Some in the Chicago Bears fan community are frustrated with Justin Fields. While they love how productive he’s been over the past several weeks, they can’t help but grumble about his low passing numbers. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and the best ones win games with their arms. Fields has by far the lowest number of pass attempts in the NFL this year. People have tried to figure out why that is. One of the most persistent explanations is Fields’ lack of pocket presence, his tendency to hold the ball too long, and a run-first mentality.
It is an easy explanation to accept, but it’s also incorrect. Former Pro Bowl QB and Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer watched the recent loss to the Atlanta Falcons. His assessment of Fields on 670 The Score differed greatly from the public narrative. He didn’t see a skittish young quarterback in the pocket and holding the ball too long—quite the opposite. Fields seemed calm in the pocket with good feet and routinely tried to work his progressions before choosing to run. The problem was his offensive line rarely gave him such opportunities.
Justin Fields can’t mature as a passer without help.
The offensive line is a big issue. Dilfer said it’s one of the worst he’s seen when it comes to straight pass protection in a long time. He compared it to the 1995 unit he played behind in Tampa Bay. That group allowed 56 sacks despite the Buccaneers running the ball almost 400 times that season. Pro Football Focus backed up his claim too. They ranked Chicago 32nd in pressure percentage based on true pass sets, or pass sets without the help of extra blockers or play action. In other words, it doesn’t go well whenever the Bears have called regular drop-back passes.
This is why offensive coordinator Luke Getsy continues to lean on the run. It keeps pass rushers from pinning their ears back and allows the Bears to use play action more often. Odds are he’d love to have Justin Fields throw 30-35 times per game. The problem is that it would be irresponsible behind this offensive line. So the team is stuck with this current scheme until GM Ryan Poles can fix the problem.
A tough decision looms for the Bears. Fields is nursing an injured left shoulder. They must decide if playing him any further is detrimental to the team’s future, considering they’re 3-8 and out of the playoff picture. It’s not like he has anything left to prove. Knowing him, though, he’ll be back.