Coach Matt Eberflus says QB Justin Fields ‘needs to take that next step — as the rest of us do’

The Bears believe in Fields, but they also believe he needs to improve on his performance from last season.

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Bears coach Matt Eberflus hugs quarterback Justin Fields after beating the Texans in September.

Bears coach Matt Eberflus hugs quarterback Justin Fields after beating the Texans in September.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

PHOENIX — The Bears believe in quarterback Justin Fields, but they also believe he needs to improve on his performance from last season.

‘‘He took a step in the right direction,’’ coach Matt Eberflus said Tuesday at the NFL’s annual meetings. ‘‘Obviously, he made some dynamic plays that the whole league was talking about. And he did a really good job with that.

‘‘Just like our whole football team, it’s a young team, and he needs to take that next step — as the rest of us do.’’

To that end, Eberflus already has decided to tweak his practice schedule to try to fix an offense that ranked last in the NFL in passing yards last season.

When organized team activities begin in May, the Bears will extend the length of their seven-on-seven drills and pay added attention to two-minute, red-zone and third-down scenarios that require dynamic pass plays.

‘‘We’re going to set it up to work on the passing game, a little bit more emphasis on that during this offseason and then working into training camp,’’ Eberflus said.

The Bears have been clear with Fields, whose 85.2 passer rating last season was 28th among quarterbacks who threw at least 100 passes, that their aerial attack needs to get better. They think he’s capable of improving and essentially chose him over every college quarterback this offseason.

As part of the Bears’ due diligence for the draft, Eberflus helped general manager Ryan Poles and his staff scout Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and others in January and February. He has a knack for it.

‘‘He can kind of see not only what the player is today but what he can become,’’ Poles said of Eberflus.

The Bears settled on the most likely outcome — keeping Fields — when Poles traded the No. 1 overall pick to the Panthers.

‘‘I think we made a good decision,’’ Eberflus said with a smile.

The Bears think they’ve upgraded their roster to help him. They acquired receiver DJ Moore — Eberflus joked Fields smiled about that move for a week — in the trade with the Panthers and signed running back D’Onta Foreman and tight end Robert Tonyan.

‘‘We’re solidifying the offensive line, and we’re getting the skill sets around him that we need to move the ball down the field and score points,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘And we’re excited about where that’s going.’’

That’s a generous description of the offensive line. The Bears signed former Titans guard Nate Davis and plan for him and Teven Jenkins to flank center Cody Whitehair. The Bears have yet to sign a veteran starter at tackle, however, and don’t figure to. The remaining available free agents at tackle aren’t starter-quality.

‘‘Right now, to improve our team, I think we’ve got to look to the draft,’’ Poles said.

Were the season to start today, Braxton Jones would play left tackle and Larry Borom would play on the right side. The Bears are open to moving Jones to right tackle if they can upgrade on the left side.

‘‘That’s all open right now,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘We have to go through the draft and see what we do there.’’

The Bears think there are seven players worthy of their first pick. Poles said ‘‘it’d be awesome’’ if one of them is available at their spot at No. 9. Three tackles are expected to be drafted in the top half of the first round: Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. and Georgia’s Broderick Jones. The Bears were at all of their pro days.

The Bears’ pass-blocking needs help, both from linemen and from Fields deciding to throw the ball away.

‘‘A lot of times he got out of it through scrambles and would run the ball,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘But certainly we’ve got to be better on the inside part of the pocket, for sure, and really protect him so he has time.’’

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