Best-case scenarios for Bears, Justin Fields in 2022 as quarterback enters sophomore season

The Bears are still trying to correct their ship from the Matt Nagy era, but Matt Eberflus is entering his first season as their head coach with a quarterback. Drafted last season, Justin Fields was a popular media darling en route to the 2021 NFL Draft, but he struggled as a rookie.

Fields, of course, had myriad factors working against him. He reportedly didn’t work well with Nagy, the Bears didn’t have guns on the field, and he was still a freshman adjusting to the pace of play in the NFL.

Heading into Fields season two, a few things are better. Luke Getsy, the Bears’ new offensive coordinator, is fresh from his job as the Packers’ QB coach. New quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko has a history with Getsy, so the chemistry is there. And Eberflus seems ready to have his ego checked at the door as a defensive-minded coach.

However, there are other issues at play. The Bears have a weak wide receiver room on paper, with suspected No. 1 Darnell Mooney joined by Byron Pringle, Velus Jones Jr. and N’Keal Harry. The offensive line is still a lot of work in progress. And the coaching staff – although rumored to be improved – is unproven.

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What Were Justin Fields’ Stats In 2021?

Fields did not initially start 2021 as quarterback for the Bears. Nagy made the controversial decision to start Andy Dalton, which rubbed some Bears fans the wrong way. However, Nagy’s hand was forced when Dalton suffered a bruised knee in Week 2 against the Bengals.

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Fields entered that game completing 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards and one interception, an awkward debut for him. In his first start against the Browns, it was an absolute disaster. Fields completed 6 of 20 passes for 68 yards and was sacked nine(!) times.

Fields had his signature moment on Monday Night Football against the Steelers when he led a late comeback, but Pittsburgh responded immediately as Chicago’s defense collapsed and the Bears lost 29-27.

Ultimately, it was a turbulent first season for Fields, who really only seemed to work with Mooney. The receiver has two years left on his rookie contract, so Fields will have plenty of chances with him this season.

Justin Fields Statistics

player Comp/Att comp % meter TD’s INT’s AIY QBR
Justin Fields 159/270 58.9% 1,870 7 10 9.5 26.4

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Bear’s WR depth chart: as projected by Darnell Mooney, N’Keal Harry and others

Bears wide receiver depth chart for 2022

If you’re the bears, you still know you rebuild a lot. Because there was no first-round pick in 2022, Chicago didn’t make supporting Fields a priority. Instead, it was designed like a team that just added a defensive coordinator as head coach, taking on cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker with his first two picks.

Although there has been a lot of talk about the bears not adding receivers, receivers were not the priority. The Bears have three new faces on the offensive line: Riley Reiff at left tackle, Lucas Patrick at center and Michael Schofield at guard. Only veteran Cody Whitehair and 2021 runner-up Teven Jenkins retained their positions.

But that is not what this section is about. The bears’ recipients aren’t great, to be honest. Pringle is an outcast from the strained Chiefs Reception Corps, so maybe he can make a difference with more target shares. Jones is a fresh face picked by the Bears this year.

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Expected 2022 Bears recipients (with career stats)

player Year Catches meter TD’s catch %
Darnell Mooney 3 142 1,686 8th 59.7%
Byron Pringle 4 67 898 7 72%
Velus Jones Jr. R
N’Keal Harry 4 57 598 4 55.3%
Calm St. Brown 4 37 543 1 56.1%
Tajae Sharpe 6 117 1,397 8th 57.1%

It’s a bit jarring to see those numbers and realize the Bears let Allen Robinson go without replacing him. The best that can be said about this corps is that it is young and potentially malleable. But on the surface, that’s a lot of pressure to put on Mooney.

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What is the best-case scenario for the bears in 2022?

At the heart of all of this is one question: what can Bears fans hope for this season?

First of all, the number of sacks has to go down. The Bears work just the opposite of the Bengals. While Cincinnati prioritized receivers for Joe Burrow and seemed willing to figure out the offensive line later, the Bears clearly flipped those priorities. They tried to shore up the offensive line this offseason and left the receiver alone.

The first thing Bears fans should look for in their version of a perfect season is a significant drop from Fields’ 36 sacks last year. Fields had 2.4 seconds of pocket time per attempt last season, bottom half in the league but not much difference. He has to work faster in the time available to him.

The next aspect that needs improvement is play calling. Fields’ 9.5 intended air yards per attempt was third in the NFL last year, behind Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson. These two have been following their offensive styles for a lot longer. With an OC familiar with the Packers offense, expect some more bootlegs from Fields and something closer to Aaron Rodgers 7.6 yards per attempt to keep Fields comfortable.

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Next, the recipients of the bears must bring about a separation. This one is a huge question mark. One of the reasons the Bears got Pringle is because he actually has great breakaway stats, 4.1 yards per game, which ranks second in the league. If he can do that and Fields can nurture his relationship with Mooney, the Bears’ pass attack could be improved after all.

Finally, there’s the “You’ll know when you see it” test. When a quarterback in the NFL makes a move, it’s immediately obvious. The Bears need to see one — but preferably two — of those moves from Fields this year. If he owns the piece before the snap and can confidently go through his reads on it, that’s a win for Chicago.

Will the Bears get a playoff spot? That’s unlikely. You are in the works.

But despite all the criticism surrounding their offseason, they’re trying to build something around Fields, even if the path they’re taking is more tortuous than one might hope. Ultimately, the quarterback will have the responsibility to take the reins and make something of it, so the question is if he has enough for it.

For their part, the bears may need to hunt down a Receiver in the near future. But last but not least, there seems to be a vision there, even if it’s not a dazzling one.

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