Publish Date: 08/12/2022
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa
If you don’t know Justin Fields’s strengths as a quarterback, well, thanks for reading, Matt Nagy. Each rookie quarterback was handed some adversity in 2021, but arguably none had the offense and coaching staff actively working against them more than Fields in Chicago. Lawrence had incompetence and laziness in Jacksonville, but it felt like the Bears went out of their way to avoid playing to Fields’s strengths. Check out the top sportsbooks for betting on the NFL.
Of 31 qualified quarterbacks, Fields ranked 29th in EPA per dropback, 30th in completion percentage, and 20th in yards per attempt. That yards per attempt figure was higher because Fields was constantly pushing the ball down the field — his 15.6% deep rate was behind only Russell Wilson among qualified quarterbacks. No quarterback threw deep more often on early downs than Fields at 16.8%, with Wilson next at 15.1%.
The positive spin is that good things happened when Fields completed passes. 50.9% of his completions gained ten or more yards, which was the highest rate in the league. Of course, the other side is that there weren’t many completed passes.
But while the struggles of other quarterbacks came partly from passing up more accessible options, Fields didn’t have many easier options to pass up. The Nagy offense tried to use some quick game, but that was rarely well spaced out and wasn’t a highlight of Fields’s game, even in college.
There is some chicken and egg here because Fields wants to go deep, and that’s where he’s at his best, but only two quarterbacks had a lower expected completion percentage than Fields last season, per Next Gen Stats.
With Luke Getsy now as offensive coordinator under new head coach Matt Eberflus and a wide-zone system set to take over, those easy buttons could come from getting Fields on the move on bootlegs.
Fields only had 19 designed boots last season, per SIS (28th among quarterbacks), but on those plays, he completed 73.7% of his passes while he still had a 10.1-yard aDOT. Among quarterbacks with at least 15 designed boots, no one had a higher percentage of plays that produced positive EPA than Fields (63.6%). It’s not as if those boots led to wide-open throws. Fields made a few against the 49ers that showed how he could turn his body, throw off the platform, and make some wild plays. Check out the top new sports betting sites for betting on the NFL.
The game against San Francisco was a great example of what Fields’ ability to move around can do for the offense. He could settle into a rhythm and improve his work from the pocket. It can help to slow down pass rushes that are often unable to control their emotions and pursue the quarterback.
Fields are the opposite of the group’s other quarterbacks. He has the potential to make explosive plays. While Fields has already shown that he can produce explosive plays, the rest of his game needs to be more consistent. Although the supporting cast isn’t as strong as Fields’, it may not be any worse than last season. However, injuries to Byron Grundle and Neal Harry could push that further.
This offense could surpass all expectations if it can combine Fields’ downfield abilities with the wide-zone concepts. So finally, Fields has a coach that can make him better by fitting what Fields strengths are into the offense, instead of the Matt Nagy approach, which was to force an offense on a quarterback without using his strengths. Fields is not Dwayne Haskins, and he can be a good NFL starter in the correct system, and I think he has that now. The only question remains: Does Fields have enough talent around him to win? The answer looks like a no for this season, but if he can show improvement and the Bears front office can make the rights moves, Fields could have an excellent career.