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Film room: The Jekyll and Hyde of Justin Fields

Breaking down a potential QB option for next season

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers
Justin Fields
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

With uncertainty at quarterback heading into the offseason, speculation has emerged that the Las Vegas Raiders might make a trade for Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields.

Since the Bears own the first and ninth overall picks in the upcoming NFL Draft, there’s a strong possibility that they will target prospects Caleb Williams or Drake Maye and look to deal Fields in the spring.

The third-year pro had a solid season with a 61.2 completion percentage, 2,562 passing yards and 16 touchdowns with nine interceptions in 13 games. He showed growth as a passer with 21 ‘big-time throws’ at a rate of 5.5 percent, per Pro Football Focus. The latter ranked 10th out of the 28 quarterbacks with at least 363 dropbacks this season. Fields also contributed 653 rushing yards (5.2 ypc) and four rushing touchdowns.

So, let’s dive into the tape and see what he brings to the table beyond the numbers.

We’ll start with the negative so that we can end on a high note.

One issue with Fields is that he can be gun-shy and/or doesn’t see the field particularly well. Here, it’s third and eight the Bears motion Darnell Mooney (No. 11) inside D.J. Moore (No. 2). Both receivers release vertically and create a bit of a screen against the linebacker who is late to get out to the flat.

So, the out route by Moore is open if Fields rips it and throws with good anticipation when the wideout hits the top of the route. However, Fields moves on to Mooney and has another opportunity to let it rip when the cornerback opens his hips and starts to drive on Mooney. That’s going to be a difficult throw, but if the quarterback is turning down the first option, that’s the throw he’s got to make.

Instead, he stays in the pocket as the pass rush starts to get there and has poor ball security. So, what could have been a first down ends up being a strip sack.

This is a similar rep where Fields is initially going to look at Moore running the short curl against Cover 3 from the Browns. The linebacker is working out to the flat but a ball that’s thrown with velocity and anticipation likely results in a completion. But that’s not even the most egregious miss on this play, in my opinion.

Fields works through his reads to the other side of the field and has the tight end open on the seam route between the second and third levels of the defense. Especially with the safety on the opposite hash, that should be a first down if the ball is thrown on time.

Now, the corner eventually picks up the tight end, however, that means Mooney is open on the out-and-up is open for a big play down the sideline. Instead, the quarterback leaves a fairly clean pocket and ends up making a dangerous throw that should have been intercepted.

Another big issue with Fields is his accuracy isn’t good or consistent on short to intermediate throws. Here, it’s third and four and he gets a good look with Cleveland playing man coverage while Mooney runs a whip route. The wideout wins but the ball is well behind him for what was dangerously close to being a pick-six.

What’s most concerning about this throw is that Fields’ mechanics are fine, the pass is just way off-target. If say there was something wrong with his footwork, then that could be a fixable issue. But this is just a bad ball and happens too often with him.

Moving on to Fields’ strengths and one of his biggest is his ability to create off-script plays with his legs.

Nothing is open on this rep and the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year, Myles Garrett, is wins around the edge and is barrelling down on the quarterback. However, Fields does a great job of escaping the sack and then uses his speed to make another defensive lineman miss.

Finally, the quarterback ends up finding the tight end in the back of the endzone and makes a nice throw on the run to turn what could have been a sack on third down into six points.

This is the other element Fields’ legs can bring to the table. It’s third and 10 so the Browns play deep to take away the sticks. That leaves the tight end—or inside slot receiver in this formation—open on the out route but he would likely be tackled short of the marker.

Cleveland is also running a stunt upfront where the outside linebacker at the top of the screen goes inside. That leaves the outside open and Fields recognizes that the defense has lost contain of him, so he scrambles with his eyes downfield. He forces the defense to stay deep by pulling up near the line of scrimmage and then uses his speed to move the chains.

Another play from Fields where he’s on the move, only this time it’s a designed bootleg and he’s going to throw it. The Browns are playing Cover 1 and the safety bites on the crossing route from the outside receiver working across the formation.

That forces the linebacker to play from a trail position without safety help against the tight end, an advantage for the offense. Fields recognizes it, sets his feet and makes a nice throw down the field with defenders in his face. The tight end just has to catch that ball as this might be a 74-yard touchdown if he does.

We’ll end with a clip that makes those first two reps even more frustrating. Here, Fields throws with good anticipation versus the Cover 4 side of the Cover 6 call from the Browns. The ball comes out with good velocity and is layered between the second and third levels of the defense to prevent any defenders from being able to make a play on it.

So, he has the arm talent to make these kinds of throws, he just needs to let it rip more often.