Justin Fields displays new mentality that bodes well for Year 2 rise

·4 min read

Fields' mentality change first sign of incoming Year 2 rise originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

CLEVELAND – We have heard about Justin Fields' progress all summer long. The improved footwork, finetuned mechanics, increased pocket presence, and willingness and comfort with leading all pointed to a Year 2 leap.

That has been the Bears' company line all offseason.

Bringing in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to build a scheme tailored to Fields' strengths was a move meant to instill confidence that this franchise, one famous for missing on and stunting the development of quarterbacks, might finally get it right.

We saw flashes from Fields during training camp. There were big-time throws in the preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. But the progress he and the offense were making had yet to yield on-field production.

Evidence of a clear Year 2 leap had yet to arise.

Until Saturday night in Cleveland, that is.

Fields diced up the Browns during his five series of work during the Bears' 21-20 win at FirstEnergy Stadium. The second-year quarterback finished the day going 14-for-16 for 156 yards and three touchdowns while leading scoring drives of 80, 52, and 62 yards.

The Bears' first-team offense had been clunky and disjointed in their early preseason work, scoring only three points in their first five drives of the exhibition season.

Then, finally, facing a Browns defense without Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, Fields went to work. He completed passes to 10 different receivers, including touchdown strikes to tight end Ryan Griffin, wide receiver Dante Pettis, and tight end Cole Kmet.

The offense that promised to highlight Fields' elite athleticism and big arm finally showed up. Getsy's system, filled with bootlegs and seven-step drops, streamlines what the young quarterback wants to do -- use his legs to put defenses on their heels and then attack downfield with his arm.

The most striking thing of the Bears' offensive success Saturday night was Fields' willingness to take the easy throw. He wants to strike deep whenever possible. But unlike last season, Fields took what the defense gave him instead of holding on for the kill shot. The result? He got the offense into the best rhythm we have seen this summer.

That change in mentality is tangible proof that Fields' Year 2 ascension, with the help of Getsy's scheme, is on the way.

"Just kind of knowing the situations, knowing the percentages of when to take a chance and when just to take a completion and stuff like that," Fields said of mentality shift. "You kind of have to think about that before the play with down and distance."

"He is getting better," head coach Matt Eberflus echoed. "That's one of the parts that he's getting better at. That's really about his footwork. He's been working on that – the timing of his feet with his throws. He's getting better every day."

Last time Fields was at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns swarmed him as head coach Matt Nagy refused to adjust his game plan to get Fields out of harm's way by rolling the pocket or getting Fields on the edge with boot action.

Fields completed just six passes while being sacked nine times. He had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no coaching staff willing to change things up to help him succeed.

While it was a preseason game with Garrett and Clowney on the sideline, the difference in Fields and the Bears' offensive approach was impossible to ignore.

All the offseason talk of making Fields comfortable and building around what he does best was not lip service to a fan base skeptical of the new regime's intention for the young signal-caller. By building an offense stocked with bootlegs, keepers, play-action passes, and a wide variety of route combinations that put the defense on its heels, the Justin Fields with pinpoint accuracy, a Howitzer on his right shoulder, and rare athleticism re-emerged Saturday in Cleveland.

It's easy to dismiss Saturday's performance as a preseason tease and not the "turning point" Fields believes it to be.

Time will tell on that end.

But what was apparent Saturday night as Fields spoke in the bowels of FirstEnergy Stadium was that his confidence and belief in himself and the Bears' offense is higher than it has been since he entered the NFL.
Eberflus and Getsy plan to let Justin Fields be Justin Fields, believing rare talent and innovative scheme can fuse to create a lethal offensive attack.

So far, the early returns are promising. Fields and Getsy put it all together in five series Saturday night, bringing the potential for that much-discussed Year 2 leap into focus with Week 1 looming.

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