In a September 18 appearance on 670 The Score’s Parkins & Spiegel show, Bears starting cornerback Jaylon Johnson was asked about the struggles of the team’s third-year QB and he admitted Fields hasn’t been the confident playmaker he was in 2022.
The Bears’ quarterback’s 1,143 rushing yards in 2022 were the second-most in NFL history at the position behind Lamar Jackson (the Baltimore Ravens quarterback rushed for 1,206 in 2019), and Fields showed enough promise as a passer (2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 15 starts) to warrant the team to build around him throughout the offseason. So far through two games, Fields has completed 60.6% of his passes for 427 yards, two TDs, three interceptions and just 62 rushing yards.
“I can definitely say that I know he’s not himself,” Johnson told Danny Parkins and Matt Spiegel on September 18. “I know that he can definitely play the game at a high level. Now the answer to why? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s a lot of things going mentally. I definitely know it’s not a physical thing. He can do whatever he puts his mind to. I think it’s just him getting back to himself, getting back to what works best for him and not what works for anybody else … I think he just has to go out there and play each game.”
Jaylon Johnson Says Team Is Behind Justin Fields
Johnson also noted members of the team have discussed Fields’ struggles with the QB himself, more to offer words of encouragement than anything else. “Each game, each situation isn’t created the same,” Johnson pointed out. “I think he has to – and I know he will – we’ve talked to him, and he’ll be better. I think it’s just more so that mental aspect that he just has to go out there and ball.”
Per NextGenStats, Fields has the worst competition percentage above expectation in the NFL (-11%). The metric measures a quarterback’s actual completion percentage against their expected completion percentage, and this shows that with all the short passes he has been throwing, Fields still isn’t hitting his intended receivers with the regularity he should be.
The Bears QB is averaging just 5.0 yards per pass attempt. The only player with a lower number is Indianapolis Colts rookie Anthony Richardson (4.9 yards per attempt).
Justin Fields Needs to Find Perfect Pass-Run Balance
Fields threw for 149.5 yards per game in 2022, so he’s throwing more to start the season, but he’s missing open targets and using his legs less. He has also been sacked 10 times in two games. Some of those have been on his offensive line, but most have been the result of him not seeing the field well enough to get the ball to open receivers.
While Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy could help Fields more by calling more rollouts and designed runs, Fields needs to help himself by working to alleviate whatever mental issue he’s facing at the moment.
“I think when he’s clicking mentally and his mind is free, he can play free, he can be one of those elite guys in the league,” Johnson added. “I think it’s just more of that mental block. Whatever it may be, I’m honestly not sure, and I’m not going to make anything up on his behalf at all. But I definitely know that he has all the intangibles physically to do it. He just has to get back to that playmaking Justin, whether it’s in the air or on the ground, just being decisive about what he’s going to do.”