Bears general manager Ryan Poles is confident that quarterback Justin Fields will be put in position to succeed in his second NFL season.
"I think as a whole with the scheme, with coaching, with some of the additions that we've had, I think it's going to get better," Poles said earlier this week at the NFL owners meetings in Florida. "I think he's going to be put in a situation where he's going to be comfortable, and I've said this all the way back to the very beginning, allowing him to do what he does best is going to allow him to grow from that point."
That no doubt will involve accentuating Fields' strengths, most notably his athleticism, mobility and accuracy. He showed flashes of those traits last season during an up-and-down rookie year.
Selected by the Bears with the 11th pick in the 2021 draft, Fields appeared in 12 games with 10 starts, throwing for 1,870 yards with seven touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 73.2 passer rating. The former Ohio State star also rushed for 420 yards and two TDs on 72 carries.
Fields should also benefit from working with first-year offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who joins the Bears after spending five of the last six seasons as an offensive assistant with the Packers. Led by four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and All-Pro receiver Davante Adams, Green Bay boasted one of the league's most prolific offenses throughout Getsy's tenure.
In their quest to put Fields in the best position to excel this year, Poles and the Bears studied quarterbacks who flourished in their second NFL seasons. One commonality they discovered was the existence of a talented playmaker at one of the skill positions. Top skill-position players who are under contract include running back David Montgomery, receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet.
In addition, the Bears have bolstered their offense by signing six unrestricted free agents since the start of the league year March 16: center Lucas Patrick (Packers), guard Dakota Dozier (Vikings), receivers Byron Pringle (Chiefs) and Equanimeous St. Brown (Packers), fullback Khari Blasingame (Titans) and backup quarterback Trevor Siemian (Saints).
Poles no doubt will continue to acquire talent to surround Fields via free agency and the draft, but the first-year general manager understands that he must also spend resources to improve the defense.
"I want to give him everything I possibly can, but you still have to construct an entire team," Poles said. "You can't go blank in one area and then just load up in one area; I think you'll be offset.
"We're always going to be aggressive to get him the tools that he needs to be successful. It's just the timing and the talent level and the cap situation; all of those are going to dictate when we can go and we can't go. But I think what we've done so far is at least establish a little bit of growth in the roster, plus the scheme, with the coaching, I see him getting better even from what we did right now."
“I think he’s going to be put in a situation where he’s going to be comfortable, and … allowing him to do what he does best is going to allow him to grow from that point.” Ryan Poles on Justin Fields
Asked to identity the most important aspect of Fields' development this season, Poles said: "One, and I saw this on tape last year, is just continuity with his receivers. It seemed, especially with Mooney, it was off."
"I don't know if that's just the way that they had it structured with who was starting and who wasn't starting," Poles said. "[But] I had a conversation with [Fields]. I had it with Mooney. I had it with Cole."
Poles has been happy to see Fields post videos on social media of him working out with Bears teammates on their own. During Poles' time with the Chiefs, he witnessed first-hand how similar offseason sessions helped quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce develop cohesiveness.
"They worked through the summer and they had that relationship where there's balls being thrown before someone like Kelce came out of his break," Poles said. "How did you know that's where he was going to go? It's just from all the reps that you take with each other. [Fields and his teammates] are already taking that step."