One week from Saturday, The Chicago Bears will play their first preseason game of the 2022 season as they host the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field. First-year head coach Matt Eberflus confirmed earlier this week that all of his starters will be playing in Saturday’s game, including second-year quarterback Justin Fields. Although the games do not mean anything leading to many being concerned about players getting injured, the live reps that preseason games provide can prove highly valuable once the regular season begins.
Matt Eberflus says starters will play in the preseason opener and they want to get them a “good amount.”
— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) August 3, 2022
Preseason Games Have Helped Current and Former Bears’ Rookie Quarterbacks
Preseason games are so valuable from an offensive standpoint for Chicago because it allows the offensive coaching staff to better understand what potentially works for their quarterbacks. In 2017, then general manager Ryan Pace selected quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. Head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains gave Trubisky significant playing time during the 2017 preseason.
During the 2017 preseason, Trubisky played extremely well, throwing touchdown passes in his first three preseason games and outperformed starting quarterback Mike Glennon. Although the Bears decided to have Glennon start the season, the rookie quarterback became Chicago’s starting quarterback by Week 5. Although Trubisky wasn’t fully ready to be the starting quarterback, Fox and Loggains made it easier for their rookie by installing passing plays that had been successfully executed during the preseason.
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) August 11, 2017
Trubisky was most successful during the preseason with bootleg passing plays and play-action short throws. In the rookie’s first three starts of 2017 against the Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, and Carolina Panthers, Chicago’s offense featured several bootlegs and play-action passing plays. Even when Trubisky was having success later in the season with more advanced passing plays, Loggains still was able to work in a package of plays that his rookie quarterback had success with in the preseason.
Last season, it was Fields that impressed during the preseason and outperformed starting quarterback Andy Dalton. In the three 2021 preseason games, Chicago’s rookie quarterback from Ohio State recorded two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. Like Trubisky, Fields demonstrated that he was most successful with play-action passing designs and plays that allowed him to use his mobility to set up throws to receivers. There were multiple throws made by Chicago’s rookie last preseason in which it looked like he was going to scramble, but at the last second would complete a pass to a receiver that a defender left open.
I keep hearing “Justin Fields played the 3rd string.”
Watching it back, two DB’s make an appearance in every play.
#9 Noah Igbinoghene & #22 Jevon Holland, the Dolphins 1st & 2nd round picks.
Justin I guess made them look like 3rd stringers?
— Max Markham (@MaxMarkhamNFL) August 16, 2021
Unlike the process Fox and Loggains had with Trubisky, former Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy did not utilize what made Fields successful in the preseason when the rookie became Chicago’s starting quarterback in Week 3. One of Nagy’s most significant flaws during his coaching tenure with the Bears was his inability to adapt to other offensive philosophies for the betterment of his quarterbacks. When Fields became Chicago’s starting quarterback last season, the head coach never implemented passing plays that highlighted the strengths of his rookie quarterback.
Despite Nagy not utilizing the passing plays that Fields was successful with last season, it appears that Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy are ready to build an offense around their quarterback’s strengths. Chicago will feature an offense that relies heavily on boot-leg and play-action pass designs to take advantage of their second-year quarterback’s mobility and downfield arm accuracy. Several play designs that will be seen during this year’s preseason and regular season will look very similar to the plays Fields ran last preseason.
Ryan Poles chose not to equip Justin Fields with skill guys at a premium. I am totally okay with it. Protect him. Give him an excellent, simple system. Run the ball; use play action. It all makes more sense without the one trick Nagy pony & his stubbornness. Fields will succeed.
— M@ (@MattSpiegel670) May 2, 2022
Why Preseason Snaps Matter Now For Fields
Although Fields might be comfortable with Getsy’s new offensive scheme, it is still vital for Chicago’s quarterback to be tested against opposing defenses in an exhibition setting. If Eberflus is planning to play his offensive starters in the first preseason game against the Chiefs, the Bears’ starting quarterback will likely see playing time in all three preseason games this year to develop more familiarity with the offense.
Fields needs as much time to develop continuity and timing with his passing targets, even with the players he played with last season, including David Montgomery, Cole Kmet, Darnell Mooney, and Khalil Herbert. Playing two to three offensive series in each preseason game should give Chicago’s offense more familiarity with the new offensive scheme to decrease the chances of confusion once the regular season begins.
Luke Getsy on seeing Justin Fields bounce back after tough practices: "He’s a competitve dude, man. You get in that film room and you can see the hunger, you can see the fight. That’s part of our job is to make sure he has clarity through all that. He has that competitive edge
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) August 5, 2022
Additionally, having the starting offense play in the preseason will only make Getsy better as an offensive play-caller. By seeing what plays work and which don’t, Chicago’s first-year offensive coordinator can be better prepared to develop game plans during the regular season. Getsy will be able to get rid of plays that don’t work for Fields while potentially creating a new set of offensive plays based on plays that his quarterback had success with.
Although the most significant concern with playing starter during the preseason is the potential risk of injury, the playing time can be highly beneficial, especially for a team with a new coaching staff. Having Fields play won’t just be helpful for him as Chicago’s quarterback, but for Eberflus and Getsy to better understand what they have with this Bears’ offense. If injuries do not become a factor during the preseason, Chicago will profit immensely from playing their offensive starters.