The Chicago Bears had the NFL’s worst record in 2022, with 14 losses and just three wins. Despite this, with quarterback Justin Fields at the helm, Bears fans still have plenty to look forward to.
The Georgia-born 24-year-old has shown in high school, college and the NFL that he’s more than capable of emulating the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, thanks to his abilities as both a passer and a runner.
But, despite being an incredible athlete, Fields has yet to prove what he can truly accomplish at the sport’s highest level.
Fields first caught the eye during his high school days at Harrison High in Kennesaw, Georgia, where, after starring at quarterback, he committed to the University of Georgia. In his first year at the university, Fields was backup to Jake Fromm, so following Georgia’s defeat to Alabama in the 2018 SEC (Southeastern Conference) Championship game, the quarterback announced he would be transferring to Ohio State University.
In Ohio, Fields started to make a name for himself, helping the Buckeyes to the 2019 Big Ten Championship in his first year – thanks to a 34-21 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also finished third in the race for the 2019 Heisman Trophy, awarded to college football’s most outstanding player, which was won by Louisiana State University’s Joe Burrow – now of the Cincinnati Bengals.
His second year at Ohio State saw another Big Ten Championship Game win, and another shot at Heisman Trophy glory. However, this time he finished 7th, as wide receiver DeVonta Smith was named the overall winner.
In January 2021, Fields announced he would be entering the upcoming NFL Draft, and was subsequently picked by the Chicago Bears 11th overall – who traded four draft picks to the New York Giants in order to select the quarterback.
Fields was named Chicago’s backup as a rookie, but he still made his debut on the opening game of the 2021 season against the Los Angeles Rams, completing two passes and scoring a three-yard rushing touchdown. However, the Bears lost 34-14.
His first start came in Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns, as starter Andy Dalton was injured in the previous game. It was a debut to forget for Fields, who completed just six of his 20 passes and was sacked nine times. The Bears only mustered 47 total yards of offense and lost the game 26-6.
The Bears suffered an even heavier loss in Week 7 against the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the 38-3 defeat, Fields threw for 184 yards, scored no touchdowns, committed five turnovers, and was sacked four times.
Fields won just two of his 10 starts as a rookie, although he did, however, finish the year with the fifth-most rushing yards by a quarterback – and the most among rookies. In the following season, there wasn’t much improvement from the Bears record-wise, but Fields routinely displayed his exhilarating capabilities as a dual-threat quarterback.
In Week 9 against the Miami Dolphins, Fields made NFL history. He set a new league record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a regular season game – with 178 – eclipsing the mark set by Michael Vick in 2002, and also became the first player to have three touchdown passes and rush for at least 150 yards in the same game. At the end of the season, he became just the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season.
His stats to end the year – throwing for 2,242 yards and 17 touchdown passes, and rushing for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games – were somewhat eclipsed by the Bears’ poor record, but Fields certainly has fans, and fellow teammates, excited for 2023.
Speaking to Decyfr Sport earlier this year, Bears wide receiver Chase Claypool discussed how Chicago’s offense will improve in 2023, thanks to the team’s new additions – which include wide receiver D.J. Moore.
?️ "The tide is turning very quickly here for the Bears!"@ChicagoBears receiver @ChaseClaypool spoke to Decyfr about the impact @idjmoore, @maine_savage23 and @TJEdwards8 can have this upcoming season ?#Decyfr #NFL #DaBears pic.twitter.com/d3bb4GnKvt
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) June 30, 2023
Claypool has also heaped praise on his quarterback ahead of the 2023 season, telling BBC Sport: “With Justin, I’d say there’s never a situation where you’re down and out.
“Being able to get in a full offseason with him, I already know it’s going to pay dividends. I think we’ve set ourselves up for a really exciting year.”
After a dismal 2022, how far can Fields and the Bears go in 2023?
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