The former Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields is looking to dispell the narrative that Ohio State quarterbacks “don’t translate to the NFL.” He’s certainly on the right path, but let’s not rush it.
Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields is arguably the most popular social media player in history. While he doesn’t have millions of followers, Fields is a clear fan favorite. Fields is arguably more popular than the first overall draft pick, Trevor Lawrence, as his jersey has sold more than the Jacksonville Jaguars face of the franchise. He was doubted throughout the NFL draft process by many experts in the field, causing the fever for Fields to only grow stronger.
After a fantastic week one performance, one that I likened to Dak Prescott’s rookie preseason, it’s easy to say that we need to pump the brakes a little bit on the hype for the youngster. Fields is the backup to Andy Dalton for a reason.
In this piece, I want to address the positives and the negatives that we saw from Fields’ week two performance. Then, I want to speak on what we will be looking for next week before the end of the preseason.
The positives from the performance
Justin Fields has a phenomenal understanding of timing and works well under pressure… For the most part. Fields entered the game with no real competitive chance to bring the Bears back into contention for the win. It was 34-6 when Fields stepped on the field, and everything that could go wrong offensively had pretty much already gone wrong.
Fields stepped up on the teams’ second drive, working deep into Buffalo Bills territory fueled by a couple of big plays with his legs and this throw that is embedded in the tweet above this paragraph. Fields connected for the second straight week with a deep throw for his tight end, Jesse James.
Fields has a few defenders converging on him while in a deep drop. This is a problem for him and amps the pressure up. A deep drop is a substantial loss. Also, the nature of the footwork puts him at a disadvantage to move, simply because of the timing of his drop, and now he has much farther to throw. The difficulty level on this throw is so much higher, especially if he can’t buy the time to step into it with a solid platform.
Fields doesn’t panic. He keeps his head, keeps the play in time, and doesn’t allow the pressure to phase his mechanics. This is an incredibly mature play. This is the poise of a veteran quarterback.
The part that stands out the most to me
When a player enters the NFL with the level of speed that Fields has, it’s straightforward for him to rely on his athleticism. Justin Fields doesn’t do that. He’s incredibly savvy using his arm to torch defenses. Even when he rolls out of the pocket, he’s looking to throw first.
This is some incredible maturity and understanding on his part, even at this early part of his career. That was against one of the points that some “NFL insiders” reported during the draft process, claiming that NFL teams were concerned with his maturity and work ethic.
Fields ran 4 times for 46 yards against the Bills, leading all Bears runners in rushing yards. Despite that stat, he was incredibly smart with his decisions to run – only doing so with no open receivers downfield and with a lot of space to operate.
The potential weaknesses that Justin Fields needs to improve on
Don’t think that our hero is without flaws. Fields struggled with consistency in this outing, completing 9 of 19 pass attempts for 80 yards.
Some of this was not his fault. He certainly dealt with his share of drops. By my unofficial account, there were three, but some things he could improve on. First things first, let’s address this massive hit that Fields took.
Fields was rocked by Bills linebacker Andre Smith, who came off the edge on a free rush. While the hit was a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call, the hit went viral almost immediately. Welcome to the NFL, Justin Fields.
This was a free release that could have been corrected at the line of scrimmage. Fields could have adjusted his protection to slant to the right because Smith didn’t have a tight end lined up to slow him. In fact, it appeared that Fields had switched his protection before this snap but adjusted it the wrong way. He will have to learn this as he goes along – getting better at recognizing concepts at the line of scrimmage.
The Bills ran some disguised coverages throughout the game, too – a little bit more than the typically vanilla defenses that teams run in the preseason. Those seemed to confuse Fields a good bit. He made a few throws into some areas of the field, thinking he had a different coverage that forced some of the drops by his receivers. Vigilant defenders jarred the ball loose in those instances.
Overall, Justin Fields is headed in the right direction
There is no doubt that Justin Fields looks like a player who can impact the Chicago Bears for years to come. Let’s not rush it, especially with some veteran talents on this roster in the positional group already. Let him learn and continue to grow as a quarterback.
What do we want to see in week three? Please continue to make the right decisions throwing the football, protect it and keep it safe. There’s really not much that one can do to improve reading defenses in a week. That is unfair for people to expect. He needs to keep his head up, keep that poise, and continue to be a leader when he steps on the field.
I love what I have seen so far from the rookie, who was the fourth quarterback taken off of the board in the 2021 NFL Draft. Justin Fields’ future is very bright. However, let’s not destroy his chances at a successful career in a league that doesn’t give players too many opportunities to prove themselves.