While the Chicago Bears are off to a strong 2-1 start to 2022, the talk of the town isn’t the start, but that sophomore quarterback Justin Fields has yet to play well. I disagree a bit on that thought in that I think under the circumstances of the opening game in a monsoon he played very well, but yeah the last two games were disappointing outings.
Due to this below average play, several fans are already trying to label Fields as a “bust”. I think it’s far too early to go that far in the assessment. To look at this topic objectively, let’s first look at how he played in his two seasons at ohio state and last year in Chicago.
Fields originally signed up at Georgia in 2018 and served as junior Jake Fromm’s primary backup this season, but still got significant playing time. After the season, Georgia coaches said Fromm, who would now be a 3-year-old starter, would more than likely be the starter again in 2019. Knowing that Fields was transferred to Ohio State, where he became QB1 in a high power offense. .
Needless to say, Fields played extremely well in this offense for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. In 2019, Fields threw 238 of 354 for over 3200 and 41 touchdowns. His completion percentage was over 67% and his average per attempt was 9.2 yards. All of those numbers were great. In the Covid-shortened 2020 season, Fields went 158 of 225 for 2,200 yards and 22 touchdowns. His average per attempt increased to 9.3 yards. Ohio State made the college football playoffs that season, and Fields easily edged Trevor Lawrence in the CFP semifinal.
During his time at Ohio State, Fields had to go through progressions and make accurate throws, and with a career completion percentage of over 68%, he showed just how accurate he could be. I watched Fields’ 10-game tape at Ohio State, and I had him as QB2 in the 2021 NFL Draft. There was no doubt, in my opinion, that he would be an NFL star.
After being drafted by the Bears in the 2021 draft, the plan was for Fields to sit down and learn as a rookie and then take over as a sophomore. But Andy Dalton, who was the starter, played poorly (and was injured), so after only a few games, Fields was slotted in as the Bears’ starting QB.
The problem with that was that Fields wasn’t ready to be a starter because he hadn’t gotten a high rep count in training camp. Plus, the offense he was playing in was an abomination. To clarify, the offense itself is very solid, as we saw what Patrick Mahomes did in this pattern while playing under Andy Reid at Kansas City. The problem here in Chicago was that Andy Reid wasn’t leading the offense or calling plays. Call play was atrocious and rarely put Fields in a position to succeed.
Still, Fields had some good games and for the season he made 58.9% of his shots. He also had some really good games statistically, like against Minnesota in December, where he threw for over 280 yards and made 67% of his throws. Another strong game came in Pittsburgh, where he was 17 of 29 for 291 yards. There is no doubt that he has the talent to get the job done.
I saw two fouls in his game last year. The first was that it had a “hitch” at the top of its output that slowed its speed of delivery. The second was that he sometimes tended to hold the ball too long.
With new training and offense in place for 2022, the hope was that Fields would make a huge leap forward in Year Two. To date, this has not happened. Why?
During the offseason, Fields worked hard on his throwing mechanics and, for the most part, got rid of the hitch, and his quick delivery both in training camp and in preseason games. was much better. I noticed the hitch was back in Sunday’s game against Houston. It’s not uncommon for players who try something new, as they’ll sometimes go back to what they’ve been doing. The way to correct this is through concentration and countless repetitions using his new delivery so that it becomes second nature.
The issues the Bears’ passing offense is going through aren’t just a problem with Fields, but rather a problem with the entire offensive unit. Remember, this pattern is new to all offensive players except Lucas Patrick and Equanimeous St. Brown. The scheme is an excellent but also sophisticated attack that relies on all parts working together in unison. This means the OLine, receivers, running backs and quarterback should be on the same page. It takes time.
When we watch a game, and there’s what looks like a bad pitch, it might just be a really great pitch, but the catcher made a bad run. There must be precision. Don’t forget that during training camp there were injuries to several wide receivers, and that didn’t help matters. Byron Pringle was brought in to play a big part in that attack, but he missed most of camp and Sunday suffered a calf injury and is now on IR. Pringle has never been an injury prone player, so I think it’s just a circumstance. The same can be said for Velus Jones and N’Keal Harry, as they missed a large amount of training time.
The important thing is that the Bears are winning right now. Their running game is as good as it gets in the League. It will take longer for the passing game to gel. I believe it will happen.
I believe Fields need to start quicker in games, get success early, which will breed success for the rest of the game. The line also needs to be more consistent with their pass protection. They’re already a great run-blocking unit, but the consistency needed for a solid passing game isn’t there.
Fans should be patient as this is a work in progress. Trust me; it will get better and reach a point that we are all satisfied with.