A new coaching staff and wide receiver room could be the key to getting a second-year leap out of Justin Fields.
The Bears may not appear to have a lot going for them in 2022, but second-year quarterback Justin Fields could change that. Playing under a new head coach and play-caller could be the difference in unlocking the former first-round pick’s true potential.
Fields’ rookie season was a forgettable one. In his 12 appearances and ten starts, Fields threw for only 1,870 yards, seven touchdowns, and ten interceptions. He also added 420 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground, but it wasn’t nearly enough to make Fields’ rookie season one to write home about.
With that said, Fields wasn’t exactly set up to succeed. He was dealing with a head coach on the verge of being fired, an offensive line that ranked below average in practically every metric, and a wide receiver unit that had one of the lowest separation rates in the league. This isn’t to say that Fields should be exempt from all responsibility, but the obstacles he faced as a rookie were ones that would be challenging for any quarterback.
The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that the only place to go is up, and that’s exactly how to feel about Fields’ supporting cast. It’s too early to know whether head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Gesty will be long-term answers, but it’s hard to imagine they will make things as hard on Fields as Matt Nagy did. Just average coaching should be considered a major upgrade from last year.
Chicago may have lost Allen Robinson to the Rams, but it’s important to remember which version of Robinson that Fields was working with last year. In 12 games, he put up a meager stat line of 38 catches for 410 yards and a single touchdown. If the Bears were replacing the Allen Robinson that torched defenses in 2020, adding Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St, Brown, and Velus Jones Jr. likely wouldn’t be enough. However, asking those three to replace less than 450 yards of total offense is more than reasonable. Even if the name value is nothing to gawk at, the pass-catching unit should be better in 2022.
But at the end of the day, a mere coaching change and a couple of depth signings won’t be enough to trigger a breakout on their own. That’s why my biggest reason for optimism with Fields’ trajectory is my belief in Fields himself and the immense talent he possesses. Even in what was a train wreck of a rookie season, he had flashes of high-level play. When at his best, Fields’ blend of arm talent and athletic ability is reminiscent of the likes of Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson.
In terms of physical talent, Justin Fields checks every box. There are just certain aspects of his game that need refining. Luckily, most of these are highly fixable. For example, videos have circulated on the internet of Fields’ revamped throwing motion, which gets rid of the wasted motion in his old release and leads to a faster delivery.
Not every rookie quarterback is going to be Justin Herbert or Dak Prescott, but if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that physical talent ultimately prevails. Fields seemingly has too many tools not to take that next step, and that’s why the 2022 season has the chance to be a big one for both Justin Fields and the Bears.