The name of the game in the NFL is to outscore your opponent and, when he gets into position, beleaguered Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields has been pretty good at it. At least he was before this season.
Fields’ 12 red zone touchdowns (scored within 20 yards of the end zone) in 2022 were the 12th-most in the NFL, per Pro Football Reference. But he had the fewest attempts out of anyone with at least that many scores with the next closest – Daniel Jones of the New York Giants – attempting nine more passes for an equal number of scores.
Perhaps not coincidentally, he had the highest completion percentage of the group (68.75%).
Justin Fields Has Been Near Immaculate in the Red Zone
Red Zone Efficiency Eluding Justin Fields in 2023
This season has been a different story with Fields completing just 57.1% of his red zone passes with five touchdowns.
Perhaps most notably, the dip has come despite more opportunities to throw the ball in the red zone this season. Fields, who has missed the last four weeks with a dislocated thumb, is averaging 3.5 red zone passing attempts this season after averaging 2.1 last season.
Of course, none of this accounts for Fields’ rushing ability that saw him set the franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback and finished second in the league in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. It all seems notable with much ado about the third-year passer’s future in Chicago in question since the Bears could have two top-five picks in the 2024 draft.
It’s not just a one-year aberration, though most Fields did most of the damage last season. He has completed 60.7% of his passes with 22 touchdowns and just one interception in his career.
Even with his struggles in the red zone this season, he hasn’t thrown an interception.
— NFL (@NFL) October 6, 2023
Fields has accomplished this while facing the second-highest pressure rate of anyone with at least as many passes thrown (750) since he entered the league. Perhaps that has contributed to him sporting the NFL’s third-worst bad throw rate of that group in that span.
Areas of Improvement
This is hardly to suggest that Fields is perfect or even close to it as a passer. He has thrown 13 touchdowns to 20 interceptions in between the 20s and fumbling has always been a worry even without his running. He has four more fumbles (32) than the No. 2 player – Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence – despite playing in 10 fewer games with 12 fewer starts.
Time to throw and pocket time can be misleading stats that don’t always account for the quarterback buying time by scrambling around and out of the pocket. But Fields’ decision-making when under duress needs to be sharper.
Namely, he has to get rid of the ball – either by throwing it away out of bounds or into the dirt – more frequently. It would not only reduce negative plays which can be drive-killers, but it would also reduce the number of unnecessary hits that he takes. That, hopefully, would lead to improved durability.
With potentially seven games at most to prove himself, Fields does still have the one key feather in his cap.