The Bears have long maintained they were determined to pitch Andy Dalton while Justin Fields grows on the sidelines. However, the team still intend 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 made an impact. He completed both of his 10-yard pass attempts and hit a 3-yard touchdown with a run / pass option (RPO).
IYER: Worst NFL overreactions week 1
Nagy walked out of the game impressed with Fields. He noted Fields’ success in the RPO game and the red zone package as positive signs for the rookie’s development.
“Really, the very first game when he went over there and was able to throw – and that was an RPO. So he made the decision to throw the ball with a look we had, ”Nagy said, according to Pro Football Talk. “So just there to start the game, I thought it was great. And then he got involved on the sidelines. And then when we fell into the red zone sometimes, we had a few things for him that worked and some that didn’t. But when he went down to the red zone, he also did some great things there.
“So we have to keep growing it and stay positive. But it is certainly a weapon.
Does that mean Fields will take snapshots of starter Andy Dalton? Nagy acknowledged that Fields could have played more if the game was closer, but the Bears are careful about where to use him.
“We had the plan and we stuck to our plan,” Nagy said. “We knew when and where we were going to use it and we stuck to it. And so, we’ll see where it goes and how we do it. But I think we all understand that for us, strategically, we’ll see where we’re going with this – without revealing anything. “
RIVERA: Rookie QB scoring begins in week 1
Fields has been in this type of situation before. In his only season in Georgia, Fields served as a replacement for quarterback Jake Fromm and came into the game on occasion to execute RPO concepts. He finished this season with 266 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 42 carries and completed 27 of 39 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns with the Bulldogs. Then he transferred to Ohio State for a longer shot.
Fields won’t have the option to transfer this time around, so he’ll have to keep earning snaps in Chicago. Of course, Nagy also acknowledged that Fields stepping into the game too often could throw Dalton off balance.
“I think it’s real,” Nagy said. “And I think when you go through these situations or experiences, you look at all of these things because you want to make sure that you are taking care of both guys the right way.”
As such, Fields may only be able to gain a certain number of reps as a role player. He will therefore have to focus on overtaking Dalton on the depth chart.
MORE: How it all went wrong for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers losing to the Saints
Dalton scored 27 of 38 for 207 yards and an interception in Week 1 against the Bears. He was far from stellar, so maybe Fields can continue to build positive momentum after a solid start. After all, Nagy has already shown a short leash with his starters. He put Mitchell Trubisky on the bench midway through Chicago’s Week 3 game against Atlanta last year, despite the team’s 2-0 record.
If Dalton can’t elevate his game, Fields could start earlier than expected. Either way, he will continue to see action as a key weapon for the Bears.