CHICAGO — Matt Eberflus simply had to make certain.

So as Eberflus was getting ready to take over as Bears head coach in the course of the offseason, he referred to as his quarterback-proficient teaching associates across the NFL to get their perspective on Justin Fields. Eberflus, who spent his first 13 seasons within the league as a defensive coach, wished to see if his pre-draft evaluation of Fields had been according to these in his trusted community.

“Everybody said they loved the man — hard worker, very smart, got a really strong arm, throws a great deep ball — and all of those things are true,” Eberflus advised The Athletic. “What they said of their evaluation, it’s still true to this day.”

Fields’ rookie season was a combined bag, understandably so. The Bears roster had loads of holes, and coach Matt Nagy and common supervisor Ryan Pace spent the season on the new seat earlier than they had been fired. The offensive scheme had additionally been trending within the incorrect course for 3 seasons.

But now, with elevated stability because of the arrival of Eberflus, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and common supervisor Ryan Poles, together with improved confidence with an additional yr {of professional} expertise, Fields is in place to make a soar and maybe solidify himself as a franchise quarterback.

“As Justin learns the offense,” Eberflus mentioned, “he’s taking a step every single day and improving on everything from footwork to reads to ripping out the call, adjusting the call within the call, taking command of the offense, and he’s done an outstanding job.”

Fields spent the offseason working with Sean McEvoy and Quincy Avery at QB Takeover in Atlanta, becoming a member of his longtime throwing coaches in February for a six-week stretch after which one other couple of weeks in April. He typically labored out with Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor and Malik Willis, amongst others.

Their greatest focus was on consistency. Fields confirmed off his high-end expertise at instances, however he additionally missed loads of alternatives, both as a result of he was late on a learn or held the ball too lengthy ready for somebody to interrupt open fairly than anticipating the play.

“You obviously saw some flashes of some really good things, some really good throws, some really good off-schedule playmaking ability,” McEvoy advised The Athletic. “You just want to be able to see that more often. Really what you’re looking at is the times when he was late or the times when he didn’t recognize something quickly enough, times when his footwork was off. So, OK, what can we focus on to give you the consistency of your best plays more often? That’s the mindset and focus out of the gate.”

The footwork was a significant level of emphasis, whether or not it was off-platform throws, transferring to his left, escaping the pocket, bootlegs and play-action ideas. These attributes are essential for practically each quarterback, particularly those that are taking part in within the Shanahan-style offense that Getsy runs.

“He looked super fluid,” McEvoy mentioned. “His arm looked strong.”

Plus, like several younger quarterback, Fields must make faster reads. That contains improved anticipation but in addition taking part in throughout the offense — don’t dangle onto the primary receiver longer than obligatory, and cycle to the second and third reads if the chance presents itself.

That’s been a spotlight with Eberflus’ employees, as properly.

“He’s been working on his mechanics inside the offense,” Eberflus mentioned. “He’s learning a new offense, and he’s learning how to time up his feet with the passes. It all starts from the ground. (Quarterbacks coach Andrew) Janocko and Getsy have been doing a really good job working with him on timing up his feet with the passing game. He’s improved immensely on the footwork.”

Fields performed 12 video games as a rookie, beginning 10, and accomplished 58.9 % of his passes for 1,870 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He additionally rushed for 420 yards and two touchdowns.

Fields handled a few accidents, too. He missed two video games with cracked ribs and the ultimate three video games because of an ankle challenge.

It wasn’t precisely a easy rookie season for a number of causes, however a greater setting now — albeit for a Bears roster that’s nonetheless very a lot in a rebuilding mode — needs to be conducive to development.

“You see the confidence, the understanding of, ‘Hey, I belong here,’” McEvoy mentioned. “It’s not possibly as overwhelming by way of getting drafted, displaying up in coaching camp, studying the pace of the NFL, what the expectations are, methods to be a professional. Those first few months, then clearly for Justin getting thrown in there, working by means of beginning, getting damage, the way in which his season went, then a head coach and coordinator change, that complete factor, it was only a lot.

“His capacity to reset and restart the offseason, now go into it with the main focus of, ‘This is my team. I’m the QB right here,’ a quiet confidence of understanding, ‘I’m prepared for this. I’m capable of study and have already got grown from the challenges I went by means of final yr.’ I feel he’s entering into with a unique mindset.

“I think that’s the biggest thing you’ll see early, the confidence of just playing the position.”

Getsy’s offense ought to intensify Fields’ strengths, too. The Bears will give him the alternatives to maneuver the pocket, release the ball shortly and discover methods to capitalize on his deep-ball sport.

It’s a QB-friendly scheme, and Eberflus made positive to focus on Fields’ proficient two-minute interval throughout Tuesday’s apply at Soldier Field. The head coach likes that the offense will be tailor-made to any fashion of quarterback.

“When you look at the history of the offense with (Mike) Shanahan and (Gary) Kubiak, this wide-zone game that’s been around forever, the quarterbacks have been able to operate,” Eberflus mentioned. “They’ve also been able to move and adjust with the skill and the talent that you have at running back, receiver and quarterback. That’s what drew me to the selection of getting somebody from that family in Getsy, and I’m super excited about it.”

Eberflus has additionally been impressed by Fields’ management. Darnell Mooney, the Bears’ main receiver final season, joined him in Atlanta for 3 weeks of exercises at QB Takeover. Fields additionally organized throwing classes with extra teammates this offseason.

Fields put within the work this offseason, that’s for positive. And Eberflus is one in every of many who was infatuated by Fields’ tape at Ohio State.

If Fields continues to place the final yr of experiences to apply — and the Bears do sufficient to assist him — he has an opportunity to develop into the franchise quarterback the franchise has sought for therefore lengthy.

“I always tell the guys you lead by action first,” Eberflus mentioned. “So if all people sees you, they’ll mannequin the conduct that you just present, and it’ll bounce again to you. If you’re modeling a tough employee, targeted, consideration to element, a great teammate, respectful to your teammates, takes command, that’ll all bounce proper again to you. That’s what he’s achieved.

“He’s been that model. Then when you say something, your voice is heard because you’ve modeled it and gotten the respect from the players. That, to me, is everything. You’ve got to put yourself in that position to be a leader first by modeling the right behavior. Once you do that, once you speak up, it’s like, we’re all going to listen. And he’s done that.”

(Photo: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)



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