LAKE FOREST, Illinois — The main job of Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams is to diagnose weaknesses in facing quarterbacks, find ways to exploit them, and ultimately defeat them.
Williams does not claim to be a “quarterback guru”. But understanding the subtle differences that create a stark divide between the NFL’s haves and have-nots is a focal point of his job. As such, Williams is uniquely qualified to discuss and analyze the thing that will have the biggest impact on the Bears’ 2023 season and future rebuilding general manager Ryan Pauls.
The maturity and improvement of quarterback Justin Fields.
Fields has spent all of his offseason working to improve his mechanics and footwork. The 24-year-old quarterback studied film about quarterbacks with similar qualities who play in the same wide area-based scheme. Fields knows he needs to clean up his accuracy on short throws and improve his overall rhythm and timing.
After just one week of OTAs, Williams noticed a difference on the other side of the field.
“Two things,” Williams said Wednesday at Hallas Hall when asked about Fields’ growth. “Drive. Because that’s what you want in a quarterback. I see making good decisions. That’s what you want in a quarterback. I see improvement in accuracy. That’s what you want in your quarterback. And how fast you tackle it. That’s also, in my opinion, what you want in the quarterback.” So from day one last year to now? From my point of view, I’m not an expert on the medium at all, but I see how it’s grown from last year to this year, and practice by practice, it’s growing. So you should be encouraged when you see these The things “.
This is not a successful season for the fields. But it’s a “make or you hot seat” campaign. If the Fields fail to make the necessary leap as a passer, the Bears will have to make two choices: Do they choose the Fields fifth-year option? Are they entering the competition next fall?
Unless Fields declines this fall, picking a fifth-year option should be a no-brainer for the Bears. It gives them an extra season of control over the young quarterback at a very cost effective number. If they refuse, they risk Fields owning a career season in 2024 and being forced to give him a big money extension a year before a planned raise.
While the 2023 season will have huge ramifications for the future of the Fields and Bears, Halas Hall’s offensive mentality is focused on the small details that make big changes. They’re zooming in instead of capturing a 1,000-foot view.
“I think as he gets more into this system, and as a quarterback in general, he can improve his accuracy in a few different ways just by toughening up his footwork,” quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocco told NBC Sports Chicago. “That’s it, but that’s really any quarterback in the league. You see the players that have this way, that have this cadence, that cadence, every year they lead the league in assists and they’re the players with the highest completion percentage.”
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The 2022 season left the Bears with silverware and big questions regarding their young quarterback.
Despite being placed in a difficult position behind a poor offensive line and with limited weapons, Fields has found a way to thrive as one of the NFL’s most dynamic ball carriers. He bounced back from a terrible start to put together a decent sophomore season.
But while he set the world on fire over four games in the middle of the season, he was uneven as a passer. Fields often missed open receivers or refused to pull the trigger on throws when the receiver broke. This is partly a product of a leaky offensive line that has had Fields running his entire life from day one. Fields was often immediately under stress, and even when he wasn’t, he would prematurely look to tear it down and run, anticipating the pressure to come.
Despite the obvious warts in his development as a trailhead, Bears has seen growth. Those inside Halas Hall are happy with Fields’ improvement and believe a jump is coming this fall.
There is no other choice.
“We have to take a step forward,” Janoko said. “That should be a strong point in our game. This should be a strong point to help this team win games. We’ll figure those things out at some point here, but for now we’re just looking for an improvement.” Notable as we build for Phase 2 in OTAs build units in the summer to make this the focal point of this offense.”
Fields knows he will be under the microscope this season. He knows that 17 games from September to January will have a huge impact on his future. The big season means the Bears will have the option to give the Fields a big money extension the second the season is over. But the flop means Fields’ career clock will start faster than ever, with 2024 likely to be his last stand.
But these big picture things will figure themselves out as long as Fields takes care of the little things.
“I’m not worried about contracts, I’m worried about wins. I couldn’t care less,” Fields said after the Bears’ second OTA coaching at Halas Hall.
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