LAKE FOREST – Matt Eberflus has spent time around several notable quarterbacks during his time as an NFL assistant, with Dak Prescott, Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, and Carson Wentz being chief among them.
Given that Prescott was a popular draft comparison for Bears quarterback Justin Fields, it should be no surprise that Eberflus is seeing his young quarterback make the same strides Prescott did from Year 1 to Year 2. That progression has Eberflus envisioning big things for Fields and the Bears this fall.
"I could really probably compare this to Dak the most because he was young like this when I was there, as a rookie and then a second-year player, and he, we saw him just grow before our eyes," Eberflus said Wednesday after the Bears' final OTA practice. "And he's a talent, you know, he's a guy that can throw on time but also make extended plays and throw down the field, and that's where I see that Justin is.
"And I'm not trying to compare those two players. They're different players, but certainly, you can see the jump that we're going to make with Justin, and I can see those things as he starts to mature in the offense."
Prescott burst onto the scene during his rookie season, winning the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year while leading the Dallas Cowboys to the playoffs. Those numbers took a dip in his second season, but Prescott was still an upper-tier signal-caller, completing 62.9 percent of his passes for 3,324 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions in 16 games.
Fields' rookie season had its ups and downs. Last season in 12 games (10 starts), Fields threw for 1,870 yards, seven touchdowns, and 10 interceptions while completing 58.9 percent of his passes.
While the numbers don't paint the prettiest picture, Fields did have several jaw-dropping moments that showcased his star potential. However, the young quarterback was hampered by a bad offensive line and a coaching staff that refused to tailor the game plan to his strengths, leaving him to try and succeed in an offense built for Andy Dalton.
Eberflus has poured over Fields' tape from last season, and he's already seeing a noticeable improvement in one area of his young quarterback's development.
"I would just say that [offensive coordinator Luke Getsy] and [quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko] are doing a great job with the footwork and the timing," Eberflus said Wednesday when asked to pinpoint where Fields has improved from last season. "That to me jumps out. You just ask that question, I just, boom, right here."
The focus on tightening Fields' mechanics and footwork have been a priority for the offensive staff this offseason. The Bears' strong belief is that with tighter mechanics and Getsy's quarterback-friendly system, Fields can start to blossom into a star come fall.
"We're always just trying to be efficient and compact," Janocko said. "Whatever we do, whether it's the feet … everything starts with our feet and building it from the ground up. And then from there, just being compact and allowing him to have the best release possible from the ground up, from the waist up, with his base and all that. We're always working on different things like that.
"Everything is about timing and rhythm in the NFL. If you can get the ball out on time and you can listen to what your feet are telling you, then that helps you progress, helps you get through reads, helps you feel a defense, and tells you when you're late and need to move on."
Praise has been heaped on Fields all offseason for his work ethic and improved command of the huddle.
With a softer schedule and an offense that promises to get Fields on the move more and use his arm to attack down the field, there's reason to be optimistic that a Year 2 leap is on the way.
A Prescott Year 2 stat line with an extra game sprinkled in (62 percent completion, 3,500 yards, 20-25 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) would give the Bears reason to believe their long journey to find a franchise quarterback is over and that the rebuild can begin in full.
That's a lot to put on Fields' shoulders, but Eberflus has already seen a new Justin Fields this offseason.