When quarterback Justin Fields walks onto the practice field Friday at Halas Hall, he’ll be taking the first step toward what the Bears hope is a transcendent NFL career. His coaches, though, will be watching the basics all three days of the Bears’ rookie minicamp.
When quarterback Justin Fields walks onto the practice field Friday at Halas Hall, he’ll be taking the first step toward what the Bears hope is a transcendent NFL career.
His coaches, though, will be watching the basics during all three days of the Bears’ rookie minicamp.
“Show the other 10 guys in that huddle that you have some command and you’ve been working your butt off on the plays,” quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said. “Knowing the cadence, knowing where to go with the football.
“It’s not going to be a very in-depth installation in terms of the amount of plays, amount of formations, shifts and motions and that sort of thing. But I want to see him. Those building blocks of becoming a starting quarterback in the league — and you start at the lowest of lows.”
So much of Fields’ evaluation — at least this early in his career — will be about what he does before the ball is even snapped.
“You start with the cadence, you start with the huddle,” DeFilippo said. “You start with knowing your first wide vision, which is everything that you have before you get the ball in your hand. Play clock. Are we lined up correctly? What’s the cadence? Is there a kill with the play?”
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will look for what he calls basic quarterback intangibles: leadership, communication, a sense of urgency — and, yes, his personality in the huddle.
“Then it just kind of starts — ‘OK, that’s where he is in all these areas,’” Lazor said. “Now we address them and help him get better. And then you also have kind of your list — ‘I’ve seen this guy really throw the ball down the field, let’s see what it looks like in-person.’ You have your list of things that are kind of more personal curiosities.”
One of the best to ever do it struggled with those building blocks. Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes had never huddled regularly until he showed up for the Chiefs’ 2017 rookie minicamp.
“He started screaming the plays, and the defense could hear him on the other side because he had never called a play call in a huddle before,” Bears coach Matt Nagy, who was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator at the time, said earlier this month. “Those are the little things we all think we can get up and do that these kids haven’t done — getting a snap from under center, doing different things there. So those small little processes take time. Once we get that, you can play faster and faster.”
The Bears will pattern Fields’ immersion after that of Mahomes, who didn’t make his first NFL start until the Chiefs’ regular season finale in 2017. They were so confident in Mahomes’ development they agreed to trade starter Alex Smith — who had just led the league with a 104.7 passer rating — a month into the offseason.
Fields — who huddled more than Mahomes did in college — will need time to connect with his new teammates, though. While splitting training-camp reps with both Dalton and Nick Foles could slow that progress, the Bears will have a plan to give the rookie plenty of work.
By then, the Bears hope Fields will have mastered the building blocks.
“It’s not our first time doing it, so we don’t freak out about the really good or the really bad,” Lazor said. “If you see ‘really good’ you might want to react to it. You try to hold that back and just let it play out. …
“Day 1 can look certain ways, but we know what the end is. We know what we’re aiming for. And we know there are a lot of ways to get there. And it’s our job to find the best way to get each guy there. We really won’t treat Justin any differently.”