Mandatory minicamp and the rest of OTAs wrapped up for the NFL yesterday. Most of the talk from the Chicago Bears 2022 OTAs surrounding quarterback Justin Fields was positive. In a season with a bleak outlook for Chicago, early reports of Fields’ improvement are exactly what the Bears franchise and fans want to hear.
At the end of the day, the Bears’ 2022 season is about whether or not Fields displays the acumen it takes to be a franchise quarterback, which the Bears franchise has been longing for.
There’s been one word that has been frequent in describing Fields throughout the Bears’ OTAs: leadership. Coming out of Ohio State, Fields had the leadership label, but stepping into a locker room where some guys are seven years older than you can be intimidating because there are players that don’t want to hear what a rookie or even a second-year player has to say.
But so far, all signs point north in that department, with offensive guard Cody Whitehair saying Fields’ leadership has “taken another step.” Even defensive tackle Justin Jones has noticed Fields’ demeanor in the huddle.
“He has a command and leadership on the field, a legit field general,” Jones said. “I’m really excited about the season he’s about to have.”
That leadership is going to be vital for the Bears because if this year is as bumpy as it projects to be, they’re going to need a voice in that huddle that can keep everyone calm and collected while also holding everyone accountable.
Character traits are always important for any quarterback, but the intangibles have to be there as well, and it looks like Fields has made improvements in one of those areas in particular. Over the off-season, Fields made strides to get his timing down by developing better footwork with quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko.
“Everything is about timing and rhythm in the NFL,” Janocko said. “If you can get the ball out on time and you can listen to what your feet are telling you, then that helps you progress, helps you get through reads, helps you feel a defense, and tells you when you’re late and need to move on.”
After a rookie season where Fields had times where he had trouble getting the ball out of his hands – for a multitude of reasons – it looks like the Bears have made it a priority to fix those issues.
Since the Bears are looking to answer the question of “Is Justin Fields our guy?”, you would assume that they would surround him with as many offensive weapons as possible. However, the Bears focused on defense with their first two picks in this year’s draft, passing on wide receivers like George Pickens, Alec Pierce, David Bell, and Sky Moore.
The Bears finally gave Fields his first and only weapon in the draft with the 71st pick, drafting 25-year-old wide receiver Velus Jones out of Tennessee. Coming out of college, Jones was one of the best returners and displayed great run-after-the-catch ability.
With a wide receiver room that mainly consists of Darnell Mooney and Byron Pringle, Jones knows the pressure that’s being mounted on him, but he’s insistent on being the player that the Bears intended him to be.
“I definitely know that I’m not going to let them down,” Jones said. “I’m definitely going to be that player they drafted, that guy who’s good with yards after the catch, the guy that makes plays out of nothing, so I’m definitely going to bring that to the table.”
Ultimately, it’ll come down to how Jones is used and what wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said may be a sign of what Jones’ role in this offense will look like.
“When you run 4.31, it’ll open up your eyes to a lot of things,” Tolbert said. “But secondly, with the ball in his hands, he does a lot of things, makes a lot of explosive plays.
“And the last thing I would say is playing multiple positions. You can play him in the slot, put him outside, and have him coming out of the backfield. He does many different things to help our team, and he’s really good on special teams.”