LAKE FOREST – Justin Fields won’t be suiting up when the Chicago Bears host the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on Sunday for the team’s 2022 season finale.
Coach Matt Eberflus announced in his Wednesday morning press conference that Fields had soreness in his hip on Monday and later went to get an MRI that revealed he had a strain. Since Fields isn’t able to go at full speed this week, the medical staff has ruled him out and Nathan Peterman will now start.
Eberflus did mention this wouldn’t be a long-term injury, but even if this Week 18 matchup had been a playoff game, Fields’ status would still be the same.
“Yeah, it would be,” Eberflus said. “Yes, it would be the same. Like I said, it’s not long-term. He’s just not able to go full speed. I asked him how it was today and he said it’s still real sore.”
So after 15 games, Fields ends his second season completing 192 of 318 passes for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also finished with eight rushing touchdowns and 1,143 rushing yards – just 64 yards short of breaking Lamar Jackson’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback.
Even though Fields has provided plenty of highlights throughout the season and has single-handidly kept the Bears in games, his second season in the league still leaves an incomplete evaluation on the 23-year-old quarterback.
Consistently inconsistent would be the best way to describe the personnel Fields played with on a game-to-game basis. There have been many games when Fields was missing several of his starting offensive linemen and wide receivers, and those missing pieces will undoubtedly have an impact on what the offensive unit can do on game days.
Eberflus was asked if he has seen enough to evaluate Fields as a passer or if the evaluation is incomplete after this season.
“I would say that it’s probably both, to be honest,” Eberflus said. “I think that he did make improvement, though. You could see where he improved. The scoring offense was hitting on all cylinders midway or a little bit past that. I think that he had a lot of lineup changes with the receivers and offensive line and the running back going out and all those things. But that’s certainly is impactful to the offense. So you have to be able to look at that.”
Even if the Bears avoided the plethora of injuries they sustained throughout the year, the supporting cast was always a question going into the 2022 season. Fields rarely had the luxury of playing behind a clean pocket with receivers who could win their one-on-one matchups and create open throwing windows.
And yes, Fields could’ve helped his cause with better pocket presence at times or throwing with more anticipation. But this is still a young quarterback in a new offense that went through constant fluctuation.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and the rest of the NFL have seen what Fields is capable of as runner, but the production hasn’t been there consistently as a passer. In four games this season, he has failed to reach double digit completions and he is still hasn’t passed for 300 yards in a game.
General manager Ryan Poles didn’t make it a priority in his first offseason to surround Fields with offensive talent, but that mindset drastically needs to change for the 2023 season if the organization truly wants to see what Fields can be capable of as a complete quarterback.