It is a stat line that has almost become commonplace in today’s NFL. Every franchise in the league has seen one of their quarterbacks crack 4,000 yards passing at least once—all except one. The Chicago Bears have never experienced this event in their century-long history. Some guys have come close. Erik Kramer and Jay Cutler both cleared 3800 yards in 1995 and 2014, respectively. They never got closer than that. Justin Fields will be the latest one to take up that challenge.
Ask around for long enough and most experts will laugh in your face at the idea he can clear that hurdle this season. It’s absurd. He struggled a lot as a rookie, he is in a brand new offense, and his supporting cast is subpar. Those are all fair arguments. That said, throwing for 4,000 yards isn’t as challenging as it used to be. There are reasons why Fields could end up cracking that ceiling to finally end the Bears’ drought.
Justin Fields has multiple factors in his favor.
One of the descriptions of Fields coming out of college that proved accurate was “big game hunter.” The quarterback loved to attack down the field. That reputation took some time to manifest once he became the starter, but it popped up repeatedly over his final four games. During that stretch, he averaged 7.85 yards per pass attempt. This is important because eight of the ten quarterbacks that crossed the 4,000-yard threshold last season averaged 7.4 yards per attempt or more. If he can maintain that rate and improve his completion percentage to around 66+, it can be done.
One of the biggest problems the Bears have had at wide receiver is not having guys capable of creating yards for themselves. They’ve often been too reliant on the scheme to get them open. The coaches can’t do much beyond that. It falls on the GM and his scouts to find receivers that can take plays beyond their design. Yards after the catch is a big deal to a successful offense. They might be in business this year. Darnell Mooney had 381 yards after the catch last year. Byron Pringle had 187. Velus Jones was one of the best YAC receivers in the 2022 draft class. That isn’t including the additional yards Justin Fields can get on screens to his running backs. Something that wasn’t an option last year.
Never underestimate the value of takeaways. There is a reason Matt Eberflus makes it the core focus of his entire defensive philosophy. Turnovers often decide the outcomes of games. It gives a quarterback more chances to pad those stats too. In 2017, the Indianapolis Colts defense had 20 takeaways. A year later, when Eberflus took over, that jumped to 26. The Bears had 16 takeaways last year. That number is almost guaranteed to increase in 2022. If it does, then Fields will be one of the primary benefactors. Think of it like this. The New England Patriots were third in the NFL in takeaways last year. Mac Jones, a rookie, threw for 3,801 yards as a result. If he can benefit in such a way, so can Fields.