The Bears did not draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft just to have him sit on the bench. The athletic phenom just needed to wait for his moment — and here it is.
With quarterback Andy Dalton set to miss the Bears' Week 3 matchup against the Browns due to a knee injury, Fields will make his first NFL start in front of a lot of fans who cheered for him on Saturdays in Columbus, Ohio.
In his limited action so far this season, Fields has looked, well, like a rookie. He holds the ball too long and makes mistakes by trusting his arm a little too much, which is to be expected. He's also uncorked some amazing throws and shown his athleticism outside the pocket.
While it'll take time before Fields turns the Bears around, one thing is for certain: the Bears cannot turn back now, the Justin Fields era starts now.
This Rookie Has 'It'
Fields had a very limited role in the first game against the Rams. He did complete two passes for 10 yards and added a rushing touchdown. In his next tilt against the Bengals, Fields was forced to play the entire second half following Dalton's injury. The Ohio State product completed 6-of-13 passes for 60 yards and an ugly interception that allowed the Bengals to get back in the game.
One of Fields' biggest strengths coming out of Ohio State was his ability to protect the ball. He threw just nine interceptions in college and that is because he is very patient when he is reading the defense. In fact, he is almost too patient.
Out of all the quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL draft, Fields had the third slowest average time it took for him to throw the ball at 3.1 seconds. All six of his interceptions during the 2020 season occurred on throws 2.6+ seconds after the snap, per PFF.
His ability to extend plays with his feet got him out of trouble a few times in college, especially with how long he holds the ball. In the NFL, he will not have the same luxury.
1. People easily miss what made Justin Fields' 10-yard scramble for the game-sealing 1st so great.— Erik Lambert (@ErikLambert1) September 20, 2021
The broken tackle was one thing, but it was his awareness to get on the ground inbounds to keep the clock moving.
To have that presence of mind as a rookie? It's rare.#Bears pic.twitter.com/UP8aJoU4Ca
While his best ability is being a freak athlete, his deep-ball prowess is exactly what the Bears have been missing in the Matt Nagy era. Fields had the second-best depth of target in 2020 with 10.4 yards per target, just slightly behind Zach Wilson. He was blessed with some true-deep threats in college with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, but with 709 yards coming from passes that traveled 20 yards or longer in 2020, Fields has proven he can sling it.
He almost had his first touchdown pass in the NFL thanks to the deep ball.
He might make some rookie mistakes, but his toughness, athleticism and penchant to throw the deep ball make him one of the most fascinating prospects to watch evolve.
But, Is He Ready?
Fields is a special talent, sure, but he'll have to adapt quickly to the pro game.
Rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle, and that is fine. It is an entirely different game. The speed, the talent, and the way you need to carry yourself make it a whole new learning experience. One thing to take into account when Fields makes his first start against the Browns is that he did not practice with the first-team offense during training camp. He does not have a lot of chemistry on the field with them and it may make things look clunky out there.
Expecting things to run smoothly when he does not know the tendencies of his teammates yet is unreasonable. However, after a few starts, Fields will get more comfortable, and his play will improve.
That, of course, falls on Nagy, who must now get Fields prepared to start against a talented defense.
Fields' Time To Shine
It was only a matter of time before Fields got his first start with the Bears. He has too much talent to ignore and he brings too much to an offense that is desperate for a spark. Mitch Trubisky was the worst deep-ball passer in the NFL last season, he even ranked 36th in the league, and the Bears still made the playoffs!
With a great defense and an improving offense, the Bears had a shot at making some noise this season, especially with uncertainty around the Packers and the Vikings in the NFC North. With Fields taking control, the Bears hope they have finally found their franchise quarterback, and no matter how he plays against the Browns on Sunday, It is "Justin Fields Time" in Chicago for the foreseeable future.
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