The Chicago Bears are currently in the middle of a five-game losing streak with the legitimate chance of not winning a game for the remainder of the 2022 season. With the team vying for a top-three draft selection in the 2023 NFL Draft and already being eliminated from playoff contention, there are few on-field positives for Chicago. The growth of quarterback Justin Fields is now the sole remaining focus in the Bears’ final five games, and whether Fields can improve as a passer as it is the final step in him becoming an elite-level talent in the league.
Fields Needs To Improve On His Passing Ability Due To Multiple Circumstance Surrounding The Bears
Fields has been the lone bright spot in a dismal season that was projected by many as general manager Ryan Poles and first-year head coach Matt Eberflus began a rebuild to overhaul the Bears’ roster. Over the past six weeks, Chicago’s second-year quarterback has been one of the best players in the league, setting several new records, including the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a game with 178. Since the Bears’ last win against the Patriots on October 24th, Fields has thrown nine touchdown passes and rushed for six by himself.
Although Fields has been one of the most exciting players in the NFL during his last five games, with Chicago’s offense averaging nearly 30 points per game, he has struggled significantly as a passer. The Bears rank dead last in most of the NFL’s passing categories, as the team’s star quarterback has averaged less than 150 yards passing per start. Fields has only recorded one game in which he has thrown for more than 200 yards this season and has yet to attempt 30 or more passes in a game.
Despite Chicago’s struggles in the passing game, they are the best rushing offense in the league and could potentially have multiple players record 1,000 rushing yards or more. Fields is a significant contributor to those rushing stats but now needs to develop as a passer, especially following his injury. The second-year quarterback missed the team’s last game against the Jets with a hurt left shoulder. Fields leads the league in rushing attempts by a quarterback, but it is unlikely offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will call design-run plays once Fields returns.
Getsy’s offense demonstrated that it can function at a competent level even without Fields, as backup quarterback Trevor Siemian had success early in last Sunday’s game against the Jets’ top-five defense. Siemian completed 8 of 11 passes for 127 yards in the first half of the game, including a four-yard touchdown pass to Byron Pringle. The offensive play design by Getsy was getting pass-catchers open for Chicago’s backup quarterback and should be even more successful once Fields returns to the lineup.
Getsy will try to protect Fields by calling fewer quarterback-run designs in favor of traditional passing plays. Chicago’s offense coordinator could jeopardize his job if he risks his quarterbacks’ health, especially with meaningless games coming up. The last thing the Bears need to have is for Fields to suffer a significant injury because of a play design that could of being avoided and that didn’t account for his safety.
With five games left in the season, Chicago’s defense has been one of the worst units in all of football and has some pretty tough offensive opponents coming up. Fields will be forced to develop as a passer out of necessity, as the Bears’ offense will be playing from behind most of the time and will have to abandon their running plays. With games against the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, and Minnesota upcoming, there is a strong likelihood that the Bears could find themselves down by three scores or more before halftime in a majority of these games. Fields will likely have numerous opportunities to improve his passing numbers in garbage time against these teams, trying to make the games appear competitive.
The season-ending injury to the Bears’ best wide receiver, Darnell Mooney, will also factor into Fields’ development as a passer over the five remaining games. Moving forward, Chicago’s second-year quarterback will have to build more rapport and chemistry with other pass-catchers, including Chase Claypool and N’Keal Harry. Claypool and Harry give Fields the best chance to improve from a passing standpoint, as opposing defenses were aware that Mooney was the quarterback’s favorite wide receiver to throw to. Poles, Eberflus, and Getsy need to know if they have any talent at the wide receiver position that potentially deserves a chance to remain with the Bears in 2023, which will further drive the need for more passing plays.
Fields Is On The Cusp Of Having A Breakout Passing Performance
Although Fields has yet to improve from a statistical standpoint, he has made significant progress through the 2022 season. At the beginning of 2022, Chicago’s quarterback looked visually lost and unconfident during passing plays as he didn’t know where to go with the ball. Beginning in Week 4 against the New York Giants, Fields started making more accurate and confident throws while demonstrating a better understanding of Getsy’s offense.
Fields’ decision-making has steadily improved also, as he has only thrown four interceptions in his last eight starts. Of those four interceptions thrown by the second-year quarterback, three came off tipped passes from Bears’ pass-catchers or at the line of scrimmage. Of the three throws that resulted in takeaways, Fields made the correct read and targeted the open receivers on the throw.
Chicago’s quarterback appears determined to improve as a passer based on what took place during his previous start against the Atlanta Falcons. There were several passing plays in which Fields had an opportunity to scramble but chose to move around in the pocket to find the open receiver for a first-down completion. Due to his elite ability to scramble for a first down, the Bears’ quarterback can create more downfield passing opportunities with the threat of running, confusing opposing defenders.
Fields’ issues in the passing offense does not make him a poor quarterback, nor does it mean his unable to improve. Chicago’s quarterback has made significant strides at the position from the beginning of this up to now but needs to focus solely on making progress at the most vital aspect of being a quarterback. If Fields can improve as a passer before the end of 2022, he can put himself in a position where he can become one of the league’s elite quarterbacks in 2023.