How Justin Fields' deep ball can help Bears right away originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Over the first few days of rookie training camp, we’ve talked about Justin Fields’ leadership, his goals for the weekend, and how he’s passed the eye test overall. But one thing we haven’t gone over is one of his more eye-catching talents: the deep ball.
“On tape I think it’s one of his greatest strengths that he has— being able to have that accurate deep ball,” Nagy said. “He’s thrown several of them. When we went to his pro day, it was funny because we were there, standing back there with coach Day, and Kyle was back there too. It was his second pro day. He was back there and right before, Ryan had predicted— he said, ‘Watch when this next deep ball comes up right here, and what do you know he got the ball from the gun, rolled out to the right and let one go. You could just feel it. I think that’s one of his better things that he does. And that’s something that we want to be able to use as much as possible.”
Explosive plays were something the Bears missed last season. Between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles, the Bears only connected on 42 pass plays that went 20 yards or farther, which was the eighth-fewest in the league. The team only managed to hit on three pass plays that went 40+ yards last season, which was tied for the league-worst mark with the Patriots.
That inability to cash in on big plays not only let’s opponents rest easy knowing the backend of their defense won’t be challenged, but it also adds pressure to the Bears offense to play perfectly for an extended amount of time.
“No matter who it is, when you can hit those big plays and you’re staying away from— if you have some drive where you have to end up having 15-, 16-, 17-play drives, it puts a lot of pressure on third down and it puts a lot of pressure when you get in the red zone,” Nagy said. “But when you have those deep type of plays and those deep balls, those quick strikes, you eliminate third downs and you eliminate that red zone, and it’s six points as well. So it obviously helps out.”
Those are big areas where the Bears need help too. Last season, the Bears faced 205 third downs, which was seventh-most in the league. But they only converted on 71 of them, for a paltry 34.6 conversion rate. Both of those numbers ranked dead last in the NFL. When you put all of that together, it’s obviously not a recipe for success.
Despite all of that, the Bears only finished tied for the 10th-worst scoring offense in the league. That’s not great, but considering the lack of big plays, and ineptitude on third down, it could have been much worse. Just a marginal improvement in the explosive play department alone could help bring the Bears up closer to the league average, but that doesn’t mean it will be a complete remedy for the offense.
There are still questions about the offensive line, running back rotation, and who will step up as the team’s third wide receiver. But addressing one of those issues with Fields’ arm, whenever the team deems him ready to start, will certainly help.
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