Plenty of Flashes, Plenty of Work Left: Briefly Recapping Data’s “Fields in Focus” Series

| February 23rd, 2022

Data’s seven-part “Fields in Focus” series wrapped yesterday to rave reviews across the internet. You can scroll back and read each of the pieces, or you can download the entire series in PDF form right here.

Fields In Focus

Rookie seasons for quarterbacks are usually messy. But if there’s one major takeaway from our excellent “Fields in Focus” series, it’s this: the whole of the Chicago Bears organization owns the messiness of this kid’s rookie campaign.

Here are some other takeaways from the series.

  • Justin Fields had very discernible issues this season but each of them falls under the same label: lack of experience.
    • Fields struggled with the underneath stuff, particularly because he was constantly looking down the field and coming back to the short stuff too late. It takes young QBs time to accept what’s there when it’s there. (Patrick Mahomes made a leap in that regard only this season.)
    • Fields took several sacks he shouldn’t have taken, and subsequently fumbled the ball too much, because it takes young (especially supremely athletic) QBs time to understand that ain’t Rutgers on the other sideline anymore. You can’t run away from most of the pass rush in the NFL, no matter how quick your 40 time.
  • The most glaring point made in the series was in regard to the non-utilization of play action, even when it was proving to be where Fields thrived. It proves two things. (1) The previous coaching staff built their 2021 offense for Andy Dalton and never intended to play Fields. (2) The previous coaching staff once again failed at the most basic element of coaching: self-evaluation. It was a hallmark of the Pace/Nagy era. They were completely incapable of accurately evaluating their own performances/roster.
  • Wood’s numbers are important, but they are not definitive. Numbers are only part of the story in the NFL. You can’t numerically quantify receivers running poor routes. You can’t numerically quantify the impact of penalties on play calls when it comes to down and distance. Football is a situational game; in a way the other sports are not. Sometimes an incomplete pass is a smart play, though the numbers won’t show that. Sometimes a one-yard gain is an achievement. So, use these numbers as an additional tool in your evaluation, not the only tool.
  • If you believe explosive plays are the key to scoring points, it’s hard not to be excited by Fields’ potential. This line stands out: “When Justin Fields was playing, he was able to overcome a poor scheme and weak supporting cast to lead the NFL’s most explosive rushing attack and produce explosive plays at an above average rate on a per-play basis.”
  • Fields improved during his rookie campaign; the eyes and the number tell that story. No reason to believe that improvement won’t continue in 2022. But that improvement will be greatly aided by strengthening the group up front and outside. Put simply, the Bears don’t have good enough players on offense. And until they do, their ceiling will be limited.

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