Last season, Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields finished with the fourth-highest time-to-throw on average, per NFL NextGen Stats.
This season, expect that number to come down quite a bit.
“Just the rhythm and timing…of the passing game,” head coach Matt Eberflus said after the first day of rookie minicamp on May 5 via the Bears’ YouTube channel. “Obviously the priority’s the passing game. We ran the ball very well but we all know that we got to improve in the passing game. And part of that’s rhythm and timing that’s the footwork with Justin. He’s been really working on that really, really good in terms of the quick pass, dropback pass, movement passes. And he’s really made some big strides in that in that area coming so far on his own and then now coming into Phase II. That first week is really – that’s about it.”
Bears’ Justin Fields ‘Light Years’ Ahead of Last Season
Fields’ time-to-throw was only lower than benched New York Jets first-round pick Zach Wilson, former Jets and Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold who is now with the San Francisco 49ers, and Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns who made his return to pro football after sitting out the entire 2021 season with legal trouble.
The rest of the bottom 10 was filled out by Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, Washington Commanders passer Taylor Heinicke, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett, and former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Baltimore Ravens franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson is also in that group. His time was only slightly better than Fields. But he remains the outlier, not the baseline.
There's only one Justin Fields
📺: @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/FAIo0zfZGj
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) February 4, 2023
Put simply, the Bears need Fields to get rid of the ball faster.
“I think the growth from…where he was at this time last year to where he is now – I think it just is light years ahead of where it was,” Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said on May 6 via the team’s YouTube channel. “And we feel like he has a ton more to grow going forward. So we’re excited to try to get the best out of them moving forward and keep working to where we think he can go.”
Bears Built Out the Roster
Part of that is on Fields. But the Bears also had to do a better job of putting talent around him. They feel they have done that. They addressed the offensive line in free agency with Nate Davis sliding in at right guard and then drafting Darnell Wright. He will presumably lock down right tackle.
Sliding Teven Jenkins to right guard while moving Cody Whitehair to center should elevate the level of play at both positions relative to last season.
It was not just protection – Fields could also find himself with a clean pocket and nowhere to go.
Newest Chicago Bears WR Tyler Scott said that QB Justin Fields reached out to him right after the Bears drafted him and introduced himself and then both of them talked again when Tyler got to Halas Hall. "I'm here to make his job easier and make him great."
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) May 6, 2023
“Obviously acquiring the athletes that we have you know with D.J. Moore and [Robert Tonyan] and the different guys that we’re going to acquire, we’re certainly enthused about those guys adding that talent piece to our offense.”
Count Chase Claypool in that as well. He arrived mid-season and had to learn a new playbook on the fly. The Bears trading out of the No. 1 overall pick and getting back Moore in the process was a clear show of faith in the progress Fields showed. And of where they think he can go.
Bears Have Faith in Justin Fields, Process
Still, the Bears’ offense was historically bad last season. It would be difficult to put all of that on one person, even one as important as the quarterback. Or even a couple of new players for that matter.
That’s why they are taking the big-picture approach.
“It goes to everything,” Getsy said. “Getting the team around him better, and us all being together for another year, and the continuity that we have, and the communication that he and I have. Where we were kind of at the beginning of the season to the end of the season, I think, is a lot better. And so we’re hoping to build off of all that stuff. I think anytime you can be together with somebody and keep that consistency, there’s going to be growth. And he has a lot more growth ahead of him and we’re excited to tap into that.”