NFL insider notes: Justin Fields set for a second-half breakout, COVID-19 already impacting playoff race, more

Justin Fields is going to be a handful in the second half of the season. He is starting to get confident and comfortable. He is developing by the week.

I’m not sure if he’s going to end up being transcendent enough to save jobs in Chicago. But he has every chance of being special. And I expect he picks up Sunday against Baltimore right where he left off in Pittsburgh prior to the Bears’ Week 10 bye, where he played well enough to win and only persistent officiating errors prevented that outcome. Fields is becoming more assertive and more direct with his downfield intent, and despite a suspect offensive line and despite being deprived of so many snaps this summer, I believe he is going to be as exciting as any rookie in this league in the final few months of the season.

In their last four games, the Bears are averaging a gaudy 5.09 yards per carry, and the dynamic quarterback has much to do with that. Fields is averaging 7.15 yards per carry himself over those four games; that is a pace in excess of Lamar Jackson’s MVP season from 2019, and the kind of game-changing aspect that any defense gives much respect and attempts to account for.

And, quietly, the more strident run game has brought out more depth and diversity in the passing game. Fields has averaged at least 10 air yards per attempt in three of his last four games, something that would have been relatively unfathomable in late September or early October with this outfit. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has brought him along slowly and gradually catered more things to him, and they now have the ability to strike quickly to quadrants of the field that were not really in play previously. And Fields has completed a perfectly respectable 64 percent of his passes over his last four starts as well, yet another positive trend from the start of the season.

The question is, can the Bears protect him even a little bit? Can they cut down…


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