The Justin Fields era has begun in Chicago and the Bears should not look back.
After a nightmare first start, Fields bounced back in Week 4 with an impressive performance in a 24-14 victory over the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.
Justin Fields analysis
Fields finished the game completing 11/17 passes (64.71% completion rate) with 209 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception and a QBR of 82.7. However, the most telling statistic of Fields’ performance was his yards per attempt (Y/A) of 12.24 yards and his average depth of target (aDOT) of 13.6 yards. When it comes to Justin Fields, the name of the game is verticality.
Verticality and velocity
Against the Cleveland Browns, Justin Fields’ Y/A was a pitiful 3.40 yards. Against the Lions, Fields’ Y/A jumped up to an impressive 12.24 yards. That’s almost an increase of 10 yards per throw. Fields’ Y/A was the highest-ranking of all quarterbacks in Week 4. Just take a look at the rookie’s passing chart.
Let’s take a look at some of Fields’ best throws from Sunday and why Matt Nagy and the Bears should not give the starting job back to Andy Dalton.
In this clip, we see the Bears and Fields backed up near their endzone. The outside receiver, #11 Darnell Mooney, gets a step on the Lions cornerback.
Fields recognises this immediately, but instead of snatching at the throw, Fields displays a veteran level of poise and freezes the deep safety with his eyes by taking a slight look left before letting it rip in a muddled pocket.
This next clip demonstrates the best of Fields.
In college, the Ohio State Buckeye excelled at throwing to the sidelines and taking advantage of the width of the field. Here, Fields takes a three-step drop, locks onto his target and lets the ball rip to the opposite hash. This is a throw only a select few quarterbacks in the NFL can make.
The concept the Bears are running in the previous clip is known as a ‘989’ concept. In short, the outside receivers run streak routes, the tight-end runs either a deep in route or a crosser with the tailbacks offering pass protection and a checkdown.
This is one of Nagy’s favourite concepts to call for Fields and it is easy to see why. He possesses the arm strength and ball velocity to take advantage of the play.
Another deep completion, this time to Allen Robinson, came towards the end of the game.
Fields drops back off of play-action and instantly reads that the Lions are in a version of cover 2.
As a result, Fields locks on to Robinson and fits the ball into what Raiders head coach John Gruden calls the ‘turkey hole’; the soft spot between the corner and the safety in a cover 2.
This is one of the most difficult throws to make in the NFL but Fields has already proven that his arm is capable of making it.
Bears making the right calls
It is good to see the Bears coaching staff tailor their calls around their rookie quarterback’s strengths. In college, Fields averaged an aDOT of 10.7 yards (tied for first out of 2021 rookie quarterbacks with Trey Lance) and an average depth of completion (ADOC) of 8.6. This is what Fields does. This is his speciality and what he excels at.
While Fields may struggle with the quick game underneath, it is far easier teaching a gifted gunslinger to rein his game in a tad and keep the chains moving than it is teaching a game manager to let it rip and throw deep.
At the end of the day, you can’t teach talent and Justin Fields has it in abundance.
There will be speed bumps along the way, especially this season with Fields being a rookie and Nagy still in charge.
But whether it’s Matt Nagy or his replacement who takes advantage of the skills at the rookie’s disposal, Fields is too good to let his talent go to waste.