Justin Fields’ slow start to the season should have been expectedAnish Puligillaon September 27, 2022 at 4:30 pm

While most Chicago Bears fans are thrilled the team is 2-1, they are probably equally upset with Justin Fields’ development (or lack thereof) so far. The numbers aren’t pretty as he has thrown for under 300 yards, 2 TDs, and 4 INTs through 3 games so far. By extension, Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet have made negligible contributions to the offense thus far.

The Bears, on the other hand, have somehow still found a way to win two games in the exact manner coach Matt Eberflus claimed they would: through a strong running attack and an opportunistic defense.

Yet, it is still concerning and admittedly disheartening to see the Bears once again execute at a high level in every phase of the game except the passing offense. While Justin himself has acknowledged he needs to be better, and that his performance so far has been “trash“, it won’t mean much unless he can actually get it turned around.

However, how much of this slow pace of development, if not outright regression, should actually come as a surprise? The Bears are installing a new scheme, there isn’t a true top-tier playmaker at receiver, the line – while better than expected – is by no means elite, and Justin made a fundamental change to his mechanics this summer.

The advanced analytics and film gurus show us that there are receivers getting open and that the line is actually holding up better than most thought.

For how well the Bears run blocked vs. Houston en route to 281 yards, the O-line has a higher pass block win rate (78.4%) than run block win rate (71.3%). And looking into the number, check out No. 8 and No. 9 (below)of the top tackles based on pass block win rate. pic.twitter.com/Rl5JVR0P59

— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) September 26, 2022

Justin Fields’ and the Chicago Bears’ struggles so far have been mostly due to learning a new scheme.

By no means is this an excuse for Justin because his production and play itself have truly been that awful, but I think there is some important context missing when evaluating his performance so far this season.

It starts in Denver, with future hall-of-fame QB Russell Wilson who is leading a team that was among a handful of preseason favorites to not only win a loaded AFC West but potentially represent the AFC in the Superbowl. This is a stacked roster, with two workhorse running backs, two very talented and athletic wide receivers, and a good offensive line.

Furthermore, their head coach and play caller Nathaniel Hackett comes from the same coaching staff that Luke Getsy came from, and both had spent the past two years working with an MVP Aaron Rodgers and learning under Matt LaFleur. Both offenses are three games into a season with a first-time play-caller installing a new scheme. Here are the QBs’ numbers:

Justin Fields: 297 Yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs, 50.0 passer ratingRussell Wilson: 743 Yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 83.2 passer rating

Obviously, Wilson is outplaying Justin – that’s no surprise – but he is playing at a far lower level than any of us are accustomed to seeing. So much so, that it actually looks like he’s regressed, only months after signing a massive contract extension to stay in Denver for the foreseeable future.

Even going back to when LaFleur first took over in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers had a down year (albeit only by his standards). The Packers did win 13 games, but it was on the backs of their defense not their offense. It was only in LaFleur’s second year did the Packers’ offense take off and Aaron Rodgers returned to MVP-level form.

All in all, there’s no sugarcoating how bad Justin Fields has played so far and he can only get better from this point. However, given how some other historically great QBs have also fared in their first year in this scheme, maybe Fields deserves a little more time to get acclimated before any sweeping declarations are made about his future with the Chicago Bears or the trajectory of his career.

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