In doing research for an upcoming project, I stumbled upon an interesting set of correlations within Fields’ rushing data — as you may know, Justin Fields led the NFL in 2022 with 7.1 Yards/Rush, the best figure of any player since 2014 (assuming a minimum of 100 carries).
That 2014 leader was Russell Wilson, who led the league with 7.2 Yards/Rush. But it’s what Wilson did in the season after 2014 that we care about — in 2015, Russ threw for his first 4,000 yard passing season and never stepped back after doing so.
Wilson’s production (specifically Touchdowns, Y/A, and Total Passing Yards) improved in 2015 because defenses couldn’t allow Russ to run freely and thus sacrificed defenders in coverage to cover him, and obviously we’d love to see the same from Justin Fields in 2023. But, interestingly enough, Wilson’s sack rate remained one of the worst in the league even as he took that 2015 step forward.
Russ was always one to take plenty of sacks, including a 2nd-year season where he recorded a 9.8% sack rate, but seeing his 2014 sack rate (8.5%) repeat in his 2015 season (8.5% sack rate) is a reminder that even if Fields takes a step forward as a passer he’ll continue to take an inordinate amount of sacks compared to his peers. That said, if Fields throws for 4,000+ yards and 34 TDs? I don’t know how much anyone will complain about 45-50 sacks.
But Russell Wilson is just one name — across the league, how successful are QBs that run well?
Surprisingly, the list of NFL QBs that have led the league in Yards/Rush is a list filled with talent:
- Josh Allen (2021)
- Lamar Jackson (2019, 2020)
- Russell Wilson (2014)
- Robert Griffin III (2012)
- Cam Newton (2011)
- Michael Vick (2002, 2004, 2006, 2010)
- Randall Cunningham (1990)
Of this list, only Randall Cunningham (1990) and Michael Vick (2004 & 2006) topped Fields Yards/Rush figure of 7.1 Y/R.
Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but if a QB leads the NFL in this category and stays healthy long-term they historically tend to be good players. Just how good you think the list’s QBs are depends on your perspective on players like Cam Newton (lack of longevity), Lamar Jackson (passed for 3,000+ yards exactly once, though BAL hasn’t helped him), and Michael Vick (never passed for 3,000+ yards in Atlanta), but for a city like Chicago that’s been starved of serviceable QB play for years I’d take the floor that comparisons like Cam Newton impart if it gives me a chance at a ceiling like Josh Allen or Russell Wilson.
With DJ Moore, OL upgrades, a renewed Chase Claypool, boosts at TE, and a second year in the offense, who knows? Maybe Justin Fields’ “Russell Wilson 2015” season is just around the corner. We’ll have to wait and see.
Your Turn: Do you see Justin Fields as more Russell Wilson or Michael Vick?