It would be understandable if Justin Fields approached Saturday’s preseason finale with some trepidation.
It was in Cleveland where he was intercepted in his first career start last year as the Browns pounded him with nine sacks in a 26-6 loss.
“No, he hasn’t said anything about it, which I’m fine with,” tackle Braxton Jones said. “I mean, it was last year.
“We’ve got a different group of guys and we’re obviously looking for a better result.”
Some of the Browns who racked up those sacks could play against Fields and the Bears offense, though not for long. Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and defensive end Ronnie Harrison had eight of the nine sacks and remain with Cleveland.
They will see different areas, but not a finished product by any means.
Fields’ passes need to be timed better, he needs to be better with his scrambles and escape the rush according to offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko. But he is making progress.
“Pocket presence is not an easy thing to learn, but he has the toughness and grit to do it,” Getsy said.
Time is on Fields’ side as a 23-year-old passer.
“He’s a young quarterback learning a new offense and the first two seasons are tough,” receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. “He has more to learn than everyone.
“He has to know what the O-line is doing, the receivers, everybody.”
ROBERT QUINN WASN’T THE ONLY BEAR TO FIGHT CANCER
So when you throw in what Fields also has to learn about his responsibilities, it’s a complicated task.
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“You know, it’s my first year with him,” St. Louis said. Brown. “I think you have to get more reps with a quarterback to build chemistry, to build trust within that quarterback. You can’t just go in ‘new quarterback, new receiver’ and just have chemistry.
“It takes time, effort, and you can work. So I think offseason camp and training has helped that.”
The Bears would like to think the progress will be more evident in Saturday’s game, because it really will have to be there the next time he takes the field against San Francisco.
“This is a big game experience for him that he’s going to get before the season starts and he’s excited about it,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “He’s excited to get out there and do it.”
Here’s more Bears to watch on offense in Saturday’s game beyond Fields, with the emphasis now on the starters as they’ll get a whole lot against Cleveland.
1. WR Darnell Mooney
It would be a positive for the leading receiver to connect for a meaningful catch or two. They’ve had a connection in each of the preseason games so far, including a 26-yarder in the opener against Kansas City. Mooney will have to step up a lot in the opener as the No. 1 receiver. 1 undisputed now and with injuries still plaguing the Bears’ receiving corps.
2. T Braxton Jones
His blocking has had some flaws, and he admitted he needs improvement against bull rushes. If he’s going to struggle against a particular type of rush, he can’t help the Bears any more than a batter can help a baseball team if he can’t hit a curveball. Jones needs a good game to keep the faith the coaches seem to have in him. The reason for this? Over the past week, they moved Riley Reiff back to left tackle with the backup teams after he had filled in at right tackle behind Larry Borom. Now Sean Coleman is lining up to be the backup right tackle. Either they’re just taking a Reiff job like there would be a swing move, or they’re seriously considering not putting so much responsibility on Jones at first and starting Reiff. So Jones needs a solid effort.
3. G Teven Jenkins
Jenkins is certainly a guy to watch here. He spent last week in one start at the position and if he continues to deliver, then there probably won’t be any trade discussions or rumors. Pad level and hand use are big areas of concern for him.
4. RB Darrynton Evans
A stronger secondary leaves the possibility open for the Bears to hold a fourth running back. Especially after special teams coordinator Richard Hightower sang his praises as a potential punt returner, Evans appears to have a good shot to stick with the team. He can work hard in the second half holding the ball as Trestan Ebner has been injured all week.
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