 and we expect them to be the best player in the league right away," Goff said this week. "It's rare, it's rare. I think you look around the league and how many guys have done that in the last 20 years? I don't know, one or two. (Chiefs QB Patrick) Mahomes may have ruined it for all of these guys being as good as he was in year two.

"But it's a tough game. It's different than in college almost. It's a different game. It's tough and I remember my transition was hard and you're learning a lot, you're learning on the fly and I remember they always ask you, 'Are you ready to play? Are you ready to play?' No, you're never ready to play as a rookie."

There have certainly been a few outliers over the years when it comes to rookie quarterbacks having success. Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson come to mind as rookies who played well, but they were fourth and third-round picks, respectively, and had pretty good teams behind them. Quarterbacks taken high in the first round, like the top five in this year's class, usually go to teams with less proven rosters.

Goff went through the same growing pains as a rookie that we're seeing with this year's crop of quarterbacks.

"You never are (ready to play) until you go out there and do it and you have to experience and you have to go through it and you have to make the mistakes and get better," he said. "So, I always laugh every year where you're calling out who's going to be good and who's going to be bad after their rookie season.

"Give them three years, give them four years. See how they pan out and then make your decision. But no, I wish the best for (Bears QB) Justin (Fields). I think he's a hell of a player."

Chicago head coach Matt Nagy hasn't named a starter for Sunday's game against Detroit just yet. Andy Dalton remains No. 1 on the depth chart, Nagy said this week, but Dalton's dealing with a knee injury and was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday. If he can't play, Fields could get his second start. Even if Dalton is able to play, Lions head coach Dan Campbell said this week he'd still expect the Bears to have packages for Fields, much like the 49ers did with Lance in Detroit's Week 1 matchup with the 49ers.

View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.

Goff said he didn't actually start feeling comfortable as a starter until about midway through his second season, with somewhere between 10-15 starts under his belt.

"That's usually they say the biggest jump, right, the year one to year two," Goff said. "I'll say it again, you have to make those mistakes. The mistakes that they're all making are mistakes that every single one of us has made at one point in our career.

"We're probably written off the same way like a lot of them get written. It's part of the process of becoming an NFL quarterback for sure and kind of learning that sometimes you guys (media) aren't always right when you say who's good and bad. I think all of these guys are tremendous and I wish them all of the best."

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