LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- A year ago at this time, then-rookie quarterback Justin Fields was focused on simply getting the play calls correct in the huddle. That proved to be a challenge and part of why the Bears’ previous regime deemed him not ready to start entering the 2021 regular season.
Plenty has changed in a year. Fields is now entering his second season and is set as the Bears’ starting quarterback. Each play is called clearly in the huddle, as he isn’t struggling with that pivotal part of the game anymore. Fields is now in better command.
“Just Year 1 to Year 2,” Bears tight end Cole Kmet said. “You just feel him in the huddle. He's not just repeating the play, he's telling you the play, and there's a difference in that. That gives me confidence as a player out in the field.”
The 23-year-old Fields is making a strong impression this offseason as the Bears build around him. The results of 2022 will showcase whether he makes progress or there's a setback in his development, but as the Bears have worked through OTAs at Halas Hall recently, it has been clear that Fields is committed to improving.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus sees the new-look offense ahead of schedule and credited that in part to how Fields has connected with first-year offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
Fields has spent this offseason establishing a rapport with his Bears targets and studying the scheme he'll be running this season.
“He’s super bright, super sharp, he’s picking it up quick,” Bears backup quarterback Trevor Siemian said.
Added Eberflus: "We are pleasantly surprised where he is right now."
Last spring, then-coach Matt Nagy challenged Fields by having him record play calls into iPhone voice memos. Each part of the call represented a specific route or assignment for players in the huddle. It was a dynamic that Fields struggled to master as a rookie. During a game last December against the Vikings, the Bears botched a fourth-and-1 play because Fields rushed the call in the huddle in hopes of a quick snap at the line of scrimmage. The last part of the call was the assignment for receiver Darnell Mooney, who was the first progression on that play. He didn’t know where to go.
It proved to be an awkward rookie season for Fields, who began as the Bears’ backup behind veteran Andy Dalton and later found himself in and out of the starting position due to injuries. His development was also clouded by the lame-duck status of Nagy and his staff.
This is now a fresh start for Fields, and the Bears sense the difference in him.
“Man, he’s confident,” Kmet said. “He’s confident coming in, so it’s been fun to be out there with him.
“He’s taking initiative with everybody, and that’s been a lot of fun to be a part of.”
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.