By all accounts, Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields played well in his limited snaps on Sunday Night Football against the Rams. Matt Nagy praised his decision to throw the ball in a run-pass option on his very first play, and of course he flashed his dynamic play making ability on his touchdown run.
But none of that will change the plan that the team has in place for his development.
“We’re where we’re at, and I think he did a great job of what we were asking him to do,” Nagy said on Monday afternoon.
Nagy also wasn’t ready to divulge whether or not that “great job” will lead to extended playing time in Week 2, like a full series.
“I don’t know,” Nagy said. “Some of that you get into as well is getting guys in and out of rhythm, too, with how that works. You could say, ‘Would that get him into a little more of a rhythm?’ Maybe, but some of that is strategic, too, which obviously I’m not going to get into here with what we’re going to do. I do say this: working off what we went with yesterday and how he did, I thought he did a good job.
“I said that last night in the press conference. His very first play, throwing that completion there, it was a little bit inside but it was a good decision for him and I liked that. That’s a big moment. He’s used to those moments. He’s just got to keep doing his thing and understanding where we’re at. He had a great week of practice last week, albeit on the second team, the look team. He had a really good week, and he got better. I just want him to keep doing that and understanding where we’re at.”
While Nagy understandably won’t reveal any details of the team’s plan to develop Fields, Jay Glazer reported on Monday morning that the plan includes holding Fields out of the starting lineup through Week 4. That begs the follow-up question, what exactly is it that the Bears believe Dalton brings to the table that Fields does not? It’s true that a lot goes into being an NFL starter, but so far Fields has passed the eye test in every challenge that the team has laid in front of him.
“Well that's a good question,” Nagy said. “I understand it, but when you look back and say一 and after you're able to watch the tape and see where you're at一 you know that we talked about and I brought it up in regards to producing and scoring touchdowns and winning, and we're always talking about that. But I thought that Andy did a pretty good job yesterday of being able to, you know, get the ball out to guys where he needed to in certain situations. You look back and the biggest error that he had was that interception to start the game, and sometimes those can be big ones because that's a momentum deal, right? On third down. So without getting into the comparisons too much, I just think right now when we’re evaluating Andy, I thought he did a good job of being able to put us in good situations. And then using Justin when we did, Justin did well, too.”
Nagy’s not wrong. Dalton did “a pretty good job.” He completed over 70% of his passes and really only made the one mistake. But what the offense lacked with Dalton under center was dynamism. He only managed 5.4 yards/attempt, which ranked fourth-worst among all QBs who threw at least 20 passes in Week 1, and didn’t throw for any touchdowns. And with the defense’s poor showing, it’s also fair to question whether “a pretty good job” will be enough to win this season.
Meanwhile, the electricity that Fields brings to the offense doesn’t just surge through the fanbase.
"J Fields is special,” said David Montgomery after the game. “He already has a natural aura to himself that kinda changes the flow of how things go."
He also clearly has athletic abilities that Dalton lacks. Although Nagy wouldn’t pin the Bears’ lack of explosive plays in Week 1 on Dalton.
“Probably the biggest thing with that was some of the things that they do defensively and then that guy that they got over on the other side of the ball (Aaron Donald), just a little bit,” Nagy said. “He can do that. And he did it there toward the end of the game. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t still get explosives. We understand that.
“I think that’s where we want to make sure that we are stretching the field vertically, and we weren’t able to get that as much. And we kinda knew going into it it was gonna be one of those types of games. That’s just one of those deals where we want to, moving forward, try to do everything we can to keep defenses honest going downfield. But nothing to do with Andy as much as it was more of the scheme.”
Things don’t get much easier for the Bears in Week 2. The Bengals also field a fearsome defensive line that can generate pressure on the quarterback. With no updates available for injured left tackles Jason Peters and Larry Borom, will the team deploy another conservative game plan to protect Dalton? Time will tell. But if the defense doesn’t make drastic improvements soon, the offense is going to have to pick up the pace no matter who plays quarterback.