Bears left tackle Jason Peters had Trey Hendrickson blocked Sunday afternoon. Then rookie quarterback Justin Fields, rather than pushing up in the pocket on third-and-8 halfway through the third quarter, decided to scramble right. When he stepped backward to plant his foot and run, Fields went right into the Bengals defensive end’s grasp — and fumbled.
Had Andy Dalton been in the game, Peters said Tuesday, he probably would have stepped up in the pocket. Fields, one of the fastest quarterbacks on the planet, had different ideas.
“I’ve just got to adjust,” Peters said.
The Bears have all week to. Though coach Matt Nagy tried to obfuscate the question Monday in the name of a perceived competitive advantage, Fields seems primed to make his first NFL start Sunday in Cleveland after Dalton suffered a bone bruise to his left knee. Presuming Fields does, Peters will change the way he operates.
“Yeah, I’m definitely going to work on that all week, just kicking more and getting more depth,” he said. “That way when [Fields] bails out of the pocket he’s got a clean pocket.”
Peters, 39, has played with someone like that before — Michael Vick, the most explosive running quarterback of his era, was his Eagles teammate from 2009-13.
“Well guys like Justin and Mike, those kind of guys that can use their feet, they’re always going to try to make a play … ” he said. “So those kinds of guys are scary. They’re definitely similar [in terms of] arm strength and mobility.”
Fields’ teammates are confident in the first-round pick after he showed flashes of excellence in training camp games and throughout the first two weeks of regular season practices.
Playing alongside him will take some adjusting — but it’s a change his probably won’t make again. Once Fields starts, he figures to be cemented in the spot as long as he’s healthy. To do anything different would stunt the first-round pick’s growth — or be an admission of a plan gone awry.
But first, Fields needs to work with the starters this week.
“We just have to capitalize on our opportunities that we have, to get extra throws,” receiver Allen Robinson said. “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.”
The extra throws, Robinson said, will come “after practice, in between practices, in the middle of practice” after starters spent the first two weeks of the season playing alongside Dalton.
Robinson didn’t use that as an excuse for dropping what would have been a 35-yard touchdown pass from Fields in the fourth quarter against the Bengals. He’s been impressed thus far with the rookie.
“Obviously he can make plays,” Robinson said. “And then just his competitive nature, I didn’t think he was surprised by anything. He looked comfortable out there. …
“I think he’ll be fine. 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.”
Fields has wowed his teammates in quiet moments, too, as the scout team quarterback mimicking that week’s opponent against the starting defense.
“One thing I noticed just with him being on the scout team, he can put the ball on a dime,” defensive lineman 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.
“So he’s a tremendous player. He’s 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.”