But What About Justin Fields?

Analysis: The game plan is set in motion, the players on offense are ready to go but rookie Justin Fields has run the scout team all week. So here are possible roles he could have in this game against the Rams.
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One question Bears fans want answered is not whether the team can open the season with a victory on the road over a Los Angeles Rams team many feel is destined for the Super Bowl.

The real question is whether rookie Justin Fields will get in the game and under what circumstances.

Matt Nagy last week had been asked about using Fields for a few plays or maybe a series and wouldn't do much other than smile and say he's not talking about it. Passing game coordinator John DeFilippo just pointed to his head coach and said he isn't allowed to talk about such strategic issues.

Nagy did address whether the possibility of injury risk could be an issue when using a quarterback in place of Andy Dalton for a series or in special use like the way New Orleans uses Taysom Hill.

"You know, and there's always risk there, but it is football and we just want to make sure that whatever we're doing with whatever players, we understand that comes with the territory," Nagy said. "But for us we're just focused on prepping the best we can against the Rams."

The fans don't see practices or sit in meeting rooms. They don't break down the practice film or game film the way coaches do. The preseason games and performances only count very little in evaluations.

"So that's where, when we’re evaluating Andy, we feel really good in practice with where he's at," Nagy said. "Justin's continuing to grow.

"It's everything we've wanted in this quarterback room this entire offseason."

However, Nagy has made it clear all along Dalton owns the position as long as there is production. It's a vague term.

"Now you go into the production, the wins, all that stuff. Where are you?" Nagy said. "That's what you've got to evaluate.

"We're following our plan and we feel good about it. The quarterbacks have been great. They understand it, and that's the why for all of us."

Here are some potential uses for Fields in Week 1 since he isn't starting and Nagy isn't talking about the potential for these plays.

1. Short Yardage or Goal Line

With Fields' 4.4-second speed in the 40, the threat he'd run to a first down or a touchdown either on scramble, on a bootleg or on a zone-read option play would be an ideal situation.

There are drawbacks. They might not want to wreck Dalton's confidence the first times he's on a field with the first-team offense as he tries to get big plays converted.

It could be a situation where they use this into the second quarter or third quarter of games to throw off defenses after Dalton has gotten a feel for the offense and had chances on big downs.

2. Hail Mary

The man with the big arm could come in at the end of the half or even end of the game for a prayer pass to the end zone. He'd be the designated Hail Mary guy. Letting a quarterback scramble around and then heave a pass to the end zone works better than letting him try to do it from the pocket, and although Dalton isn't "a stiff," as Nagy likes to call it, he definitely is not a mobile quarterback. Dalton also doesn't have a weak arm, but Fields can really let it out from a greater distance.

3. A full series of plays

The late, great Steve McNair did this when he was a rookie. They had series mapped out ahead of time for him. The problem with this is it can break up offensive continuity if they've established a rhythm and the offense is cooking.

Then again, how often have the Bears ever said their offense is cooking. It's why Bears fans are starving for a quarterback and points.

When a quarterback takes over for full series at a time, the coaches have to be all in with confidence that he has reached a point where he can be a productive quarterback. From the way Nagy talks, Fields is where "they thought he'd be," but no one is saying he's ready to go in and read defenses for entire series. They must have enough confidence in him that he could get the job done or he wouldn't be the backup, but there's no experience here going through game week with the game plan and then taking over for series at a time.

4. A random down here or there

Just bringing fields in for a play here or there could satisfy the curiosity of coaches and possibly even fans.

Again, it's a situation where they could be chipping at Dalton's rhythm or confidence by doing this. While fans definitely wouldn't care, the coaches do.

5. Clipboard carrier

He's done his job already and that was running the scout team. Now he's the clipboard guy on the sidelines. Time to fit him for a visor.

6. Reliever

This is the role the Bears don't want to see or even talk about because it would mean things haven't gone well one way or the other.

No one has seen Dalton really operate the first-team offense in games. He had some first-team players in his appearance against Buffalo but definitely not the receivers and all the offensive line or running back David Montgomery.

What if he comes out and really is bad? Then they'd need to go to Fields at some point to generate something offensively. His understanding of the offense wouldn't be good enough, but if the offense is struggling already then sometimes something like a mobile, running quarterback can be a catalyst for the offense.

Another way Fields would be used as a reliever is really something they don't want to consider and that's if Andy Dalton get injured. This is a disaster for the team and a lot of pressure on Fields that coaches may not feel he's up to at this point.

7. Mopping up

Either the Bears are losing badly or they're way ahead. Take a guess which one would be applicable against the Rams.

Then Fields comes in to finish the game up and the Bears can analyze his snaps. As long as it isn't a case where the first team has been decimated by injuries in the game, this would be fine.

It lets Fields get the edge off so the next time he goes out there, if it really counts in a game not decided, he'll be past that nervousness associated with the first time.

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