How the Chicago Bears have helped Justin Fields this offseasonPatrick Sheldonon May 17, 2022 at 11:00 am

Week 1 of the Chicago Bears‘ 2022 season literally cannot get here fast enough. We have reached the point in the offseason where we, as fans, are having fervent debates over the team’s third-string quarterback. The month of May, for football fans, is the equivalent of being locked in a house with your extended family for four months and told you can only discuss religion and politics. At some point, you’re going to blow the roof off the place, and for our Bears family locked in Twitter for the past four months, that time is now.

One debate that has persisted this offseason is whether the Bears have done enough to support Justin Fields, their 2021 first-round draft pick. Sure this debate has taken other forms like “do the Bears believe in Justin Fields?” or “will Ryan Poles look to move on from Fields after this season?” However, the root of these debates can be traced back to one simple question: “have the Bears done enough to support Justin Fields?”

It’s a bit of a trick question because a general manager should never be satisfied with his roster and should always be looking for ways to improve it and support your franchise quarterback. But let’s look at the question in the context of what it suggests about the Bears level of belief in Justin Fields and if he can still have a successful season with what he has around him.

When we do, the answer, at least to this observer, is ‘absolutely.’

The Chicago Bears have done more than you think to support Justin Fields this offseason.

For starters, I’m not sure many fans are truly appreciating just how significant an impact this new offensive system can have on Fields and the offensive line. The Bears had a questionable offensive line in 2021, and yet Matt Nagy did nothing, from a play calling perspective, to help them. In fact, you could argue he did the exact opposite and routinely put the offensive line in a position to have their weaknesses exposed. It was coaching malpractice to have Fields drop back (often 7 steps) and stand in the pocket waiting for plays to develop.

Last season, Fields was under pressure on 42.8 percent of his drop backs, and remarkably, he faced pressure within 2.5 seconds on 27 percent of his drop backs. So it should have been illogical to force him to execute an offensive scheme that required him to have a ton of time in the pocket. But that’s just what Nagy did. And Fields struggled as a result.

But as Anthony Treash from Pro Football Focus pointed out, when Fields was in rhythm last season, which is essentially what new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s system will focus on, Fields flourished.

Similarly, Fields flourished on play action passes, which will be another point of emphasis for Getsy and this offense. This should maximize the deep threat ability of guys like Darnell Mooney and Velus Jones. In other words, Getsy will do what fans begged Nagy to do — cater to the offense’s (and specifically Justin Fields’) strengths. Utilization of play action, rhythm passing, a fullback (which is new to the offense this year) and extra tight end blockers, will not only do that, but will help cover up some of the offensive line’s deficiencies.

Also, unlike Nagy who emphasized the need to quickly get the ball in the hands of his playmakers, if his time in Green Bay is any indication, Getsy may actually do that. If so, it will maximize the skillset of Mooney and Jones as well.

Finally, the Bears should be more committed to the run, which is a hallmark of the Shanahan style offense. The Bears have a stable of good running backs, including David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert, so truly leaning on those two workhorses should help take some of the burden off of Fields’ shoulders. Imagine a running game and passing game that truly complement each other, or a sequencing of play calling that makes sense for the game situation. It could have a profound impact.

Speaking of impact, don’t underestimate the effect the Bears first two draft picks will have on the offense either. Yes, I realize they were both defensive players, but consider this: Mitch Trubisky’s best season by a long shot was 2018. It is no coincidence that the defense had an amazing season in 2018. They got off the field quickly, and routinely turned the ball over, giving the offense short fields and keeping the other team’s offense in check to allow the offense to execute its game plan.

To be clear, I am not suggesting the 2022 Bears team will turn the ball over as much as the 2018 team. However, new head coach Matt Eberflus has historically emphasized turnovers, so you certainly expect there to be at least a modest increase from last season. Moreover, pairing a guy like Jaquan Brisker with Eddie Jackson should allow Jackson to get back to the way he played in 2018 — as a ballhawk who creates turnovers.

Lastly, don’t lose sight of the fact that the offseason is not over. There is still an opportunity for Ryan Poles to address the right guard position, which is the lone glaring weakness on the offensive line at the moment. Sure you’d like Pro Bowlers at every line position, but short of the right guard position, every player is very serviceable. Lucas Patrick is an upgrade at center, Cody Whitehair is above average, and it may be that Poles believes in the talent of Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom. He also took a number of potentially high reward swings in the draft on offensive lineman so it’s possible one of them emerges to take that final spot.

Regardless, the combination of new scheme, an upgrade at center, and a recommitment to turning the ball over should be a big lift to Fields and the offense to stem the tide until 2023 when the expectation is the Bears will spend big in free agency and will have their full complement of draft picks.

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