Justin Fields should get boost from facing familiar defensive scheme

Quarterback Justin Fields will know what he’s looking at Sunday against the Texans.

He’s seen the same thing since the start of the Bears’ offseason program.

“Their defense and our defense kind of come from the same family branch, he said. “A lot of the same stuff.”

The schemes of Bears head coach Matt Eberflus and Texans head coach Lovie Smith are first cousins by way of former Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Both teams use a Cover 2 base and rely on their four down linemen — and blitzers only rarely — to pressure the quarterback.

Smith and Marinelli were together as Buccaneers assistants underneath Monte Kiffin, the father of the “Tampa 2” defense, from 1996-2000. After working for Smith his last three years as the Bears’ head coach, Marinelli went to Dallas as a position coach in 2013. He became their coordinator the next year. Eberlus, who considers Marinelli his mentor, was Marinelli’s linebackers coach until leaving for the Colts coordinator job in 2018.

“Lovie’s run this system a long time,” Eberflus said. “He’s mixed in a couple new things that we’ve seen.”

Still, most of it will look familiar to Fields, who could use a boost after the second-year quarterback threw only 11 times and for only 70 yards against the Packers on Sunday.

“There’s banked reps on certain things,” quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko said. “You have familiarity. It’s a way to grab experience. It’s definitely something that we’ll try to use to our advantage in different ways.”

Fields need to see the coverage clearly. He didn’t Sunday night. He wasn’t looking at Equanimeous St. Brown when he took off down the field, wide open, and waved for the ball against broken coverage in the third quarter. The Bears’ first-quarter flea-flicker, which gained 30 yards on a St. Brown catch-and-run, had Mooney, the first read, open out of the slot.

In the second quarter, Fields took a shotgun snap, scrambled up the middle and threw deep to St. Brown for 28 yards. One problem: Fields was almost three full yards past the line of scrimmage when he threw, and was flagged accordingly. That was one of two third-down throws offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said he wanted to take back.

Fields needs to make quick, decisive decisions. He should have stopped, set his feet and thrown before the line of scrimmage.

Getsy painted it as a learning moment.

“The experiences that you have of seeing the defenses and slowing the game down, we can’t create that for him —other than practice it every day like it’s a game,” Getsy said. “And then him getting these experiences … I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets to do it this weekend.”

Fields was frustrated Sunday in part because the Bears threw only 11 times. Janocko said that was healthy, pointing to Bucs quarterback Tom Brady smashing a Microsoft Surface tablet in a fit of rage on the sideline last week.

“Are there frustrations in the game? Yeah— there should be,” Janocko said. “Any competitor will get frustrated at times if something doesn’t go right. Tom Brady is paying for a lot of tablets right now. And he’s the greatest ever. You want there to be things at times that irritate you. “Competitors get irritated during the game when things don’t go right.”

Sunday should provide an opportunity for more to go Fields’ way. That should benefit Mooney, who has two catches all season, and tight end Cole Kmet, who hasn’t caught either of his two targets.

If Fields struggles again Sunday, though, he can’t blame the element of surprise.

“I don’t think they have one … star player on that team,” Fields said. “But I’ll give them credit, they play hard, they play fast, they play similar to us. So, it’s going to be a hard fight all day.”

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