Photo Credit: C4 Energy
There has been no shortage of questions about whether the Chicago Bears have surrounded Justin Fields with enough impact talent on offense, but the second-year quarterback isn’t concerned about any outside noise.
“We don’t have an Odell [Beckham Jr.] or a Cooper Kupp on our team, but at the end of the day I think if everybody is on their P’s and Q’s, and we’re on top of everything and not making mistakes, the players we have right now are good enough,” he told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. “The front office thinks that, too. The fans outside of the facility, they don’t know what’s going on at practice. Just because we don’t have a big-name guy, doesn’t mean those guys aren’t talented. I have plenty of confidence in myself and my teammates that we’re going to get the job done.”
That confidence figures to be key because Chicago lost Allen Robinson in free agency to the Los Angeles Rams, didn’t add any high-profile wide receivers to replace him and used its first two draft picks on defensive players in Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon and Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker.
While Gordon and Brisker could both be excellent players, it was notable a franchise that so desperately needs Fields to reach his potential to be a long-term contender in the NFC focused on the defensive side of the ball after its free agency additions on offense were more secondary playmakers such as wide receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and Byron Pringle.
There is also remaining uncertainty about the offensive line, but a different and more confident Fields compared to this time last year when he was an incoming rookie behind temporary placeholder Andy Dalton can elevate the Bears’ ceiling.
“I’m more comfortable this year,” he said. “I kind of know what’s coming and know what to expect. … Me not knowing if I’m going to be the leader of the team or not last year compared to this year means a whole different mindset. Just comfortability and knowing that I’m going to be the guy and that this is my team is definitely a different mindset as I try to be a leader for everybody on the team.”
Fields eventually took over for Dalton last year and was somewhat inconsistent as a rookie while completing 58.9 percent of his passes for 1,870 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but he also flashed some of his potential and playmaking ability with his arm on deep balls and his legs with multiple spectacular runs.
Next Gen Stats @NextGenStats
Justin Fields had most of his production when pushing the ball down the field, completing 9 of 16 passes traveling 10+ air yards for 225 yards and a TD (+9.6% CPOE).
It will be up to Chicago’s new coaching staff to unlock the potential that was on display at times in 2021.
The Bears hired head coach Matt Eberflus this offseason to replace the fired Matt Nagy, who had just one winning season in four years with the team. They also hired offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who spent the previous three seasons as the quarterbacks coach for one of the all-time greats in Aaron Rodgers and the rival Green Bay Packers.
Nagy’s play-calling drew plenty of criticism, especially when he failed to design the offense around Fields, but Eberflus previously told reporters he plans on “building the offense around him and his strengths.”
Fields is a fan of the new coaching staff both on and off the field.
“It’s been awesome,” he said. “They’re great coaches, of course, but also great people. We spent a little bit of time together; we actually went golfing together. Just kind of getting to know those guys away from the facility and getting to know them more on a personal level was awesome.”
The new coaching staff also gives the Ohio State product an opportunity to become more of a leader himself.
“Be a coach on the field,” he said when asked about his biggest individual goal of the offseason. “Of course we have a new offense this year, and the only person who really knows the whole offense is the offensive coordinator. Even the coaches are learning the offense. Just being a coach on the field and being able to control everything and have everything going smoothly out there.”
One thing he believes will help him be a coach on the field is his partnership with C4 Energy.
He teamed up with the company for its “Ignite Your Fire” campaign that strives to unlock full athletic potential both on a physical and mental level.
“That’s the cool thing about C4,” Fields said. “It’s not just a physical thing where you use preworkout, but they also have drinks to maximize your mental capacity, too. So when I’m having a hard workout and I still have two hours of meetings left to go, I usually drink one of those, and it keeps me locked in. So it’s awesome being able to work with a company that treats both physical and mental health.”
He figures to need that additional energy given the way he and wide receiver Darnell Mooney have trained together this offseason.
Mooney is Chicago’s clear-cut No. 1 option heading into the 2022 season and showed immediate rapport with Fields. He registered 81 catches for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns in 2021. It was the wide receiver’s second year in the league, and he could be in line for a jump if his quarterback is to be believed.
“How hard he works,” Fields said when discussing what stands out about Mooney. “He’s already talented; he’s fast and has great hands. On top of that, he works harder than anybody I know other than myself. A couple nights ago, we were in the facility until 12:30 a.m. going through plays and walking through plays for the next day at practice.”
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
The Bears will need another receiver to deliver this season if that type of commitment leads to better production and double teams for Mooney.
One candidate is Velus Jones Jr., whom the Bears selected out of Tennessee with a third-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft. He tallied 62 catches for 807 yards and seven touchdowns in his final season with the Volunteers, all while he was also used as a speedy kick and punt returner.
“At rookie minicamp there was one play that stood out to me, he had a 10-yard dig route in and caught it and hit that second gear kick for a touchdown,” Fields said. “I think he caught it at 10 yards and took it 60, so he’s a great run-after-the-catch guy. He’s going to pick up a lot of yards and is physical. He’s almost like a running back at receiver. Having him on the outside and putting the ball in his hands and letting him work will be great.”
So while Fields doesn’t have a Beckham or Kupp at his disposal, there is some potential for dynamic plays with the Mooney and Jones pairing.
They will be facing a schedule that includes matchups against a number of Fields’ fellow 2021 quarterback draftees, including Trey Lance’s San Francisco 49ers, Mac Jones’ New England Patriots, Zach Wilson’s New York Jets and Davis Mills’ Houston Texans.
But don’t expect that to serve as any extra motivation for the Bears’ leader.
“I don’t care who we’re playing. I’m just trying to win,” he said.
Chicago fans will be on board with that plan.