Sometimes it’s easy for NFL fans to forget that most rookie quarterbacks don’t usually play great football. Sure, there are exceptions. Justin Herbert is the most recent example. Yet the majority tend to struggle at first as they adjust to the speed and complexity of the pro game. What it comes down to is how fast they’re able to learn. In this instance, not enough people are talking about the progress Justin Fields has made.
The is entirely due to his overall stats to this point. A total of 458 yards on 72 attempts (51.39 completion %) with 1 TD and 2 INTs. Good for a 64.5 passer rating. Not great. Yet remember what so many experts continue to say. It’s about progression. Are they getting better, staying the same, or getting worse? In this case, there is significant evidence to suggest that Fields is not only improving but doing so rapidly.
Let’s start with the easy explanation.
The NFL average for passing attempts per game is around 35. For Fields, his first 35 attempts across the first three appearances resulted in a 40% completion rate for 138 yards and an interception. Ugly. Since then, the rookie has thrown an additional 37 passes. His numbers went for a 62.16 completion percentage for 320 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. That isn’t just improvement. That is significant improvement.
Want to get a little more technical? Here are some great numbers via Jacob Infante of Windy City Gridiron. Based on quarterback efficiency over the past two weeks, Fields has emerged as one of the best in the NFL. He has the 4th-best Expected Points Added (EPA) per play. These are points calculated based on down, distance, and field position. He also has the 8th-best success rate and 2nd-best completion percentage over expectation. Only Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals has been better.
In his last two games, #Bears QB Justin Fields has been incredibly efficient outside of garbage time (20-80% WP):
• 4th-best EPA per play
• 8th-best success rate
• 2nd-best completion percentage over expected
• 2nd-most air yards per target
• 3rd-best EPA + CPOE composite pic.twitter.com/azCUk2HDOn
— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) October 13, 2021
Justin Fields showed his maturation against the Raiders
After a difficult start to the game in which he took several rough hits, he seemed to settle down. He made good decisions, threw accurate passes, and never really put the ball in harm’s way. His big moment came in the 4th quarter. Las Vegas had just cut the lead to 14-9. The offense had been stuck the entire 2nd half and faced 3rd and 12 from the Bears 27. They couldn’t afford another punt. It was here the rookie stepped up with two huge throws.
First came the conversion to Darnell Mooney. An absolute bullet between two defenders to get just enough for the 1st down. Then on the very next play, Justin Fields showed his maturation at reading defenses. The Raiders brought a blitz against the Bears’ 5-man protection. So one defender was unblocked. In previous times Fields would’ve not seen it or held the ball too long and gotten hit. This time? He fired a pass to Cole Kmet for another 1st down.
Yes, Fields hasn’t done much in terms of volume.
However, whenever the Bears have asked him to make a play? He has delivered. That is more than anybody could ask of a rookie. The fact Fields has accomplished this level of improvement in the wake of that colossal beatdown in Cleveland is beyond impressive. Everybody would love for him to light up the scoreboard. That just isn’t realistic right now. The better thing to expect is whether he is doing enough to help the Bears win games. The answer to that is 100% yes.