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A Breakthrough for Justin Fields

Bears coach Matt Nagy saw something in Justin Fields' play over the first four days of practices to indicate he'd been doing his "homework," so to speak.

The hard part is apparently over for Justin Fields, although naturally he needs to avoid regression.

When Fields left minicamp, he was sending back voice emails of play calls he had to make to let them know he knew how to make huddle calls properly.

"I think he really has the huddle part down in regards to calling the plays," Bears coach Matt Nagy said Monday. "He sees the play when he calls it; he doesn't just read the play now. He's past that. So you can check that one off. He's got to continue to do that."

It seems like such a basic and easy part of a quarterback's job, but for Fields the simple aspect came in understanding the pass plays themselves.

"The easiest thing I would say is the pass concepts," he said. "We had a lot of the same at Ohio State. So the pass concepts for sure. 

"And then I would say the hardest thing is just literally saying the play in the huddle. In college we got the play from the sidelines and we would get signals."

Obviously he didn't need to call plays out for teammates then. So he's logging extra work, sort of like doing homework each night, in order to be ready for practice the next day.

"So some of our (Bears) play calls are longer than others," Fields said. "That's why at night, the night before practice, we get out scripts and I just go through all our calls and really just try to say it to myself. That way when I actually do get in the huddle at practice, I'm able to spit it out quick."

Fields also took time to get better in tune with the playbook during the break before camp.  

"I've just gotten more comfortable," he said. "Just spending more time in the playbook, spending more time with the coaches. I think just kind of going back to studying the first installs we did at rookie minicamp and stuff like that, I've just gotten more comfortable with the plays and with the offense. 

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"And instead of trying to remember the play call in the huddle, I actually picture it in my head so I actually can like see the play call when I'm saying it to the other guys."

And this was exactly what Nagy was trying to get him to do. So what's next on the Nagy checklist?

"Now, it's going to be going through his progressions post-snap," Nagy said. "Things change, right? Disguised coverages. They hide their blitzes. Knowing where your protection calls are, being on the same page as the center. That's where I think now when things get real and you start putting the pads on and the tempo picks up and you're playing, now we want to see him execute plays and play fast. That's probably the biggest thing."

Those pads come on first on Tuesday at Soldier Field with an 11 a.m. practice at Meijer Chicago Bears Family Fest.

The progression idea was something Nagy and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor were pointing at last weekend when they talked about how Fields sometimes wanted to stick with the downfield play even when the play itself had a progression going from short-to-deep, and the short route was open.

"With Justin, he's wired that way and we are working with him at times to say, 'Hey, listen, if it's not there, just take the checkdown,' and that's OK," Nagy said. "I know I joked around after the draft and talked about touchdown-to-touchdown mentality, which is still a great mindset, but at the same time you've got to be smart, and we have players who can make plays with the football in their hand and he's going to start learning though."

Fields found some words from starter Andy Dalton beneficial in this regard.

"Today, you know, I wasn't doing too well in 7-on-7," Fields said. "I was trying to go downfield too much, so he was just telling me to take what the defense gives me.

"I'm always going to stay aggressive but Andy has taught me a lot of stuff from different stuff like that to different footwork stuff. And I always ask him questions whenever one pops up in my head."

The questions will decrease as he goes through Nagy's progression: from calling plays, to understanding what's happening on the field post-snap, to making plays in the offense.  

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