The metrics revealed weekly by NFL NextGen Stats often get cited as numbers reflecting development of quarterbacks.
In Justin Fields' case, the number most often cited and criticized is his time to throw. Fields takes too long to get rid of the ball.
Once again, Fields is slowest in the league to get rid of the football. He's getting rid of it in 3.08 seconds, which is only .04 seconds faster than last season.
However, a serious look at these numbers shows it might not be the evil hoodoo many analytics experts say. It can be overcome if done properly. In fact, many good quarterbacks do it.
For one thing, Tyson Bagent was being praised for getting rid of it quickly when the Bears had him at QB and he was at 2.89 seconds, which ranked only 10 spots ahead of Fields.
Bagent aside, the company Fields is keeping with a bit slower time to get rid of the ball is not exactly loaded with future or past waiver wire victims.
- Russell Wilson is enjoying a resurgence this year under Sean Payton and is at 3.03 seconds, just two better than Fields.
- There is no quarterback being talked about in the league more than C.J. Stroud and he's only three spots ahead of Fields at 3.01 seconds.
- One spot ahead of Stroud is Jalen Hurts, who just engineered a win over the Super Bowl champions.
- And speaking of them, Patrick Mahomes is only one spot better faster than Hurts (2.97) at 2.96.
- The miracle worker the Bears face in their next game, Josh Dobbs, is only at 2.92. This is slower than Bagent and three spots faster than Mahomes. It's within 10 spots of Fields.
The bottom 10 in terms of getting rid of the ball is loaded with mobile passers and that's to be expected. Of the 10 QBs slower than Bagent, eight are players who could be labeled especially mobile passers.
As long as they're getting rid of the ball longer, they need to be taking fewer sacks and not turning it over.
It's here where Fields has had his problems in past years but it's also here where he seems to be making improvement with only six interceptions. He still needs to be more aware with the ball and an example was the game-ending strip-sack/safety Sunday. Yet, Fields is making strides here, as well.
With quarterbacks available to the Bears in the draft, it seems only a matter of whether they think the improvement Fields is showing is coming at a fast enough pace because there is no denying the fact it is there. It is as undeniable as the 6.5% touchdown rate he has, which is No. 1 in the NFL.
Development and consistency are there in Fields and one way Eberflus noted it happening Sunday were three plays when Fields stepped up or sideways or both, kept his eyes downfield and then hit a receiver. Twice it was DJ Moore, including the long touchdown of 39 yards. The other to Moore was a side-arm drop-down like Patrick Mahomes will throw on the move to a receiver moving the opposite way.
"That was a cool play. And to start the third quarter there was one on the side pocket where he scrambled around and threw it on the side there," Eberflus said. "Those are growth. That’s growth and that’s really cool to watch him do that, to be able to keep his protection in the pocket and be able to look down the field and deliver the ball."
Last week Eberflus said he wanted to see consistency from Fields and in his last four games Fields had yards per attempt of 7.3, 9.7 and 9.6 plus one clunker of 5.8 in the game when he was injured.
No one can be certain what would have happened in that game because he still had 1 1/2 quarters to play and could have easily upped the numbers because he had only thrown 10 passes to that point. It will be interesting to see how he fares this week because it's against that blitzing Vikings defense again. Will he learn and succeed?
In three of the last four games his passer rating has been 105.2 or higher. He has nine TD passes to two interceptions
Justin Fields improvements in 2023:
- Touchdown percentage: 6.5%* in 2023 after 5.3% in 2022 and 2.6% in 2021
- Yards per pass attempt: 7.4 in 2023 after 7.1 last year and 6.9 as a rookie
- Completion percentage: 62.7% in 2023 is his best. He had 60.4% in 2022 and 58.9% as a rookie.
- Passer rating: 93.3 in 2023 after 85.2 last year and 73.2 in 2021
- Fumble rate per play: .018 in 2021-22 (28 in 27 games), 0.12 in 2023 (five in seven games)
- Interception rate: 3.2% in 2023, after 3.5% last year and 3.7% as a rookie
- Sack percentage: Down now to 12.3% this year after 14.7% last year. In a different offense it was 11.8% as a rookie.
- Passing success rate: 40.3% in 2023 is his high. It was 36.7% as a rookie, 38.2% last year. A successful pass is deemed by statisticians as gaining 40% of yards needed for a first down on a first-down play, 60% of the yards needed to the sticks on second down and 100% on third or fourth down.
*6.5% leads the NFL.