While the Chicago Bears are off to a good 2-1 start in 2022, the talk of the town isn’t the start, but that second-year quarterback Justin Fields hasn’t played well yet. I disagree a little on that thought in that I feel under the circumstances of the opening game in a monsoon, he played very well, but yes, the last two games have been disappointing outings.
Because of that below-average play, several fans are already trying to label Fields a “bust.” I feel it’s way too early to go that far in the evaluation. To look at this topic objectively, let’s first go back to how he played in his two seasons at Ohio State and last year in Chicago.
Fields originally enrolled at Georgia in 2018 and was the primary backup to junior Jake Fromm that season but still got significant playtime. After the season, the Georgia coaches said that Fromm, who would now be a 3-year starter, would more than likely be the starter again in 2019. Knowing that Fields transferred to Ohio State, where he became QB1 in a high-powered offense .
Needless to say, Fields played extremely well in that offense for both the 2019 and 2020 seasons. In 2019, Fields completed 238 of 354 throws for over 3200 years and 41 TDs. His completion percentage was over 67%, and his average per attempt was 9.2 yards. All these numbers were excellent. In the Covid shortened 2020 season, Fields went 158 of 225 for 2200 yards and 22 TDs. His average per attempt went up to 9.3 yards. Ohio State got to the College Football Playoff that season and Fields easily outplayed Trevor Lawrence in the CFP semi-final game.
While at Ohio State, Fields had to go through progressions and make accurate throws, and with a career completion percentage of over 68%, he showed how accurate he could be. I watched tape of 10 of Fields’ games while at Ohio State, and I had him as QB2 in the 2021 NFL Draft. There was no question, in my opinion, that he would be a star in the NFL.
After being drafted by the Bears in the 2021 Draft, the plan was for Fields to sit and learn as a rookie and then take over in year two. But Andy Dalton, who was the starter, played poorly (and was injured), so after just a few games Fields was inserted as the Bears’ starting QB.
The problem with that was that Fields was not ready to be a starter as he did not get a high number of reps in training camp. In addition, the offense he was playing in was an abomination. To clarify, the offense itself is very solid, as we have seen what Patrick Mahomes has done in that scheme playing under Andy Reid in Kansas City. The problem here in Chicago was Andy Reid wasn’t running the offense or calling the plays. The play calling was atrocious and rarely put Fields in a position to succeed.
Still, Fields had some good games, and for the season, he completed 58.9% of his throws. He also had some very good games statistically, such as vs. Minnesota in December, where he threw for over 280 yards and completed 67% of his throws. Another strong game was in Pittsburgh, where he was 17 of 29 for 291 yards. There is no question that he has the talent to get the job done.
I saw two faults in his game last year. The first was that he had a “hitch” at the top of his release that slowed down his delivery quickness. The second was that he had a tendency to hold on to the ball too long at times.
With a new coaching and offense in place for 2022, the hope was that Fields would take a huge jump in year two. To date, that hasn’t happened. Why?
During the offseason, Fields worked hard on his throwing mechanics and, for the most part, got rid of the hitch, and his delivery quickness both in training camp and in preseason games was much better. I noticed that the hitch was back in Sunday’s game vs. Houston. This is not uncommon with players who are trying something new, as they will, at times, revert to what they did. The way to correct that is concentration and countless reps using his new delivery so that it becomes second nature.
The problems the Bears’ passing attack is going through is not just a problem with Fields but rather a problem with the entire offensive unit. Remember, this scheme is new to every player on the offensive except Lucas Patrick and Equanimeous St. Brown. The scheme is an excellent offense but also a sophisticated one that relies on all the parts working together in unison. That means the OLine, receivers, running backs, and the quarterback must be on the same page. It takes time.
When we watch a game, and there is what looks to be a bad throw, it might really be an excellent throw, but the receiver ran a poor route. There must be precision. Don’t forget that during training camp, there were injuries to several wide receivers, and that didn’t help the matter. Byron Pringle was brought in to be a big part of this offense, but he missed most of camp and on Sunday injured his calf and is now on IR. Pringle has never been an injury-prone player, so I believe it’s just circumstance. The same can be said about Velus Jones and N’Keal Harry, as they have missed a large amount of practice time.
The important thing is that the Bears are winning right now. Their running game is as good as there is in the league. It will take longer for the pass game to gel. I do believe it will happen.
I believe Fields needs to get off to a quicker start in games, have some 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 are already a great run blocking unit, but the consistency needed for a solid pass game isn’t there.
Fans need to be patient as this is a work in progress. Trust me; it will get better and reach a point that we are all happy with.