Bears general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus made it clear entering the 2022 season that they were giving quarterback Justin Fields the reins to the offense.
They didn’t bring in any real competition for their 23-year-old quarterback, instead signing Trevor Siemian and Nathan Peterman – who were clear backups. For better or worse, the 2022 season was about finding out what Fields could do.
The front office didn’t provide him with a ton of help. The Bears spent minimally in free agency and used their top two draft picks on defensive players. Still, Fields made the most of a bad situation and did about all he could with a bad receiving corps and a mediocre offensive line.
Fields’ rushing abilities garner an A-plus. He was the best running quarterback in the NFL, and he likely would’ve set the QB rushing record if the medical staff allowed him to play in the season finale.
You could not possibly ask more of a quarterback, from a rushing perspective. He finished the season with 1,143 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
When the Bears finally started designing more runs for Fields, and when Fields’ confidence grew in his ability to scramble, all that running opened up possibilities in the passing game.
During Fields’ eight starts between the New England game Oct. 24 and the Buffalo game Dec. 24, he completed 67% of his passes with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions, while throwing for 162.3 yards per game. He did that all while rushing for 91.1 yards per game. Despite a 1-7 record during that stretch, the Bears hung around in the vast majority of those games.
There were plenty of flashes in the passing game. Fields has the ability to make high-level throws. He did it throughout the season.
Fields now has to keep making those high-level throws with consistency. There wasn’t enough of it, and part of it had to do with the quality of his receivers, particularly after Darnell Mooney had season-ending surgery.
Fields allowed way too many sacks. He led the NFL with 55 sacks (tied with Russell Wilson) and as a team the Bears had a league-worst (by far) 15.38% sack rate because they threw the ball so infrequently. Given Fields’ playing style and his propensity to run, he might always have a high sack rate. But that number certainly can improve, even if he keeps playing this style.
He threw 11 interceptions in 15 starts, but only a couple of those 11 picks were “bad” interceptions.
1. Week 1 feels like a lifetime ago. Still, Fields’ 51-yard touchdown pass to Dante Pettis was his “I’m back” statement after a long offseason. Fields escaped not one but two edge rushers, ran for his life and still found a way to keep his eyes downfield.
.@justnfields magic 🪄— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) September 11, 2022
📺: #SFvsCHI on FOX pic.twitter.com/amaGgbiPm7
2. For QBs, it’s often the subtle things that make a great play. Fields’ second-quarter touchdown pass to Khalil Herbert against the Patriots in October was one of his best throws all season. Earlier in the game, the Bears ran a screen, but Fields’ pass was knocked down by the edge defender.
They went back to the play later, and Fields executed a perfect pass fake, changed his arm angle, slung the ball to Herbert, then was absolutely clobbered. Herbert ran untouched to the end zone.
Khalil Herbert to the house untouched! @JuiceHerbert— NFL (@NFL) October 25, 2022
📺: #CHIvsNE on ESPN
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/2HQeNdaFPc pic.twitter.com/QKKpTgYarK
3. This list wouldn’t be complete without an electric touchdown run. Pick whichever one you want. I’m going with the 67-yard touchdown against Detroit because it came moments after Fields threw a pick-six interception. He had no problem putting the bad play behind him.
And he simply outran everyone.
Are you serious, @justnfields?! 🤯— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) November 13, 2022
📺: #DETvsCHI on FOX pic.twitter.com/aNYLmrOpSx
Fields has two more seasons on his rookie deal, with a team option for an additional year. His cap hit is only $5 million in 2023. That’s a steal for a starting quarterback. Siemian, the primary backup, is under contract for one more season. Peterman and Tim Boyle are free agents.
Again, an A-plus for his running abilities. A C in the passing game, with flashes of A material. With a quarterback in today’s NFL, the passing game has to carry more weight.
Bring in more talent.
Outside of finding him help, the Bears need to look at what worked in 2022 and what didn’t. They must keep incorporating Fields in the run game in creative ways. He had tremendous passing success when they changed his launch angle by moving the pocket left and right, or rolling him out. Build the offense around what Fields is comfortable with.
His pocket presence was vastly improved from his rookie season, but there’s always room to grow in that area. There still are times when he holds onto the football too long.
Oh yeah, and bring in more talent.