Justin Fields’ progress through Year 2 came in stages.
Now, that’s apparently a stage for some rather wild comparisons.
Matt Eberflus didn’t want to compare Fields’ sophomore progress at this point with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, a player he was around as a linebackers coach. He did it anyway.
New Bears defensive tackle Justin Jones didn’t want to compare Fields to his former QB with the Chargers, Justin Herbert. He did it anyway.
“Well, I think Justin Fields is a different quarterback than Justin Herbert,” Jones said. “A bit different player, different guys.”
Herbert has 69 touchdown passes in two seasons after a phenomenal start as a deadly pocket passer with a career rating of 97.9. Fields, meanwhile, has seven TD assists and is better out of pocket after one season.
“What I will say about Justin Fields, though, is that he really loves football,” Jones said. “He’s got dominant field leadership, a legit field general. He confuses guys, gets guys forward, stuff like that.
“I feel like the pace of his game has picked up since last year. Obviously the first year before your second year, your speed of play excelled a lot. I feel that personally. I’m really excited by the season it is Once you’ve played your freshman year you’ve seen the speed of the game, you’ve seen how the guys move, how fast the window closes, you see how fast the receivers go open, I’m excited. He’s much more comfortable now.”
The comfort factor is something quite obvious to Fields’ teammates on offense.
“Just like he commands everyone on the field,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “I think we’ve run a little two minutes the last two weeks. He’s just been great in terms of vocalizing for everyone and showing what he wants from everyone.
“It was fun to be a part of and fun to watch and exciting to continue building on that leading into training camp.”
This manifests in simple things like calling plays with authority in the caucus.
“Just when he comes in to state the play or give us what we need to know to go out and run the play, it’s a lot more fluid,” center Cody Whitehair said. “He says it with more confidence, and I think that’s just him growing from Year 1 to Year 2. But we like where Justin is at and we’re really excited for the year.”
The actual comparison made by Eberflus indicates progress.
“Yeah, so I could really compare that to Dak (Prescott) the most because he was young like that when I was there, as a rookie and then a second-year player and him, we saw him grow right before our eyes,” Eberflus said. “And he’s a talent, you know he’s a guy who can throw in time but also make extended plays and throw down the field and that’s where I see Justin at.
“And I’m not trying to compare these two players, they’re different players. But you can definitely see the leap we’re going to take with Justin and I can see those things as he starts to mature in attack. ”
This is undoubtedly a tough comparison, as Prescott had 45 touchdown passes and just 17 interceptions in his first two seasons. He had a phenomenal 23 touchdowns and four interceptions as a rookie in 2016 with a career-best passer rating of 104.9.
Fields’ career was the exact opposite early on, with 10 interceptions and a 73.2 passer rating.
Eberflus said he liked Fields’ deep passes and saw a fundamental improvement since he started working with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and QB coach Andrew Janocko.
“I would just say Luke and Andrew are doing a great job with footwork and timing,” Eberflus said. “That, to me, is obvious. You just asked that question, I just…boom…right here.”
For the comparisons to be believable, the Bears will need to see more than footwork, timing and huddle confidence.
They should see more results similar to those posted by the two quarterbacks in their comparisons.