Justin Fields keeps the faith that iron sharpens iron

The Bears’ defense won the day Wednesday, but Fields gave credit where it was due and remained confident the offense would respond. “They’re tough. They create a great challenge for us every day, but you gotta believe that’s making us stronger and better.”

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Despite a challenging day for the offense Wednesday, Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) is bullish on the offense’s progress in training camp. “I think we’re in a good spot right now.

Despite a challenging day for the offense Wednesday, Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) is bullish on the offense’s progress in training camp. “I think we’re in a good spot right now.

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It was one of those days for Justin Fields and the Bears’ offense in training camp.

In one four-play sequence in a 7-on-7 drill Wednesday, Fields had a pass intercepted by rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson after tight end Robert Tonyan deflected a catchable ball, had a pass intercepted by safety Jaquan Brisker after wide receiver Chase Claypool deflected a high throw, had a pass intended for DJ Moore broken up by Jaylon Johnson, and threw late and errantly to Darnell Mooney on another downfield throw (made worse because Moore was open on the other side). At that point, it was hard to tell if the defense was winning the day or the offense was losing it.

A field goal in the two-minute drill at the end of practice provided some solace, but it was like putting a bow on a pit bull. All Fields could do was tip his cap.

“The defense, they’re doing a way better job this year hiding their coverage,” Fields said. “BoJack [safety Eddie Jackson], I’m always playing with him where we’re always joking back and forth with each other in coverages. That’s the biggest thing — showing man [coverage] tells and playing zone, stuff like that.”

Fields is confident it’s just part of the process of the offense’s growth.

“They’re doing a really good job of switching it up and scheming to our offense,” Fields said. “That’s why I think our offense is getting great work doing that. It’s almost like a game plan. Alan [Williams, the Bears’ defensive coordinator] and the defense have definitely taken it up a step. It’s not going to do anything but make our offense better and challenge our offense.”

A defense getting the better of an offense is nothing new in training camp. But — at least with the Bears — you’re never quite sure what it means. In 2019, when the Bears’ offense with quarterback Mitch Trubisky was regularly getting handled by the defense, the narrative was convenient, but logical. Trubisky and that offense were going up against Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Jackson and a dominant defense that was at the top of its game after leading the NFL in fewest points allowed and was ranking in the top five in almost every major category in 2018 under Vic Fangio.

“You get frustrated because you’re so competitive, and you want to win every drill,” Trubisky said the first week of August at that training camp. “It’s not realistic to win every drill, but that’s what you strive for, especially going against our defense. They’re tough. They create a great challenge for us every day, but you gotta believe that’s making us stronger and better.”

It sounded great — and made sense — but turned out to be deeply flawed. That offense finished 29th in the NFL in points, 29th in total yards, 27th in rushing and 25th in passing.

So here we are again, with another formative Bears offense with a developing quarterback winning some days and losing others in training camp — but against a defense that is just as formative, and without the credentials that the 2019 defense had. The Bears were last in the NFL in points allowed and 29th in yards last season. They’re better with the additions of linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards and defensive end DeMarcus Walker, but how much better remains to be seen. Iron sharpens iron. But aluminum doesn’t sharpen aluminum.

So the rationale remains the same — the defense often is ahead of the offense in training camp. And that’s part of Fields’ belief that the offense will respond to days like Wednesday’s practice and ultimately benefit.

“We’re not game-planning for our defense right now,” Fields said. “We have a bunch of set plays that we’re running on our defense and . . . right now it’s harder for the offense to hone in on certain plays, because in a game week we have an actual plan that we’re running instead of plays. Guys probably aren’t going to make as many mistakes in the game because we have a set game plan. We have a call sheet where — boom — all right, we know this formation, we’ve got these set of plays.

“But training camp, we’ve got a big list of plays. We’re doing [no-huddle]. We’re doing a bunch of stuff. It’s definitely more stressful mentally on the different receivers. Guys are moving to different spots — there’s Z, X, F in the slot. It’s very mentally challenging.”

After a chippy, one-sided practice Wednesday, training camp just got a little more interesting. It’s up to Fields and the offense to respond — on a performance level and an emotional level — and prove that the defensive resistance will raise their game. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

“I just know it’s going to help us get better because we didn’t just drive the field on our defense. That doesn’t happen,” Fields said. “I feel like this work that we got today, it was good. It’s back-and-forth. One day the offense has a good day, the defense has a good day and yeah, there were some things today that we can control — we can hit a wide-open guy. We can make a catch. We can make a contested catch. It’s constantly getting each other better, constantly going at it in practice every day.”

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