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LAKE FOREST — It’s still up in the air whether Justin Fields will return as the Bears’ starting quarterback on Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.
Fields was limited in Monday and Tuesday for the walk-through practices. So Wednesday’s first actual practice of the week will be a big day to determine if Fields can come back from his right dislocated thumb injury that he sustained on Oct. 15 against the Vikings.
For offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, he will let the higher ups in the Bears’ organization figure out what happens with Fields.
“That will come down to Justin and the training staff, coach (Matt Eberflus) and Ryan (Poles) figuring out where they want to be in all that stuff,” Getsy said. “I think when you’re in this moment, you’re kind of out of that conversation from my perspective.”
Getsy may not have any input on whether Fields or Tyson Bagent plays on Thursday against the Panthers, but he will have his fingerprints all over the offensive gameplan.
And regardless if it’s Fields or Bagent on Thursday Night Football, the overall gameplan will be similar for both quarterbacks.
“We talked about this last week,” Getsy said. “I think that’s the cool part of how we put this thing together at the very beginning where we felt like we kind of put it all out there for our guys and being able to take this thing in a few different directions and the guys feel really comfortable in doing that. So, I don’t think from everybody else’s perspective in that room other than the two quarterbacks, it’s not going to feel like it’s a different gameplan by any means if we go one direction or the other.”
Play action has been a winning game plan for Bears
Fields and Bagent both have done well this season with play-action passes.
According to Pro Football Focus, for quarterbacks with a minimum of 50 dropbacks, Bagent is ranked No. 2 in the league in yards per attempt off play action passes with (4.4). Fields is No. 7 in the league with 3.4 yards per attempt. Bagent is No. 1 in the league with his 89.5 completion rate off play action, while Fields is tied for seventh with 72.7%.
But Fields and Bagent are different regarding arm talent and getting the ball out quickly. Bagent threw three interceptions in the 24-17 loss to the Saints, and two of those turnovers appeared to be thrown late and not with the velocity needed to make the throws.
Throwing with velocity isn’t a problem for Fields, but his decision-making and quick release issues have shown up this season. Just think back to the first offensive play against the Vikings.
The passing charts from the last two Bears’ victories also illustrate how Fields and Bagent are different.
In the 30-12 victory over the Raiders, Bagent only threw one pass over 15 yards. In the 40-20 win against the Commanders, Fields had nine passes travel over 15 yards, including two passes that went over 30 yards downfield.
Of course Getsy and the offensive staff will game plan to specific opponents, but it’s clear that the two quarterbacks have different strengths. Quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko was also asked how the gameplans would remain similar regardless of who is under center.
“A lot of it is, when we’re designed a pass game we’re designing to get our playmakers the ball,” Janocko said. “Whether it be, we’re gonna try to get the ball to DJ and Cole and Darnell and get the ball to the backs. I don’t think that changes much. Are there some nuances, plays we’d rather call with Justin? Yeah. Are there some plays we’d rather call with Tyson? Yeah. I don’t think you design a gameplan completely different. Again, at the end of the day when you’re designing a pass play, you’re trying to get your guys the ball.”
If Fields is able to play with some type of limitations on his right throwing hand, Getsy will have to find ways to scheme around the injury.
“With anybody that’s in a situation that they’re not able to do something, that happens in the middle of games, that happens in your preparation,” Getsy said. “You’re obviously going to take those things into consideration no matter whether that happens during the game or in your week leading up to it. I guess the answer to you is yes, whatever that is. We don’t have KB (Khari Blasingame) this week, so we have to have a plan of how we’re going to attack somebody without KB. So you’re always going to have those battles that you’re going to have to work through, whether it’s during the week of or…”
Getsy feels confident that Fields would be able to naviate the limitations since there have been plenty of moments before that have shown Fields’ toughness and willingness to battle through adversity.
There isn’t a set time for Getsy, Fields and the rest of the offensive staff to decide what will or won’t be in the gameplan. It will be a process, much like it’s deciding who will actually play against the Panthers.
“That would be a continuous conversation,” Getsy said. “In your week of prep, that’s a pre-game, that’s a during-the-game conversation in this instance, and really every instance. We go into a game, we’re on the sideline and we’re talking and if he’s feeling something during the game, or anybody’s feeling that same way during the game, then we’ll lean toward those areas as well. That’s just a constant conversation that we would continue to have.”
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