Sports Illustrated Took The Justin Fields Doom Predictions To A New Level
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Sports Illustrated Took The Justin Fields Doom Predictions To A New Level

Five quarterbacks from the 2021 draft class started significant games last year. One of them expects to join them this year. As usual, the results from every member of the group were mixed. Some bad and some good. Justin Fields was no different. Yet it seems the expectations for him a decidedly less optimistic going into 2022 than every other QB from that group. Look no further for proof than Sports Illustrated.

Their columnist Conor Orr did a projection piece on the 2021 class, setting benchmarks for what should be considered reasonable expectations for each QB. Most of the big names were relatively straightforward. Trevor Lawrence should have 22 TDs and fewer than 15 interceptions. Trey Lance should have 30 total TDs and fewer than 15 interceptions. Even Mac Jones was picked to top 4,000 yards with a 30-10 TD-INT ratio.

Yet when it came to Fields, Orr did the written version of a shrug.

“10-plus starts, a sack rate below 10%, 20 total touchdowns, fewer than 18 interceptions

Justin Fields needs to take care of himself in 2022 and make it to a place where he can either ensure the Bears are bringing in reinforcements or that they are selecting his replacement and, thus, will provide him with a soft landing spot elsewhere. Fields took sacks on 11.8% of his dropbacks last year, a higher sack rate than any other quarterbacks on this list, actually higher than the combined sack percentages of Mac Jones and Lawrence.”

This isn’t surprising. Orr hasn’t been shy about his criticism of the Bears’ off-season. He feels GM Ryan Poles didn’t do anything of substance to help his young quarterback. Every notable offensive signing was cheap, and both top draft choices in the 2nd round went to the defense. Meanwhile, other teams spent lavishly in free agency on wide receivers or offensive linemen and used 1st round picks on the same. Fields was abandoned to the wolves, at least in Orr’s mind.

The offensive line is a worthwhile discussion. However, it feels like the man didn’t give a fair shake to what the Bears have regarding weapons. Darnell Mooney topped 1,000 yards last year as a receiver. Cole Kmet went over 600 at tight end, and David Montgomery has gone over 1,000 yards from scrimmage as a running back every season he’s been in the NFL. It may not be a star-studded cast, but it’s hardly talentless.

Justin Fields can play much better this year if he’s protected.

Last season, the rookie looked solid enough when kept clean in the pocket. That happened on 202 of his drops, resulting in 119 completions on 183 passes for 1,408 yards, five touchdowns, and five interceptions. He showed significant improvement as the season went along. Unfortunately, injuries sidelined him during the final few games. However, it is fair to wonder if former head coach Matt Nagy kept him sidelined in a last-ditch attempt to save his job by starting the more experienced Andy Dalton.

Everything comes down to whether offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and offensive line coach Chris Morgan can keep Justin Fields better protected. They seem to have a plan in mind. There is a clear emphasis on running the football in this new system and higher doses of play action. A greater volume of screens is also expected. All of those should help ease the burden on Fields. If they can keep him upright even marginally better than last year, he has enough firepower to make plays.

No, he won’t have a Joe Burrow-type jump.

Get those ideas out of your head now. The Bengals were already stacked with firepower when the QB arrived in 2020. All they needed was one more piece to take off. Chicago is likely another off-season away from entering that conversation. Fields must concern himself with incremental progress. Learn to be more efficient and not treat every play like it’s his last.

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