Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields couldn’t be more confident heading into second year of his NFL career with his first full offseason under his belt. That much he has made clear ahead of the 2022 NFL season.
With training camp not yet underway, Fields’ teammates have had an abundance of praise for the leadership role he has actively taken. It seems to be instilling optimism in a team that needs it after finishing 2021 with a 6-11 overall record.
Fields was among the rookie quarterbacks of the 2021 class who didn’t immediately get the starting nod right out of the gate. But the reins were eventually turned over from Andy Dalton to Fields sooner rather than later. It cmae with a mixed bag.
- Justin Fields stats (2021): 59% completion, 1,870 passing yards, 420 rushing yards, 9 total TD, 10 INT, 73.2 QB rating
There are obviously some things to be desired and some questions raised with a stat line like this. His completion percentage didn’t even reach 60 with a bottom-heavy touchdown-to-interception ratio.
But as with all rookies, it is important to realize this is a player in the first year of his career who has the same growing pains to go through that all first-year quarterbacks do. He also wasn’t put in the greatest of situations with a lackluster supporting cast.
Fields dealt with high levels of pressure from defenses in 2021. This played a role into some of his low moments.
According to Pro Football Focus, Fields totaled 353 drop backs with 87 pressured attempts. Of those pressured attempts, he completed 40 of them with a mere two touchdown passes. He also tied for the fifth-most turnover-worthy plays (11) and was sacked 36 times on those plays.
The difference between his clean-pocket passing grade and his grade from a pressured pocket was major. Fields graded out at 78.4 when properly protected and at just 33.1 with a compromised pocket. That’s a 45.3-point difference.
But the numbers and some of the shortcomings of the other players on the field are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the argument that this wasn’t all Fields’ fault. The fact that Chicago went its separate ways with head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace, entering 2022 with an entirely new setup, tells the bigger story.
What to expect from Justin Fields in 2022
It should be only up from here for Fields after the darkness of last season.
In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Bears started with defense before going heavy on the other side of the ball with six picks on offense. The team gained a new passing target in Venus Jones Jr. out of Tennessee in the third round. They also picked up four offensive linemen.
- Round 2, Pick No. 39: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
- Round 2, Pick No. 48: Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
- Round 3, Pick No. 71: Venus Jones Jr., WR, Tennessee
- Round 5, Pick No. 168: Braxton Jones, OT, Southern Utah
- Round 5, Pick No. 174: Dominique Robinson, EDGE, Miami (Ohio)
- Round 6, Pick No. 186: Zach Thomas, G, San Diego State
- Round 6, Pick No. 203: Trestan Ebner, RB, Baylor
- Round 6, Pick No. 207: Doug Kramer, C, Illinois
- Round 7, Pick No. 226: Ja’Tyre Carter, G, Southern
- Round 7, Pick No. 254: Elijah Hicks, S, Cal
- Round 7, Pick No. 255: Trenton Gill, K, N.C. State
There’s a lot to like about what Justin Fields brings to the table as a player. He was one of college football’s best players at Ohio State his final season, fighting through injury and leading his team to a national championship appearance while completing 70.2% of his passes for 2,100 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Over two seasons with the team after transferring from Georgia, he registered a 68.4% completion rate with 5,373 passing yards, 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Over a three-year college career, he totaled 1,123 rushing yards with 19 touchdowns on the ground.
With the Buckeyes, he projected as a solid overall passer who brought an extra element of explosiveness as a runner.
While his decision-making under pressure was questionable and he sometimes bailed from the pocket, that didn’t ever appear as a glaring issue. That’s primarily because of just how special his athleticism and ability to make things happen with his legs was.
Fields showed us just how fast he was during Ohio State’s Pro Day, recording an unofficial 4.44 time on his 40-yard dash. While he’s up against an athletically and physically gifted quarterback in Trey Lance, Fields could be determined down to line to be the best or second-best athlete at the position in the 2021 draft class.
Crissy Froyd’s 2021 NFL Draft Quarterback Rankings
- Zach Wilson, BYU
- Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
- Justin Fields, Ohio State
- Trey Lance, NDSU
- Mac Jones, Alabama
- Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
- Ian Book, Notre Dame
- Kyle Trask, Florida
- Davis Mills, Stanford
- KJ Costello, Mississippi State
- Jamie Newman, Wake Forest
- Sam Ehlinger, Texas
- Shane Buechele, SMU
- Peyton Ramsey, Northwestern
- Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
Finding the right pieces for Justin Fields
Fields seems to be in a good spot mentally with the 2022 season on the horizon, but he’s still going to have some things to overcome as the Bears seem to be a decent ways away from the baseline they need to achieve as a team.
While new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is an upgrade who will help elevate this team as a play-caller and has spoken to his intention to build the team around what Fields does best, there are still questions surrounding the offensive line and wide receiver depth.
Fields has Darnell Mooney as a reliable target. Beyond that, the Bears still need some added firepower that none of the receivers in their current room have shown in a major way. Though, there is some hope for free agency additions Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown and the draft selection Jones to show promise during camp.
Related: Chicago Bears training camp preview
Still, it’s in the Bears’ best interest to hit the free agency market and bring on another proven receiver like an Emmanuel Sanders or an Adam Humphries so they have someone outside of Mooney for Fields to build chemistry with.
In regards to the offensive line, Justin Fields didn’t seem to trust his left tackle last season (and how could he, based on the pressure numbers). This had a lot to do with the mistakes he made. Heading into training camp, there’s still no clear picture as to what the team’s offensive line will look like when it hits the field in Week 1. Rookie Braxton Jones has seen time at at left tackle with the starters. Larry Borom hals also moved over to right tackle.
If the season started today, it’s safe to assume Fields would begin to take the next step as an individual player with the game beginning to slow down for him. Unfortunately, he will still struggle with a lot of the same Bears problems of last year that haven’t been fully remedied.
The Bears have a chance to show improvement offensively in 2022, but it’s clear they’ve got their hands full. They must stort this out to give Justin Fields a chance to do himself justice this year.