Justin Fields on offense: ‘We’re not ready to play a game right now’
A Bears offense predicated on rhythm and timing has yet to consistently find the beat. The good news is the Bears — and Fields — have time. The season opener is almost a full three months away.
For a second consecutive offseason, quarterback Justin Fields’ progress has been measured in baby steps: learning a new offense, calling the plays properly, jelling with a new coaching staff.
You’d think all that building-block work would make him eager to put on pads and play some real football, right?
“Uh, no,” he said Tuesday. “I’m not ready for the season to start.
“I’m the type of guy that would like to know I’m prepared. So, right now, I’m just being honest. We’re not ready to play a game right now. And when that time comes, we will be ready. So, right now, no — not ready to play a game.”
That’s different than the blindly optimistic pabulum peddled this time of year, and it’s rooted in fact: A Bears offense predicated on rhythm and timing has yet to consistently find the beat.
The good news is the Bears — and Fields — have time. The season opener is almost a full three months away.
“Right now, they’re throwing a lot at us,” Fields said. “They’re pretty much throwing the whole playbook at us — which is good right now, but, of course, there are going to be mistakes. But we’d rather have the mistakes come right now than later in the fall or [training] camp.”
Fields sees the potential in coordinator Luke Getsy’s offense but knows that, for now, it’s merely that. The Bears’ takeaway-focused defense dominated the mandatory minicamp practice, keeping with a theme this offseason.
“For me, it’s just not making the same mistake twice,” Fields said. “If you make that one mistake on a play, just don’t do it again. If you ultimately keep getting better and keep growing, it’ll be less mistakes every day.
“And, of course, you’ll be right where you want to be.”
Getting the offense there can be painful. It felt that way Tuesday.
“How do you respond? Bounce back,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “We’re all gonna get knocked down, right? Every one of us. We all get knocked down in life. What do you do? Bounce back. Just get up, next play.
“That’s what I want to see from all of our players, and that’s important. We’re all gonna have adversity. You’ve gotta step up and go to the next play. That’s what I want to see from [Fields] and the rest of the team, too.”
There are times when the offense clicks, wide receiver Darnell Mooney said, “but there are definitely many more moments that come apart.” It’s a learning process that he and Fields are experiencing together. The two held throwing sessions in Atlanta this offseason and plan to practice together again during the summer break.
“I don’t think we’re super-comfortable because we’re still learning the actual playbook,” Mooney said. “We’re not there, but we’re getting there.”
Eberflus offered one explanation. Offseason practices have become almost like a high school passing league, devoid of linemen hitting on either side of the ball. While the 7-on-7 work helps Fields and his pass catchers get on the same page, it’s not real football. It’s players running around in shorts, helmets and shells.
The plan is for the Bears’ rushing attack, led by David Montgomery, to open up play-action passes for Fields. The Bears can’t practice that until late July, when players are allowed to hit in full pads for the first time.
“You don’t have so much play-pass in this setting here because you’re not really running the ball,” Eberflus said. “You really can’t focus on that. I think those windows will become more clear and more open once we get the pads on. So I’m excited about seeing that.”
It will look different. The Bears have shortened Fields’ throwing motion, something he’s feeling more comfortable doing with each practice. Eberflus said Fields is “getting better every single day,” working on his footwork and timing. He figures to get even sharper after working with Mooney and others during the break.
“He wants to take over the league,” Mooney said. “He’s already Justin Fields. He wants to be the best quarterback in the league. He’s taken the stride to be there. I’ve got unbelievable faith that he will be there.”
On days like Tuesday when the Bears’ offense struggles, that feels more like a leap of faith.
“Of course, it could have gone better,” Fields said. “But that’s what tomorrow’s for.”