Bears’ Matt Nagy explains usage of Justin Fields: ‘He’s certainly a weapon’
The Bears have long maintained that they’re committed to starting Andy Dalton while Justin Fields develops on the sideline. However, the team still has a plan to use the rookie quarterback, and fans got a glimpse of that on Sunday night.
Fields played sparingly in the Bears’ 34-14 loss to the Rams, but he was impactful. He completed both of his pass attempts for 10 yards and had a 3-yard touchdown run off a run/pass option (RPO).
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Nagy came away from the game impressed with Fields. He noted Fields’ success in the RPO game and red-zone package as positive signs for the rookie’s development.
“Really, the very first play when he went out there and was able to make a throw — and that was an RPO. So he made a decision to throw the ball off of a look that we had,” Nagy said, per Pro Football Talk. “So right there to start the game, I thought that was great. And then he was involved on the sideline. And then when we got down into the red zone at times, we had a couple things in for him that worked and some that didn’t work. But when he got down in the red zone, he did some great things there, too.
“So we’ve just got to keep having him grow and keep staying positive. But he’s certainly a weapon.”
Does that mean Fields will take snaps away from starter Andy Dalton? Nagy acknowledged that Fields may have played more if the game was closer, but the Bears are carefully picking the spots in which to use him.
“We had the plan and we stuck to our plan,” Nagy said. “We knew where and when we were going to use him and we stuck to that. And so, we’ll see where that goes and how we do it. But I think we all understand that for us, strategically, we’ll see where we go with that — without giving anything away.”
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Fields has actually been in this type of situation before. During his lone season at Georgia, Fields served as the backup to quarterback Jake Fromm and entered the game on occasion to run RPO concepts. He finished that season with 266 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 42 carries and completed 27 of 39 passes for 328 yards and four TDs with the Bulldogs. Then, he transferred to Ohio State for a shot at more playing time.
Fields won’t have the option of transferring this time around, so he’ll have to have to continue to earn snaps in Chicago. Of course, Nagy also acknowledged that Fields entering the game too often could throw Dalton out of rhythm.
“I think that’s real,” Nagy said. “And I think when you go through these situations or experiences, you look at all of that stuff because you want to make sure you’re taking care of both guys the right way.”
As such, Fields may only be able to earn a certain amount of reps as a role player. So, he’ll need to focus on overtaking Dalton on the depth chart.
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Dalton went 27 of 38 for 207 yards and an interception in Week 1 against the Rams. He was far from stellar, so perhaps Fields can continue to build positive momentum after a solid debut. After all, Nagy has shown a short leash with his starters before. He benched Mitchell Trubisky midway through Chicago’s Week 3 game against Atlanta last year despite the team possessing a 2-0 record.
If Dalton can’t elevate his play, Fields could start sooner than many expect. Either way, he will continue to see action as a key weapon for the Bears.