Bears coaches have been designing a playbook for Justin Fields since he was drafted, drawing up and testing plays that best utilize a man clocked as the second-fastest NFL Scouting Combine quarterback this century.
Sunday, they’ll unveil an offense that will be worlds different than the one Andy Dalton ran. It figures to reside somewhere between the five option gimmicks Fields executed in Week 1 and the conservative, stagnant scheme he lumbered through in Week 2. The Bears will try to make Fields a passer first, a runner second and a weapon unlike anything the franchise has seen.
If the scheme works, it’s not hyperbole to say it will change the way the Bears offense looks for the next decade.
The future is now. And in, of all places, Cleveland.
“There are some things that he does extremely well that you want to be able to take advantage of, and that’s not always running and running the zone reads or designed QB runs,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said Wednesday, minutes after naming Fields the starter in place of an injured Dalton. “There’s a lot of stuff that he does way better than running the football. He is a quarterback that is tremendous in throwing the football that’s going to grow every day.”
Big picture, Fields’ improvement from game-to-game is the most important indicator of the franchise’s long-term health. He’ll be judged on wins and losses, too, so long as Nagy’s job security depends on showing improvement.
Monday night, the Bears’ coaching staff began drawing up their Week 3 gameplan. They weighed Fields’ strengths against the reality that, as a rookie, he’ll make mistakes.
The Bears want Fields to play fast — and that means narrowing the playbook down to a manageable size. Nagy figures to lean on running back David Montgomery. While coaches tend to give young quarterbacks easy throws, it’s hard to imagine the Bears doing it any more often than they already have. Only one team has fewer air yards than they do.
The team’s pre-snap motions and tempo changes could be tamped down — those are usually most effective with a veteran passer.
“We get together as a staff and we just talk through the things that we think he does well for us …” Nagy said. “We know on the front end there’s gonna be mistakes. That’s gonna happen. We understand that. But we gotta try to reduce and eliminate those as we go throughout the year when he’s going. So I think that for him, when he’s out there playing and going, that’s real. He’s got to be able to do that.
“And then every time he’s there playing: ‘Play hard, do your thing and just be the best quarterback you can be.'”
Fields will get every practice snap with the starters this week for the first time in his NFL career. That should smooth out some of the timing issues that plagued him Sunday at Soldier Field, when he posted a 27.7 passer rating.
“It’s definitely going to help me,” Fields said. “More than last week, of course, just getting reps with the offense instead of just working with the scout offense.”
Changes won’t be limited to the playbook. Fields’ athleticism and ability to improvise brings something new to the Bears offense.
That’s the plan, at least.
“With Justin, there’s the play that’s called and then there’s the second play that turns into kinda some backyard football,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “You know I’m going to be getting some sprints in after practice this week. You just gotta be aware of that. The scramble drill is really alive now with Justin.”