Justin Fields Standing Up to the Challenge

Plenty of people doubted Justin Fields for a few different reasons as he came out of Ohio State into the NFL Draft, but after a few practices the Bears are seeing signs of the player they thought they were getting.

Justin Fields has his critics, or at least those skeptical about a few of his abilities.

Some saw him leave Georgia and transfer to Ohio State and viewed it as someone not up to handling the pressures of playing at his home-state university. How is he going to stand up to the pressure of being the savior of a franchise starving for a quarterback if he couldn't stand up to the pressure at Georgia?

Others looked at his play at Ohio State and saw a quarterback who had problems going through his progression quickly. They called him too robotic.

Fields views himself well prepared for the pressure cooker of being Bears starter. Coach Matt Nagy vehemently shoots down the other concerns.

While the media hung on every pass Fields has thrown over the weekend at rookie camp in a non-contact situation, the Bears rookie says he's been in "...the spotlight since high school. So I kind of feel like I'm made for this. I'm built for this.

"This is nothing new to me. I'm just going to continue to work hard and get better every day."

It merely followed up on the comment he made after being drafted.

"I don't think there's pressure at all on me because I expect myself to be a franchise quarterback," he said. "There is really no added pressure. I came from a big program like Ohio State where the fan base is very passionate about their sports. So there's definitely no added pressure for me in terms of that. 

"I expect myself to be a franchise quarterback and one day hopefully a top five quarterback in this league. That's what I'm going out to do, I'm going to work every day to reach my goal and reach new heights."

Nagy hasn't been able to take part in rookie camp in person due to a COVID-19 quarantine, but could make it on the field for Sunday's final drills. He does continue to monitor rookie minicamp via an internet connection up close with an iPad on the field.

Even from a remote standpoint and via Zoom, he said he sees a side of Fields' ability not always apparent to scouts or talent evaluators who said he was too robotic with progressions through the offense.

Nagy thinks those critics must have been watching too much 2019 game film.

"No. 1, I saw the change over time at Ohio State and that's what I was so excited about when we all watched tape," Nagy said. "The first season that he played there were some times where you could see that he was working through progressions. And then credit to coach (Ryan) Day and that coaching staff to teaching him and having him grow with reading that."

When a quarterback falls from possibly second or third to 11th, there must be a reason. Some of it may have been in line with a few negative stories or comments, like those of former NFL quarterback-turned-analyst Dan Orlovsky. He was the one who said he heard "...that there are issues with Justin Fields’ work ethic." 

The work ethic comment got Orlovsky in trouble and he backed off of it, for good reason. Fields seems totally consumed with learning the Bears offense and he has already begun to display a knack for reading the field before passing. 

"Justin's a very bright kid," Nagy said. "He's football-smart. He understands Xs and Os and then he also does a great job at understanding post-snap vision. That's so crucial in this game is being able to recognize that."

By this Nagy means Fields is seeing defensive movement and his receivers' movement in relation to if as he is either backpedaling or looking upfield.

"He did it yesterday. Again, he did it today," Nagy said. "So for him to have that is going to be really, really big to be able to grow, especially against the defenses that we're going to see, even in training camp (the Bears defense) as well."

Last college season has been called a "lost season" by many college football or draft analysts because it was shorter and came off in a strange way due to COVID-19. The Big Ten season started late and almost didn't occur.

It was anything but wasted for Fields. Nagy called it a key factor in his quarterback's development.

"Absolutely huge," Nagy said. "To get those snaps that he had and be able to see every play that he got where he got to see another defense or he got to be able to throw another deep cross concept or some type of post route or make some checks at the line of scrimmage, it's so valuable to have that experience, to be able to use that as you grow," Nagy said.

Nagy didn't want to name names of coaches but said he had some tell him Fields looks better and plays better than their first assessment of him on film.

"It's better to have that than to say this guy doesn't look like what I thought we had on tape, you know?" Nagy said. "So that's real. 

"And now the next step is when the vets get here and you're able to see them get their mental reps and then when ultimately you get to training camp, training camp and preseason, that's in the end when you really get to see some of those guys."

The second day of work didn't look quite as strong as Day 1.

"I thought we had a few more mistakes today just from what I saw on the video, which is normal in the second day because we installed more plays this morning," Nagy said. "So there's more volume for the guys, which creates more thinking, which usually creates more mistakes. It probably looked a little more sloppy today than yesterday, which is OK and very normal."

The arrow seems pointed up, though.

"Every day that he gets out there, it'll get better and better as he starts to really learn the intricacies of this offense," Nagy said. 

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