Fields Film: We've Reached the Uncomfortable Conversations Point of the Season

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Fields Film: We’ve Reached the Uncomfortable Conversations Point of the Season

Chicago Bears

We’re four games into the season, and we’ve reached the point where Justin Fields’ development is becoming an uncomfortable conversation for some. It’s a conversation where if you point out his mistakes, you “hate Fields.” If you point out the plusses, “you’re not paying attention.”

We have to be able to look at the big picture and have some uncomfortable conversations. These conversations are awkward because we all want to see Fields succeed. Unfortunately, he’s not, so the blame game has begun, and the segments of Bears pundits and fans have started to splinter.

Regardless of which side you find yourself on, the facts here are this: Fields has made some nice plays. He’s also made some bad plays. Plus, as we’ve known (but seem to forget as a collective), the roster around him stinks, and therefore, Fields is forced into far more uncomfortable situations than he should be.

Still, it’s the NFL. You’re not always going to have a clean pocket. You still have to make plays. We know that Fields can sling it with the best of them when he has the rare (for the Bears) combination of a clean pocket and time.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

But sometimes Fields doesn’t make great throws, even with a clean pocket, so let’s stop pretending that it’s all about the offensive line.

This play goes down in the box score as a solid play, but the reality is, it wasn’t a great throw, and he had time and space in the pocket.

And, believe it or not, he can make plays under pressure. Which is great because, you know, it’s the NFL and he should be able to do so.

Kayvon Thibodeaux is in the backfield immediately (as he was most of the game). But Fields sees Cole Kmet, adjusts his arm slot, and gets the ball to him for a positive play that could have easily been a sack or another Fields scramble:

The play didn’t amount to much, but it speaks to my point that Fields can hit receivers under pressure instead of bailing.

On the second play of the Bears first drive, Giants cornerback Darnay Holmes gets to Fields from his right side, but Fields still finds Darnell Mooney, stands tall, and delivers a rocket of a throw to his favorite target despite the pressure.

Fields runs way too much. Only Jalen Hurts (53) and Lamar Jackson (37) have more rushing attempts than Fields (34). Hurts and Jackson are doing it mainly by design, and neither has an issue making throws. Hurts has 1,120 yards and Lamar has 893. Fields has 471. The difference between the three, is that Hurts and Jackson have figured out how to be mobile and hit keep the pass an option.

The silver lining is this: Hurts is in year three and has more weapons and protection than Fields. Same, and then some goes for Lamar Jackson. Fields can be like those two guys with the same time and investment afforded to them. In the interim, it’s fine to critique Fields for what he is now.

While watching the Giants tape, the common theme is Fields being under consistent pressure, and many times being flushed out of the pocket within seconds.

We saw Fields make plays with time. And we saw Fields make plays without time. The most annoying thing we see from Fields this season is his persistence to flee the pocket and forget all about his receivers downfield. When Fields pulls it down, he’s gone. He’s decided to run, and that’s it.

Every week we’ve seen Fields miss a receiver getting beyond the secondary and not see him. This week was no exception.

Exhibit A:

Yes, the pocket collapsed immediately. Fields escaped and bought time to make a play on the left side. Good. He also missed a first down throw, and a touchdown throw. Bad. People have a hard time understanding that two things can be true at the same time. Kind of like Fields right now … you can escape the pocket and keep your eyes up field for a throw.

Here’s another one, and this time the pocket doesn’t collapse immediately:

Fields has a good enough pocket long enough for two receivers on the right side of the field to be open. Fields opts to get outside, and even then, it’s 5-6 seconds from the snap until the pressure gets within five yards of Fields, and he opts for the safety valve.

Here’s another play where Fields has time and open receivers and instead opts to run:

Yeah, he got the first down … again, good. He also missed the easier first down … bad. Also, Fields takes way too many hits when he does decide to run the ball. There were at least five runs in the Giants game where he either slid late and high and took a shot to the head or didn’t slide at all and took a shot to the upper body.

I seem to remember Fields being the guy who said he’s not going to take hits while running, so if he could get back to that, that would be ideal.

Then there was this play where Fields missed Mooney for a potential touchdown.

Yes, Mooney wore it, saying he ran the wrong route. Matt Eberflus confirmed it as well. Still, and Eberflus confirmed this, Fields has to be able to see what’s in front of him versus what he thinks he is supposed to be seeing. That’s what elite quarterbacks do.

“That’s a very basic play,” Eberflus said. “That’s just vertical, four vertical play. Mooney on that one is supposed to be bending across the formation. He’s supposed to be bending across. He was not supposed to go vertical. I think that kind of caught him off guard a little bit, but he certainly had time on that. He certainly had time and could’ve rode the pocket a little bit more, but he decided to take it because what we were telling him is to take the checkdown or run on that when they’re in that defense.

“Yeah, there’s no doubt,” Eberflus continued. “Get your eyes downfield and see what you see and take what they give you. Certainly, have to do that for sure.”

So, as Luis said on Monday, Fields played better this week despite the stats still not looking sexy. He also made some frustrating mistakes. We can blame the offensive line, the lack of weapons, the play calling, the weather, etc. Those criticisms certainly aren’t without merit. Still, Fields can and must eliminate these mental mistakes that we see on the film week in and week out if he’s going to be the long-term solution under center in Chicago.

You can provide an honest assessment and root for the player to succeed without being a “hater.” Quite frankly, if you’re convinced that Fields is the guy right now, then you’re lying to yourself.


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Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is a Staff Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.