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A Justin Fields Start Requires Adjustments

It's not the rookie quarterback who would need to change things up but rather teammates and coaches as the Bears prepare to face Cleveland with starting QB now anyone's guess

Bears quarterback Justin Fields could get his first career start at Cleveland and it requires a real adjustment.

"I think he'll be fine," wide receiver Allen Robinson said. "He's played a ton of big games in his college career. He's the person who I feel, the bigger lights the guys like him step up and play their best at that moment."

In reality, the bigger adjustment is not so much for Fields as it is for teammates and coaches.

They'll be switching from a classical drop-back passer in Andy Dalton to someone far more mobile than even Mitchell Trubisky was the last four seasons. While they can benefit from his ability to move, they can also struggle with such a drastic change.

A different challenge for receivers

Receivers need to have the scramble drill down more because Fields looks to pass as much as he does run when he takes off with the ball. The touchdown pass on the run he threw to Jesper Horsted to close preseason against Tennessee was a perfect example.

It even shocked his own defense when they faced him in practices the past few weeks on the scout team.

"One thing I noticed just with him being on the scout team, he can put the ball on a dime," defensive end Bilal Nichols said. "Some of the windows that he squeezes the ball into, his accuracy throwing on the run is like incredible. He shows a lot of talent in his arm strength and just his accuracy, also along with his athletic ability. You know, so he’s a tremendous player, he got a lot of upside. 

"He’s definitely going to be a dude in this league and I’m excited for him, you know, and I feel like with him we’ll be in good hands."

Then there is simply having the timing down between receivers and passer.

"Things take time," Robinson said. "But at the end of the day, time is of the essence. For us right now in the season, we are kind of limited with that so we just have to capitalize on our opportunities that we have to get extra throws and try to make sure we crossing all of our T's and dot all of our I's when it comes to the things we want to accomplish as far as certain ball-placement throws, where I need to be at, where someone wants me to be at, things like that."

Blockers must adjust to QB who runs all over

There is also an adjustment to playing with new blockers. Blockers with mobile quarterbacks have to be aware of how the passer is leaving the pocket when he scrambles, in addition to the extra run-blocking that is required of them.

Tackle Jason Peters played early in his career in Philadelphia with Michael Vick and now might be playing with Fields. Against the Bengals, Peters gave up a sack that he normally might not have of allowed with a pocket passer because he tried blocking Trey Hendrickson by moving him along deeper but Fields had dropped even deeper before deciding to run out of the pocket and throw. It put Hendrickson right where he needed to be to tomahawk the ball out of Fields' hand as he tried to throw on the run.

"Well, guys like Justin and (Vick), those kind of guys that can use their feet, they're always going to try to make a play," Peters said. "And most of the time they do. So even when it's not a play and the receiver is covered that's when you've got to get to your spot and you've got to be a little deeper because they're going to bail out of the pocket high versus sometimes they'll push up and they'll hit the B-gap like Justin did late in the game."

That was the play when Fields stepped up to his left and ran for a first down to keep the clock running in the four-minute drill.

"I pushed the guy up and he went and got the first down to end the game but most of the time those guys are going to try to bail out and get outside the pocket and make a play with their feet," Peters said. "And sometimes the defenders, what makes them similar is when they get outside the pocket it's a run/pass situation. If the defenders don't come up they're going to run it, then they're going to dump it off. So those kind of guys are scary."

Game-planning for Fields

The biggest change might be for the coaches but it's because of Fields' inexperience. The game plan has to coincide with plays, checks and motions that can allow Fields to play without thinking too much.

"What happens with that is I don't think it minimizes too much if he's the starter," coach Matt Nagy said. "We've just got to make sure that whatever we put in there, that he knows inside-out. He can play fast.

"So if there's more plays that he knows or likes, we'll get that in there and he'll go out there and play quarterback the way it's supposed to be played, but we do have to be a little bit careful."

It could very well take on the look the offense did with Trubisky last year, when he returned to the lineup and long after coaches knew he was not getting any better at ready defenses. The difference here is Fields is just starting his career and very well could improve at this aspect of the game.

"He's very confident so when he calls a play you just want to make sure you do your job because you definitely believe in the kid, that he's going to make a play for you," Peters said. "And most of the time he does, and you know with him being a young guy all he's going to do is continue to grow and get better."

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven