The Chicago Bears may be 2-1 after three weeks of 2022 NFL action, but not much of their success can be attributed to their young quarterback. Folks, it’s time we discuss Justin Fields.
Through three weeks, the Bears have attempted 45 passes, the fewest in the NFL by a wide margin—and that’s even before the Giants and Cowboys played on Monday Night Football. Fields, the second-year quarterback Chicago hoped would be the face of their franchise for years to come, is responsible for all 45 attempts thus far and completed just 23 of them. That’s a completion rate of 51 percent; in other words, not good.
Before anyone comes at me for not including context, yes, the Bears’ Week 1 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers was in a monsoon. But that doesn’t explain Fields’ most recent performance in which he had the exact same number of completions and pass attempts—8-for-17, or just over 47%—against the Houston Texans as he did against the 49ers.
No, Fields’ missteps through three weeks can’t all be explained away by the weather. Over the last two weeks, the second-year quarterback has a 33.3 passer rating with no touchdowns and three picks. Fields is missing his receivers with bad passes, poor decision-making and occasionally failing to progress through all of his reads. He ranks in the bottom three of quarterbacks with an on-target throw percentage of 40%. He’s throwing to guys in triple coverage at times and occasionally straight-up missing wide-open receivers (take a look at Equanimeous St. Brown streaking down the sideline at the top of the screen).
Swooped right on in 🔒 @jalenpitre1
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) September 25, 2022
Fields is also holding onto the ball too long in the pocket. He’s been sacked 10 times this year, fifth-most in the league despite also having the fourth-most pocket time—time between the snap and either throwing the ball or facing imminent pressure—of any NFL quarterback this year. No other quarterback with more than 2.0 seconds of pocket time has been sacked more than five times besides Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. While that number can be skewed by Fields’ ability to scramble away from pressure, he still needs to get better at going through his progressions faster and making decisions more quickly.
Perhaps the most worrying part of all of Fields’ struggles so far is that he’s struggling this hard in an offense that is actually performing very well apart from him. The Bears’ run game is dominant. Through Sunday Night Football action, Chicago is second in the league in rushing yards with 560 after three weeks. After David Montgomery went down with an injury early on Sunday, second-year back Khalil Herbert had a fantastic 157-yard, two-touchdown performance with a couple of touchdowns. Fields has played a part in that rushing success as well.
The offensive line is also playing admirably. Former second-round tackle Teven Jenkins has been exceeding expectations after his move to the inside as the new starting right guard. The protection up front has been there for Fields and the line has clearly been creating plenty of push for Chicago’s running backs. A quarterback shouldn’t be struggling to this degree with a run game this good and an offensive line that has looked mediocre—not bad—at worst.
To the Bears coaching staff’s credit, they’re continuing to give Fields some chances through his struggles, trying to give him opportunities to improve and develop. Even after a couple of bad interceptions on Sunday, Fields dropped back to pass six more times. But their confidence in their young quarterback is clearly waning. There were several instances on Sunday in which Chicago looked to their run game on third down rather than Fields and the passing offense.
It’s not time to hit the panic button after those decisions or a few bad games just yet. As head coach Matt Eberflus pointed out, Fields is a young quarterback already trying to learn a new offense in his second season. Still, it’s important we actually see Fields start to improve this year after his rough start. Otherwise, the Bears could end up in a position to draft a new quarterback and find themselves with a big decision to make sooner than they ever hoped.