Backup Duty Now for Justin Fields

Matt Nagy made it clear the process of developing rookie quarterback Justin Fields next includes watching Andy Dalton run the starting offense in offseason practices.
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Bears coach Matt Nagy made it onto the practice field Sunday for a walk-through practice and one first-hand view of Justin Fields before the next step in the quarterback's progression.

The veterans come to Halas Hall starting next week and this means fewer chances for every rookie in practice, including Fields.

Now Andy Dalton will get first-team snaps at quarterback and needs them.

"He's essentially like a rookie, as well," Nagy said.

Dalton and Fields don't know the offense and Nick Foles does.

Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo will come up with a plan to get Fields some work he needs in order to develop but not at the expense of Dalton, who starts.

"He's gonna get a good amount of reps on the front end, and with Justin and Nick, we're gonna work through that whole process and discuss it with those guys and I think the way you all can look at this for us, moving forward here in the next several weeks, is there's gonna be a lot of class on the grass and mental (work) for these guys," Nagy said. "So we'll try to do some breaking the huddle and learning some different tempos that we have and the mechanics of that, without doing a whole lot physically so that the next several weeks will be very mental and reps will be included there."

Nagy hasn't thrown out his plan based on three days of rookie camp work, including two he didn't see live in person due to his COVID-19 quarantine.

"What I would say is this: As we work through with Justin and where he's at with this offense, we know that it's going to take a little bit of time here in this offseason and as we get into training camp," Nagy said. "Andy is the starter, Andy is going to get the 1 reps. What we're telling Justin and Nick to do is make sure that they're doing everything they can to try to be that guy, and that's that competition part."

This is unlikely to sit well  with the "play Fields now" crowd.

"I know that's for everybody the biggest question is when is that going to happen," Nagy said. "When you move up to draft a quarterback like Justin, everyone's very excited and they want to know when, when, when, and trust me, we all understand that. 

"But we need to make sure that whatever that plan is that we put together, that it's the best thing for the Chicago Bears. I think the easiest way for us to simply think about this is it'll all happen for those quarterbacks. They'll all play however they're supposed to play. We're all going to see whatever we're supposed to see and then it's our job as evaluators of who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are to make sure that we're doing everything we can to make the Bears the best team possible. That's it."

Nagy called Fields' start a success because there was a minimal amount of repeating things they'd already covered.

Now comes the process of being able to go through the huddle, breaking it, getting to the line and checking things like whether his X receiver is on the line of scrimmage and Z receiver is off of it, and where the running back and the opposing middle linebacker are before running a play.

"So, I want to see that speed up," Nagy said. "And I think he's done a really good so far in what the little bit that we've seen in this rookie minicamp of doing a good job of post-snap vision, which was a strength of his in college.

"So that's just got to continue to speed up and you know he's going to get a great opportunity to do that against our defense and I think that's where we're going to have to see, OK, are there a lot of mistakes being made or are there a lot of plays being made and is it natural and is it easy for him. And that's what we'll evaluate and see. And again, you'll know when you watch it and we'll all feel it as coaches."

The natural progression by Fields is what the Bears will be looking for and it can't come at the expense of Dalton or the first-team offense.

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