Still to this day, it amazes me that Justin Fields lasted until the 11th overall pick. To much surprise, the New York Giants traded out of the pick and the Chicago Bears came sprinting to the podium with an offer that Dave Gettleman couldn’t refuse.
Giving credit where it’s due, the Bears made the right call.
No, not because we’ve only seen a few quarters of play from the rookie quarterback out of Ohio State. But because the Bears quarterback situation was awful going into the 2021 NFL Draft. If there’s any consistency from the preseason debut in Fields’ game, then they’ll be just fine at the quarterback position for years to come.
Of all the rookie quarterbacks in this year’s draft, I thought Fields had the most impressive debut. He started off a bit shaky but once he settled in, he took the wheel to the driver seat and if these types of performance continue, there’s no reason why the Bears shouldn’t start Fields by the opening week of the season. Let’s jump into some film to go over the impressive debut for the Bears rookie quarterback!
Patience on the rollout
Much of what you will see in this breakdown is how Fields evades pressure and makes plays outside of the pocket. It’s smart by him and the Bears to have the offense commit to having him on the move. Teams have to honor his speed so it should open plenty of routes downfield or underneath. Regardless, Fields should have options. One of the key factors to that is how he doesn’t rush through his progressions and stays patient as the plays develop.
The play above is a perfect example of how he rolls out to his right off play-action and shows terrific patience. So many times with a rookie quarterback, they throw quickly to their safety valve to the flats or they tuck it and run for a couple of yards. For Fields on this play, he waits until the last minute for his wide receiver to be open on the curl route. By having this patience, he pulls the linebacker sitting underneath the curl route away from his zone and it gives Fields the opening he needs to fire this in there for a first down.
Evading Pressure and Extending Drives on 3rd Down
Much like I said earlier, defenses across the NFL will have to honor the speed possessed by Fields. After all, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds but on tape, he looks even faster. To his credit, he said the speed of the NFL “is kinda slow to me.” So maybe, he’s just a unicorn that’s going to take the league by storm — I believe that could be true. Regardless, let’s focus on how Fields evades his pocket collapsing and getting outside of the pocket to buy himself some time to make a play.
If you watch the play above, it certainly gives you that Patrick Mahomes type of vibe. Certainly, let’s hit the brakes but his pocket collapses, and Fields doesn’t panic. He stays under control, gets out into space, and while it looks like he’s going to tuck the ball and run, he extends out towards the sideline. This gives him an open receiver upfield and beyond the first down marker. Be sure to check the down and distance on this play as well. It’s 3rd and 9 and Fields has to make a play to extend the drive. He does that and he will continue to do that with time for the Bears.
Staying with the topic of extending drives on third down, here’s another example of Fields doing this right before the end of the first half. While it’s third-and-five, he knows how much time he has left in the half and that he’s got a timeout at his disposal. Rather than standing still in the pocket and increasing the chance of himself getting sacked, Fields extends beyond the pocket to buy himself some time. As he runs towards the sideline, watch his head. He’s showing the defense with his eyes that he’s going to go underneath the receiver that is at the bottom of the screen.
Instead, Fields makes a great throw on the run and finds an open receiver downfield. This puts the ball past the 50-yard line and gives the Bears an opportunity to throw one more pass before setting up for a field goal or Hail Mary. That’s exactly what they did, too. After the timeout, Fields fired a pass on a quick out towards the sideline and that set the Bears up for a 53-yard field goal that they converted. This didn’t just give the team momentum going into the half, this helped build much-needed confidence in the rookie quarterback.
Scrambling for the first down
Not all quarterbacks need to win with their arms. In fact, we encourage and favor the quarterbacks that have the ability to scramble and move around on the field. As the speed of the game continues to get faster, it’s always important to have a quarterback that can make something out of nothing. That’s exactly what Fields does here.
While the Dolphins have great coverage, Fields makes the correct decision by trusting his athleticism. On the play above, you can see the pocket falling apart right in front of Fields but he doesn’t hesitate. He thinks quick on his feet and takes off running for the first down. I’m not sure what’s more impressive – the speed to get into the open field or decision to tuck it and run.
Wheel route touchdown
As the Bears continue to develop their new identity with the rookie quarterback, they should see continued success off play-action passes. Much to what has already been stated, they will develop a run game from their quarterback to veterans such as Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery in the run game. This will open up the passing game for their tight ends or talented wide receivers in Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney.
While there might have been a breakdown in the Dolphins coverage, Fields does a nice job letting the wheel route develop downfield. Off play-action, Fields takes about a 7-step drop in his roll-out to the right before delivering a great pass across the field to the backside wheel route. Keep in mind, it’s only second down, so even if the route was covered, there’s the option for him to get out of trouble and live for another down. I’d consider this a calculated risk that was timed perfectly for an offense that has gotten a much-needed spark.
Chicago head coach Matt Nagy has a tough decision to make with the quarterback battle that’s now developed in front him. Some might say he should roll with a veteran like Andy Dalton but the truth has already been revealed after two quarters of play. It’s simple — the Bears should be starting Justin Fields after his impressive preseason debut.