Justin Fields Is Improving and That Means the World to the Chicago Bears

It had been a rough start for Justin Fields' career, but the Chicago Bears QB is starting to improve, which could have significant implications on the division.

Justin Fields is getting better at football, and that has some pretty significant implications for the future of the NFC North. The Chicago Bears are far enough behind in the divisional and Wild Card races that it would be tough for them to use any improvements from Fields to drag the Bears into relevancy this season. But the division is within reach next year.

This has helped Fields when it comes to his status among quarterbacks, and he should be moving up the quarterback power rankings soon.

The Chicago Bears Are Set Up for 2023

Chicago made a number of moves at the trade deadline that should help set them up for the future, with a young receiver in Chase Claypool, who is under contract on a cheap deal for the next two years, as well as the draft picks from the Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith trades. Those trades allowed them to recover the capital they lost trading up for Fields, giving them the full complement of picks they need to support their franchise QB.

That would all be for nothing if there wasn’t improvement from the quarterback giving them confidence in building a team around him. For most of the year, it didn’t look like that would happen.

Fields had poor timing, accuracy issues, and difficulty modulating his throws. He couldn’t throw when touch called for it and sometimes threw touch passes when bullets would be better. His ability to sense the field or account for situations was behind the rest of the league and it created problems, particularly against fast-moving defenses.

The biggest issue was the processing speed. Fields would often make the right read and throw the ball where it would have needed to go, but the window had closed by the time he made his decision.

Recently, he has improved, especially with timing.

Getting the ball out at or before the time the receiver makes his break so that it arrives in his hand is a critical skill in timing-oriented offenses, and one of the only ways to get ahead of defenses. Fields had such trouble with it early in his year that the intermediate game essentially disappeared.

Not only is he getting the ball out quicker on unpressured plays, but he’s also making quicker decisions on when to scramble, and that’s improving his ability to generate yards on the ground.

In the first six weeks of NFL play, Fields averaged a negative 0.06 expected points per dropback. In the last three weeks, he’s averaged a positive 0.2. Much of that has come from scrambling, but even on just pure passing plays (pass attempts without a sack or scramble), Fields has generated 0.13 expected points per attempt in the last three weeks compared to zero for the first few weeks.

Fields’ proclivity for throwing interceptions was the biggest issue, and in those first six weeks, he had a four to five TD:INT ratio, but everything suffered. With a completion rating of less than 55% and 6.3 adjusted yards per attempt, he was among the league’s worst in passing efficiency.

In the three weeks following, Fields’ completion percentage rose to 65%, and it was accompanied by a boost in performance from more meaningful statistics like TD:INT (6:1), adjusted yards per attempt (7.33), and, as previously mentioned, EPA.

The Outside Factors Favor Justin Fields

That doesn’t have to do with playing a suddenly worse slate of defenses, either. The last three games actually featured the best defenses he’s played on the schedule, aside from his Week 1 matchup against San Francisco, hardly a game that makes him look bad, especially given the extraordinary rain. Putting up points against Dallas’ and New England’s defense is a credit to Fields, and Miami hasn’t been too bad, either.

There’s some element of luck playing a role. Fields’ turnover-worthy play rate has not been substantially different from either split, and his receiver drop rate has plummeted from near the top of the league to the bottom. But Fields has done a better job threading the needle of tight windows and making big plays.

He’s not perfect, of course. His reads are on time and he’s generally accurate, but Fields’ ball placement needs more work. He needs more work on this element of his game to maximize catch probability and yards after the catch, even though he knows where the ball needs to go.

That play was a touchdown, so it’s hard to critique, but a better throw would have been ahead of the receiver instead of on his body, a little behind him.

Regardless, Fields has demonstrated that his growth is worth building around.

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