Bears' Justin Fields wants to improve situational football, per report
Fields studying other QBs to improve, per report originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Justin Fields was one of the most exciting players in the NFL last season. His midseason rushing explosion broke records, and gave the Bears confidence that he could be their starting quarterback moving forward. Yet, Fields is far from a finished product. He played a role in taking a league-leading 55 sacks for holding the ball too long at times. He stands to improve upon his 60.4% completion rate in 2022. And he knows it.
NFL Network reporter Judy Battista caught up with head coach Matt Eberflus at the NFL Owners Meetings, and Eberflus explained what steps Fields is taking to improve in specific areas next season.
“He's working hard this offseason on his own,” Eberflus told Battista. “Looking at the tape from last year, looking at other quarterbacks, studying other quarterbacks in different situations. Third down, two-minute and all those various situations you get into. And he's doing a great job at that."
Playing “situational,” “smart” football is one of the tenets of Eberflus’ H.I.T.S. program, and Fields and the Bears weren’t too bad in those departments. Their 40.9% third down conversion rate ranked 13th in the NFL. Their 56% red zone touchdown rate also ranked 13th. But a modest improvement into the top-10 in those areasー including playing better in two-minute drillsー can help turn close losses into wins. Eight of the Bears’ 17 games were decided by one score or less last season. The Bears only managed one win in those eight games.
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Fields will need more than his raw talent to take the next step in his game and to help the Bears go from bottom-dwellers to contenders, but he proved he has that drive within him as well.
"I was with him the whole year," Eberflus said. "I was in all the quarterback meetings. And I really spent the first year building that relationship with him as a head coach and quarterback. He just showed me grit and toughness, work ethic. His teammates love him. All the things that come with that position, he exuded those traits for sure."
The Bears know that Fields is incredibly talented and has the intangibles to further hone his skills. They also know that Fields can’t turn around the Bears’ fortunes single-handedly. Accordingly, they pulled off a blockbuster trade to bring in wide receiver D.J. Moore. The team is expected to add help on the offensive line in the draft.
"The skill you put around a quarterback is awesome that we're doing this offseason. D.J. is one of those big pieces that we did acquire. D.J. is a great receiver. He's got great yardage after catch, great receiving yards per catch, all those things. He's a better person, though. I got a chance to eat dinner with him and visit with his family, and he's an outstanding young man."
The NFL draft begins on Apr. 27. OTAs begin on May 22.
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