Bears Insider

Arrow up: All signs point to breakout Year 2 for Fields

Bears Insider
Justin Fields

When your franchise has had 35 different quarterbacks start a game in the last 30 seasons, it's only fair for the fan base to expect disappointment from whoever the next "anointed one" is.

Such is life when you've been toiling in quarterback hell as the Bears have since the late 1980s.

After a disappointing rookie season hampered by a disastrous offensive game plan and a bad offensive line, there's legitimate concern in Chicago that the Bears may have already done irreparable harm to Justin Fields and his potential to be a star.

But while Fields' touchdown-to-interception ratio and the Bears' win-loss record paint a picture of another QB prepared to fall by the wayside in Chicago, the deeper stats show a quarterback who improved as he gained experience.

One who could be primed for a breakout second season.

When reviewing a quarterback's performance, it's often best to look into deeper numbers instead of focusing purely on yards and touchdowns. That's especially true when said quarterback was a rookie dealt a relatively poor hand by his coaching staff.

So, we'll go into the Pro Football Focus metrics to look at how Fields performed overall and how those numbers ticked up during the second half of the season.

Fields finished the season with a PFF grade of 64.2 and a passing grade of 60.8. Those numbers ranked 24th and 25th among qualified quarterbacks. Suboptimal.

 

However, over his last five games, his overall grade was 76.9 and his passing grade was 71.1. Those marks ranked 9th and 11th among QBs with at least 150 dropbacks from Weeks 8-18.

But those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg as PFF's Anthony Treash unearthed some impressive stats from the Bears' young signal-caller.

Last season, Fields led the NFL with 14 runs of 10 more yards. That athleticism helped Fields notch an NFL-leading 90.5 passing grade when outside the pocket over his final five starts. That number meshes well with Fields' 138.5 passer rating on designed rollouts which led the NFL, per SportsInfoSolutions.

However, the Bears only rolled Fields out 19 times last season, further proof of the uphill battle the young-signal caller faced last season.

But Fields' growth as a quarterback goes beyond that.

Per PFF, Fields tied with Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson for second in the NFL in Big Time Throw Percentage at 6.1 percent. That's a metric PFF uses to measure throws high on both difficulty and value.

That number jumped to 7.3 percent when Fields was "in rhythm," per PFF.

Fields also registered a deep-passing grade (throws of 20 or more yards) of 87.7. That ranked 17th in the NFL, ahead of Derek Carr and right behind Ryan Tannehill.

The deep passing and on-the-move acumen bode well for Fields in Year 2 based on what we have heard about offensive coordinator Luke Getsy's plan for the second-year quarterback.

"I don't want to get too much in detail with it, but Justin's on the move a lot, and I think he does well with that," tight end Cole Kmet said during OTAs of the offense. "That's been exciting to see, and you see the types of throws he can make with his legs and on the run and off-schedule. Like I said, no pads right now, but you see that type of stuff, and it gets exciting."

Head coach Matt Eberflus added:

"I would say, man, he throws a good deep ball. I would say that. I'm excited about that. You can see it in the 7-on-7s and 11s-on-11s. We're going to take our shots downfield. Man, he does a nice job doing that."

While Fields excelled making big throws last season, he also did an excellent job of taking care of it in the passing game.

Fields had a turnover-worthy play rate of just 2.9 percent, which was the seventh-lowest in the NFL. And that number fell to 1.1 percent when Fields was throwing in rhythm, something he only did 47 percent of the time, which was 28th in the NFL.

While some of the in-rhythm issues are on Fields waiting too long to take a downfield shot, it also was a product of the Bears' offensive line and inability to keep Fields from being under pressure.

Last season, Fields faced pressure on 42.8 percent of dropbacks and was under pressure in two-and-a-half seconds or less on 27 percent of his dropbacks.

 

That's not good, and the Bears' offensive line hasn't improved during the offseason. But, while that's a bad sign, Fields' play under pressure was stellar during the back half of the season.

In the first seven weeks of the regular season, Fields had a passing grade of 23.0 when under pressure and had a one-to-seven ratio of big-time throws to turnover-worthy plays. After Week 8, Fields' grade jumped to 60.7, with the ratio going up to four-to-four.

The arrow is pointing up on Fields. Adding Getsy and the wide-zone scheme should help the young quarterback make quicker, in-rhythm throws and utilize his athleticism to create off-schedule and outside-the-pocket plays.

Big things could be on the horizon for the Bears' young signal-caller, and their time wandering in the quarterback desert could be finally coming to an end.

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