It would be hard to call Justin Fields' first weekend in a Bears uniform anything other than a success. After easily passing the initial first impression test on Friday, there were a few more hiccups on Saturday as the Bears installed more of the offense and threw a larger volume into Saturday's session. Still, it's not like Fields struggled.
"What I noticed was the speed when we were in our team periods, the speed on tape didn’t look too fast," Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. "A lot of times, a quarterback can go to the wrong read. A lot of times, the quarterback’s thinking about, ‘How do I take a snap?,' and get the snap and 'Where do I step with the clock — at four o’clock or six o’clock before I fake the play-action? Where do I snap my head and not?' All that stuff that we teach him, he did the first day fairly easily. In an easy way. That’s what we look for. Are you coming back to the coach every three plays asking him to repeat the play-call, because you forgot what the play-call was? Or is practice going pretty rhythmically because you’re going in and out (of the huddle)? He was. That’s a win."
That might be the best way to describe Fields' rookie minicamp without putting too much stock into it -- a win. Fields simply looked smooth -- much like he did at Ohio State -- and made things look easy. That's exactly what you want to see from a rookie quarterback when he gets on the practice field for the first time at this level.
So what does Nagy want to see next?
"When you walk up to the line of scrimmage it can feel like you don't see anything," Nagy said. "You're trying to think of what you saw on the installs and you're trying to figure out what's going on but you really need to be looking to your first wide-vision to the right to see if your Z-receiver is off the ball and your Y-receiver is on the ball. Is your X on the ball? Where's your running back? OK, where's the Mike at? Now, OK, I've got to call before the play clock runs out."
And that's just pre-snap.
"Then, post-snap, there's a disguise in the read with the progression of the defense, rotation," Nagy continued. "So, I want to see that speed up. And I think he's done a really good so far in the little bit that we've seen in this rookie minicamp of doing a good job of post-snap vision, which was a strength of his in college. So that's just got to continue to speed up and you know he's going to get a great opportunity to do that against our defense and I think that's where we're going to have to see, OK, are there a lot of mistakes being made or are there a lot of plays being made? And is it natural and is it easy for him? And that's what we'll evaluate and see. And again, you'll know when you watch it and we'll all feel it as coaches."
The last part of that quote is very important. Everyone wants to know when Fields will play, but this is really a week-by-week evaluation. He passed the first test and now it's on to the next test. Will Fields' mental speed continue pace with the increased practice speed?
The second phase of the offseason program begins Monday, which means veterans (who show up) will mix with the rookies for strength-and-conditioning, virtual meetings, and "class on grass" workouts on the field at "a teaching pace." Essentially, a large foundation of the Bears' offense will be put into Fields' head over the next two weeks and on June 1, he'll get to face the Bears defense in a full-speed, non-contact practice for the first time. There will be seven of those practices over a two-week period, followed by mandatory veteran minicamp. Nagy has made it clear that Andy Dalton will receive the No. 1 reps in practice, but it's unclear if Fields or Nick Foles will work with the second-team. Regardless, it will be a process for Fields, but he certainly has the tools and talent to pass each test. And if he does, there's no doubt he'll keep earning more and more of the reps.
"I think the easiest way for us to simply think about this is it’ll all happen for those quarterbacks. They’ll all play however they’re supposed to play," Nagy said. "We’re all going to see whatever we’re supposed to see and then it’s our job as evaluators of who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make the Bears the best team possible. That’s it.”