Bears QB Justin Fields facing first big week as a pro
The Bears’ rookie quarterback will face someone other than his own team for the first time starting Wednesday, when the Dolphins post up at Halas Hall for the first of two joint practices. On Saturday, the teams will meet at Soldier Field for their first preseason game.
Welcome to the first week of the rest of Justin Fields’ life.
The rookie quarterback will face someone other than his own team for the first time starting Wednesday, when the Dolphins post up at Halas Hall for the first of two joint practices with the Bears. On Saturday, the teams will meet at Soldier Field for their first preseason game.
All three days present a bigger challenge than anything Fields has seen during the structure of training camp. By now, he knows the coverages and fronts thrown at him by his own defense, and the strengths and weaknesses of the defensive backs and linebackers covering his receivers. That won’t be the case this week, when the Dolphins bring all-world cornerback Xavien Howard — who renegotiated his contract Sunday — and defensive-minded coach Brian Flores to practice.
And then there’s the game, which features the disturbing possibility that Fields will play behind third-line blockers as a result of the Bears’ offensive-line injuries.
But Fields is ready for his first close-up.
“I think there’s always gonna be things I’m gonna have to work on, but football is football,” Fields said earlier in training camp. “If we had a preseason game tomorrow, then we’d be ready. We’ve been practicing for a good amount of time. The coaches have done a great job training us, training us to know the playbook.
“These preseason games are preseason games for a reason. They’re there to make mistakes, and they’re there to learn. I’m ready to play football. I think everybody on our team is.”
The anticipation for those two practices — which will be closed to the public — hasn’t been seen around Halas Hall in, well, maybe ever. The Bears traveled to joint practices in 2015, 2016 and 2018 — but not in 2017, when quarterback Mitch Trubisky was a rookie.
If Fields struggles, it’s somewhat to be expected — despite his arm strength and athleticism, he remains behind starter Andy Dalton on the depth chart.
If Fields stars, though, then at least one other team will know about it. If he does it Saturday, it will be in front of a stadium full of people and on television.
”I know what he’s gonna do,” wide receiver Dazz Newsome, a fellow rookie, said Sunday. “I know he’s a baller.”
The easiest part of the transition to the NFL has been the pass concepts, which are similar to what Fields used at Ohio State.
A challenge that Fields is improving on remains calling the plays in the huddle. The Buckeyes would send signals to their offensive players from the sideline.
“He’s able to make every throw on the field,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “I think it’s something we see each and every day, and it’s fun seeing him learn and getting better each and every day, with just the things that we do in our offense, how he’s picking it up and things like that.
“I mean, it’s been fun watching him.”
Fields’arm strength — and ability to maneuver around defenders with different angles — has jumped out through the first week and a half of training camp. Coach Matt Nagy was impressed when, on Saturday, Fields was backed up against his own goal line and made throws without stepping forward — and onto the ankles of oncoming defenders.
“I think that his poise is one of his strengths,” Nagy said. “He’s extremely calm. The players feel that when you’re that way.”
Now let’s see him do it against another team.
“We’re practicing hard, but you know you’ve got to get that experience, that game-day experience,” said cornerback Desmond Trufant, who is entering his ninth season. “That only comes with playing in games. So I know he’s going to do his part, do his thing. And he’s going to step up to the challenge.”