September 30, 2022

Bears Analysis

Top 25 most important Bears in 2022: No. 1 Justin Fields

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields throws a pass during practice, Wednesday, May 17, 2022, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

Shaw Local is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2022 season.

What makes one player more important than another? That’s subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can’t play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?

For example, Justin Fields might not be the best player on the Bears in 2022 (or maybe he will be), but he certainly is among the most important.

No. 1 Justin Fields

Position: Quarterback

NFL experience: Second season

Last year’s ranking: No. 4

Looking back: Nobody will truly ever know how long former Bears head coach Matt Nagy intended to keep Justin Fields on the bench. Nagy’s grand plan never made it past Week 2, when starting QB Andy Dalton tweaked his knee against the Bengals and Fields had to play the second half. Fields started the following week, and Nagy eventually named him the permanent starter.

The 11th overall draft pick in 2021, Fields was immediately at a disadvantage because he saw essentially zero reps with the first-team offense during training camp. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but that plan clearly didn’t prepare Fields for when the team needed him. The offense was among the worst passing attacks in the NFL last season. Fields finished his season completing 58.9% of his passes for 1,870 yards with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He ran for 420 yards and two touchdowns but fumbled 12 times and was sacked 36 times in 12 games. The team went 2-8 in his 10 starts.

Looking forward: There’s no debating it this year – this is Fields’ offense. He’s clearly the best quarterback on the roster. He should see nearly all the first-team reps during training camp, as he did this spring. With a new offense to implement, that is essential. Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy likely will bring with him many of the concepts he learned in his previous roles with the Packers. That could mean playing into Fields’ strengths: rolling out more and using his legs to his advantage.

The biggest leap for young NFL quarterbacks usually comes between their rookie season and their second year. If Fields takes a major step forward, the Bears should feel a lot more confident about the future. Much was made over the offseason about the team’s lack of weapons at wide receiver, and those criticism might be fair, but it’s simply a fact that the Bears’ top three leaders in receptions (Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet and David Montgomery) all return in 2022. Continuity between Fields and those three will be huge.

Even if the 2022 Bears struggle, which they might, this season still can be a success if Fields makes strides in his game. If he can stay healthy, protect the football and read defenses a little more quickly, the Bears’ passing attack should be much improved. If this season is another disaster and the team winds up with a top draft pick, general manager Ryan Poles might have to take a long, hard look at the quarterback position.

In case you missed it: Previous installments of the top 25

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.