Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus announced on Wednesday that starting quarterback Justin Fields, who missed the last four weeks of the season with a dislocated thumb on his throwing hand, was medically cleared. He will start this week's game against the Detroit Lions.
It has been an interesting time with Fields missing. Rookie Tyson Bagent took over for him and had mixed results. He ended up with the lowest sack percentage in the NFL in his four starts. The team had a 2-2 record in his starts. However, he showed an inability to throw downfield accurately.
Additionally, Bagent had moments in which he could not protect the ball. In his five appearances, he threw six interceptions and lost two fumbles. In that time, he threw for just three touchdowns and ran for two more.
The talk of who should be the starting quarterback moving forward got incredibly silly. Yes, Bagent had his moments. However, he does not have the abilities to be a quality starter in the league. He could be a reliable backup for quite some time, though.
Justin Fields is back and he is eager to show that he could lead the Chicago Bears to better times.
Now that Fields is back, he basically has a seven-game audition. With the Bears possibly ending up with two top-five draft picks, they have a big decision to make. There are some quality quarterbacks in the 2024 draft so they have to decide if Fields is the guy to lead the offense. If not, they could trade him and draft a quarterback.
Things are falling into place for Fields. He will play behind the healthiest offensive line all season. The unit suffered through a number of injuries. Left tackle Braxton Jones and right guard Teven Jenkins each went on injured reserve. Right guard Nate Davis missed several games due to a death in the family and an ankle injury.
Additionally, running back D'Onta Foreman has played well in place of Khalil Herbert, who is on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Roschon Johnson suffered a concussion and, while he returned, he has not looked like the same player he was before the concussion. Foreman has been able to effectively run the ball, which helped Bagent and will certainly help Fields.
As mentioned before, Bagent was unable to effectively throw the ball downfield. Fields has the arm to do that. If Foreman is doing his job well, Fields will have room to throw downfield. He should be able to hit some throws deep. The one weakness the Lions have is against the pass. They rank 20th in passing yards and 27th in passing touchdowns. Also, they rank 22nd in sacks so Chicago's healthier and stronger offensive line should be able to handle the pass rush.
That last point is an important one for Fields. The biggest criticism of his play is his holding onto the ball too long. He looks for the big play and sometimes passes up an easier short completion. While he will have some shots at the deep ball, if he has a short or medium completion available he needs to take it.
Another area that Fields could do well in is his running. The Chicago Bears coaches have tried to curtail the number of runs he has. However, he has success running the ball against Detroit. In three games, he has 288 rushing yards and an 11.1 yards per carry average. He also has two touchdowns. His running could complement Foreman's, thus keeping the Lions back on their heels.
Fields is eager to get back at it. He said he studied offensive coordinator Luke Getsy's playcalling. Perhaps watching how the game progresses and seeing what Getsy calls without dealing with managing the game gave him some perspective. While he acknowledges he and Bagent are different quarterbacks, he said he will take some of what he did well and incorporate them into his own game.
"Yeah, I mean, I think really just looking at all quarterbacks, I feel like, of course, Tyson, quarterbacks around the league, quarterbacks in college, like we all play the game differently. So things that Tyson did well, I’m definitely going to try to emulate that of course in my game."
Should Fields return and play well but not win, that is okay. What the team wants to see is if he learned and got better during his time away. The wins will come later. If he actually pulls the upset, his stock should be back up.