People didn’t know what to expect from Justin Fields when the Chicago Bears took the field against the Browns in Cleveland. All anyone remembered was last year’s carnage: nine sacks, one clear passing yard, and six points. Even with several Browns starting players not playing, some were skeptical about how the quarterback would play. After a shaky opening streak, Fields allayed those concerns.
Over the next three hits, the Bears quarterback scored 14 out of 15 for 156 yards and three touchdowns. He passed to 10 different receivers and two of those points were too much for him. It seemed that for the first time he was in complete control of the attack, and everything clicked. Preseason or not, this was the most reassuring performance since his prime-time magic in Pittsburgh last year. What made him better was how much more functional the offensive layout around him looked.
But what unites all this, no one mentioned.
He never flipped a ball in preseason. Fields had ten interceptions and 12 fumbles in 12 games last season. He was too careless with the ball. Many feared that it could become a bad habit. In three preseason games, he did not have a single interception or fumble, despite being repeatedly pressured. This makes me think that he has become much more conscious about defending the ball.
It’s not a surprise. Head coach Matt Eberfluth runs his team on the HITS principle. The letter T in this abbreviation means revolutions. This means that the defense is focused on taking it away, and the offense is focused on not giving it away. Coaches emphasized this throughout the training camp. Looks like the players got the message, Fields included. That’s another reason why it’s reassuring to think that he could be a lot better this year.
Justin Fields is pointing in the right direction.
Yes, the Bears attack lacks talent. National experts have been making this clear for several months. However, the depth chart isn’t as bad as they want everyone to think. Darnell Mooney is a good player. David Montgomery is a good player. Cole Kmet looks poised for a breakthrough year. If the offensive line at least can’t be a complete disaster, Fields should put up some solid numbers given the Bears’ rather easy schedule.
What is most interesting is the circuit itself. Eberflus wanted a variation on the Shanahan attack, that wide-range system that has helped teams like the Rams, 49ers and Packers have continued success over the past few years. It’s a very handy setup for quarterbacks, especially if the guy is as mobile as Justin Fields. His performance against Cleveland was a perfect illustration, as Gatsy punched him out of his pocket several times.
Each time, Fields benefited from it.
It’s something the fans have been demanding since last season, but Matt Nagy refused to take advantage of it. At least Getsy doesn’t suffer from a lack of common sense. He said his priority was to align the scheme with Fields’ strengths. He has proven himself to be a man of his word, and we are seeing the results unfold.
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