Quincy Avery has been working with Justin Fields since the quarterback was in high school. And when asked how ready the new Bears starter is for his debut, what comes to mind isn't anything from on the football field.
"In 11th grade, we get this Elite 11 playbook full of NFL concepts," recalled Avery, the well-regarded QB trainer who runs QB Takeover. "And Justin basically taught it to himself. A week and a half later, he had memorized it front to back and could run things both ways. He could flip the formation. He knew the protections for each concept… and I'd never seen someone so young be able to do that. And he's only elevated that."
Thanks to a bone bruise suffered by starter Andy Dalton, the highly touted first-round rookie -- for whom Chicago traded up to No. 11 -- will start. Coach Matt Nagy was clear that it is Dalton's job when healthy. And he wouldn't get into what he called "the what-if game."
"Justin is worried about trying to help us beat Cleveland," Nagy said earlier this week. "I don't really want to go there other than just saying when Andy is healthy, he's our starter."
If Fields lights up the Browns defense today, the questions will linger. A good problem to have, to be sure. It's not a total debut, as Fields played snaps in each of the first two games. One source described several "wow" moments in practice, too. But his first start is noteworthy, and Fields said, "I know I'm meant for this."
Quincy, who knows Fields as well as anyone, believes it.
"I think mentally, Justin is as ready as any rookie can be," Avery said. "He's got a really good grasp of the offense and he can process as well as anyone. Really excited about him as a starting QB."
Fields is more mobile than Dalton, and it would make sense if the offense this week allowed him to move a bit. That's what Avery wants to see. To give Fields the opportunity to get outside the tackles and make a play.
"We already know Justin is one of the most athletic people on the field every time he steps on it," Avery said. "Outside the pocket, he can really stress a defense. That's what really separates him, being able to get those explosive plays, dynamic plays."
As for advice, Fields doesn't need much.
"It's really just, be yourself," Avery said. "I have no doubt he's done everything he needs to do. He's going to do a fantastic job."