Justin Fields the runner has given way to Justin Fields the athletic passer.
The Bears couldn't be happier and on Sunday the rookie Bears quarterback tries to continue the momentum he established as a passer by going head to head against possibly the best running quarterback ever in Baltimore's Lamar Jackson.
The Bears have to hope it's Fields the passer deciding things rather than Fields the runner because of what happened against Pittsburgh and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in their last game.
"You saw last game when I got boomed by Minkah and then next time we met I slid," Fields said. "So I pick and choose my battles, and that battle I lost.
"So next time I just slid and got down. But yeah, it's important to of course take care of your body and not take as many hits."
Fields doesn't want to eliminate this part of his game entirely. He has watched what it can do for Jackson and wants to blend it all—but also be careful.
"I mean, to be honest with you there's not many guys who are like Lamar Jackson," Fields said. "You should just call it what it is. He does stuff that some receivers, running backs can't even do."
Fields called Jackson someone he could look up to while in college because of the athletic style, but also because of his status as a trend-setter at the position.
"So I don't think you can compare it to that, but just all of the backlash he got coming out of college saying he was a running back and stuff like that, he's just proving everybody wrong, and of course, he's one of the best in the league right now," Fields said. "So just seeing that young, black quarterbacks can get the job done, and we don't have to be old-fashioned pro-style passers to get it done.
"It just shows that it’s kind of a new wave coming and that athletic guys can play quarterback, also."
Fields knows what he speaks of when he talks about Jackson.
"Yeah, last year, when I was in college I would turn on his highlights and study how he ran the read option, how his feet were and how he kind of got a running start," Fields said. "When he runs the read option, he staggers his feet so he can like be already in a running position to run the ball after he’s reading the defensive ends."
Nagy likes to talk about Michael Vick when he discusses Jackson, mainly because he coached Vick in Philadelphia.
"Similar quarterbacks in the fact that Michael Vick was an unbelievable NFL quarterback, not runner," Nagy said.
While Vick was a pioneer and fast, the numbers don't say he was in Fields' class as a combo passer/runner. The comparison between those two isn't really that close.
Vick had a sub-par career passer rating of 80.4, had problems fumbling the ball and although he was an explosive runner he hit 1,000 yards only once. Jackson should hit 1,000 rushing yards for the third time in a four-year career this year, and his career passer rating is 100.3.
Nagy wouldn't mind seeing Fields imitate Jackson's ability for avoiding big collisions like the one with Fitzpatrick, although he definitely enjoys the scrambling yardage when plays go awry.
"You see how many times he gets hit?" Nagy said of Jackson. "He gets hit a lot, but he knows how to take hits. He's tough. He can throw the football all over the field."
Fields took major steps toward passing progress against the Steelers with a strong fourth quarter and a best of 291 total passing yards.
"I mean, I could still tap into a lot of things," Fields said. "I'm just happy that I'm improving and my goal is to just continue to do that each and every week, each and every day at practice and in the games, of course."
One of those is wide receiver Allen Robinson. Fields has been finding Darnell Mooney all along but in the last game he found Robinson for a big gain late and then finished with four completions to their veteran X-receiver.
"Of course. I think, we always clicked," Fields said. "But last game he was isolated one on one. A lot of the time that that doesn't happen.
"(When) that does happen, you want to give him the ball as much as possible. When those opportunities present itself, of course, we're going to try to get the ball to him. And we always preach winning those one-on-one matchups and stuff like that."