Justin Fields is now stacking good performances, a pivotal development in the life of a young quarterback. Since October 9th, with his excellent second half against the Minnesota Vikings, Fields has established himself as a rising young star in the league and quite possibly the class of his position from the 2021 NFL Draft. (Over this same span, Trevor Lawrence’s regression has been palpable.)
First, a mea culpa. Earlier this season I suggested Fields be given a few weeks on the sideline. Not as punishment, mind you, but the game seemed to be moving far too fast for him and he looked like he needed to take in a few Sundays as a spectator and student. (Also, with the modern practice schedule, it is very difficult for a player to improve week-to-week, on the field.) I was wrong. Fields has seemingly played through his issues. His clock has slowed. He’s processing the game quicker. He, along with his offensive coaches, have found a balance when it comes to how the quarterback uses his legs to move the chains. And perhaps most impressively, he’s more accurate on the short and immediately throws.
Fields hasn’t just been better. He’s been good. Most of the box scores are irrelevant. The offensive line, already not among the better units in the league, is now besieged with injuries. And as Fields has become more confident and accurate with the football, the deficiencies of the wide receiving corps have become more evident. They drop too many passes. They fumble too often. They never attack the football in the air. They are a passive, unimpressive group in desperate need of 2023 upgrade.
[Note on this: We are seeing, however, the value in pieces like Mooney, Velus and Kmet. But the team lacks a top thread on the outside.]
There are, however, a few relevant stats.
- Fields’ last four QB ratings: 118.8, 71.5, 85.2, 120. (And the 85.2 against the Patriots was too dramatically impacted by the interception.)
- In those four games he has a TD/INT ratio of 5/2.
- Yet those stats are only about his throwing, and we are seeing each week that his abilities as a runner are perhaps his most special trait, and about as special as you’ll see. In those four games, he has 277 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns. He has not lost a fumble.
- This means that Fields, when these rushing stats are coupled with his passing numbers, is responsible for about 250 yards of offense per game over the last month. He has also accounted for 7 TDs and only 2 turnovers.
For a young QB in a new system, this is terrific production. And for a franchise desperate for stability at the sport’s most important position, this is what hope looks like.