With the Bears long eliminated from postseason play (plus the presence of Nick Foles and Andy Dalton in Justin Fields’ absence) the idea of shelving the rookie for the final games of the season has been brought up.
But it doesn’t sound like it’s actually in the works:
Will the Bears shut down Justin Fields for the final two games because of his injuries?
"No, I don't see that happening," coach Matt Nagy said today.
— Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) December 27, 2021
On the one hand, I understand why there might be a desire to give Fields a seat in what equates to two inconsequential games on the schedule.
Fields has been playing through some nicks throughout the year. Injuries to his ribs, non-throwing hand, ankle, and groin have been factors in limiting his practice (and in some cases playing) time this season. Brad Biggs (Tribune) even made note that Fields was in a walking boot all last week. So we can add that to the equation as we try to figure out if Fields should play.
All told, the rookie has taken 36 sacks this season, fourth most in the league. He’s also taken a ton of knocks in the pocket that weren’t sacks, felt plenty of pressure resulting in hurries, and let’s not forget about the hits he takes as a rusher in the open field. That stuff tends to pile up. So in that, lies a decent case for sitting Fields down. Health is a priority. And Fields is organizational priority No. 1 moving forward. Maybe it makes sense to hold him out.
But on the other hand, there is no substitute for in-game experience. That much we’ve learned from the Fields experience. We’ve seen some peaks and valleys from the rookie signal caller. But we have also seen growth in spurts. For instance, Fields looks to be making better decisions on when to slide in the open field while running. Then again, there are still far too many times he tries to keep a play alive only to make things worse for himself and the team. You won’t learn those things by holding a clipboard. Taking those bumps in the heat of the moment could ultimately be beneficial for Fields’ development.
Moreover, there is probably value in getting Fields more reps with Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet. Six of Fields’ 10 interceptions this season have come while targeting Mooney. So it would be nice to clean that up before the year ends. Meanwhile, 14 of Kmet’s 32 catches when being Fields’ target have resulted in first downs. That is a nice little nugget we’d like to see grow with Kmet becoming a high-priority option for Fields to throw to moving forward.
From where I sit, the pros of playing Fields in the final two games outweigh the cons. The Giants defense has given up multi-TD games to QBs in four of their last six games. They’re next up on the Bears’ list of opponents. Following them is a Vikings defense that quarterbacks have thrown more touchdowns (19) than interceptions (10) against since the bye. These should be favorable matchups that could allow the young quarterback to end on a high note. And that might be most valuable of all.