The Chicago Bears have long been searching for a franchise quarterback, and there is reportedly some belief within the organization that they have found one as Justin Fields enters his second season in the league.
According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, "the Bears are quietly pretty optimistic about the progress [Fields] has made."
That progress may have been on full display in Saturday's preseason win over the Cleveland Browns.
Fields went 14-of-16 passing for 156 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions while staking Chicago to a 21-0 advantage before exiting. It was his first extensive action in a preseason game, and he seemed to make significant strides from where he was as a rookie.
While Fields showed flashes of his potential in that first season, the overall numbers weren't great. He completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 1,870 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions while adding 420 yards and two scores on the ground.
Things certainly look different in the Windy City for the quarterback's second season.
The Bears fired head coach Matt Nagy and brought in new coach Matt Eberflus and new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. The latter, in particular, was a noteworthy hire for Fields' development since he was previously the quarterbacks coach for Aaron Rodgers and the rival Green Bay Packers.
Rodgers may not have many fans in Chicago, but it is impossible to argue with his success on the field.
Nagy's offense did anything but accentuate Fields' strengths, which is one reason he is no longer on the sidelines for the Bears. Getsy has seen what it takes to be incredibly successful as a quarterback in the NFL from his time with the Packers, and the Fields leading the offense in Saturday's game looked ready to start carving out his own path to success.
That's not to say there aren't any question marks for the Bears. The offensive line is far from a sure thing, and the wide receivers group outside of Darnell Mooney consists largely of unproven journeymen.
The playoffs may not be a realistic goal in 2022 with those concerns, but Fields' ability to continue making progress is far more important for the long-term ceiling of the organization.