Justin Fields must be judged on a film review of the All-22 — not on the box score or even advanced efficiency metrics. Fields, Trevor Lawrence, and Zach Wilson are all products of horrific situations. Still, it’s easiest to see Fields’ future potential through the flaming dumpster fire that is the Chicago Bears offense. He’s showing many of the same traits that led many analysts to rank him as the QB2 in the 2021 NFL Draft. And he’s growing before our eyes.
Justin Fields All-22 film review
Fields did not finish with good numbers against the Green Bay Packers in Week 14. He completed just 18 of 33 passes and threw 2 interceptions. Fields threw an ugly pick-six to Rasul Douglas, but his second INT was an intermediate pass — thrown while getting sandwiched between two defenders — that went off the outstretched arms of Darnell Mooney.
There is a ton of discussion about completion percentage, and probably a bit of coded language, from folks on the internet talking about Fields not being able to throw the football. That’s curious to me. Among all the rookie QBs, he was the most accurate through ball placement-charting in college because he’s so naturally accurate to the intermediate areas.
Justin Fields creating
In Fields’ film review, his arm is obviously outstanding. He could stand to be more consistent throwing to the shorter area of the field to his right, but that is an area where many right-handed QBs struggle. Throwing a football is a lot like a golf swing. Timing and positioning are essential, and many QBs fail to consistently match their lower and upper half on throws to that area.
Despite Kenny Clark demolishing the Bears’ interior on nearly every rep, Fields showed poise and improvement in manipulating the pocket and creating throwing hallways. He also revealed he can get out and create.
The above throw is just one example of that. Fields gets this high and away where only his receiver can catch it, and he does an excellent job of resetting his feet to synchronize his kinetic chain.
Fields must desperately want this throw back. It took a Herculean effort to avoid the free-rushing Darnell Savage, and then he also evaded the attempted arm tackle from Preston Smith. The above play is an example of what Fields can do as a creator. Additionally, we know his arm is not an issue, as was explicitly proved in the first video. His frame, strength, and explosiveness allow him to be incredibly dangerous on the hoof.
There’s a certain level of excitement when a quarterback throws well when rolling to his left. But the most exciting thing about Fields after the first few weeks avoiding live bullets is how he’s stayed calm with madness surrounding him. He won’t always make the right decision (after all, he is still a rookie), and he’s coming from an Ohio State program where he simply didn’t have to deal with such adversity.
It’s clear Fields has a baseball background, and it’s even less surprising that he played shortstop growing up. These intermediate and deep throws rolling left are natural for a middle infielder.
Avoiding pressure: Fields makes defenders look foolish
I cringe every time, but Fields always seems to save himself at the last second, sending defenders flying past or tumbling to the turf like a bouncer throwing a scrawny patron out of the club.
The above video is no one-off. Heck, we saw a similar save against Savage in a video discussing Fields’ ability to create. He doesn’t have the feel for creating throwing windows from within the pocket the same way Lawrence does, but his ability to escape impending doom is much more aesthetically pleasing.
The young quarterback is at a disadvantage every single time he drops back to pass. Third-and-long situations magnify those disadvantages. In Week 14, Clark acquainted himself early and often against the non-existent Bears interior. All five Chicago OL starters — whomever they might be week to week — struggle to both physically impede the progress of pressure and mentally pass off any sort of line games played by defenders.
Intermediate passing: A QB’s greatest strength
This was one of the main reasons I was so bullish on Fields throughout the draft process. He was my QB2, and it was his ability to attack from 10-25 yards from within structure that tickled me most.
His rookie season has been no different. He consistently makes good leverage reads against both man and zone coverage. Unlike some of the narratives surrounding him at Ohio State, he has no problem shifting his eyes toward multiple options.
The deep out giveth and the deep out taketh away. It finally bit Fields in the arse against the Packers in Week 14, but this is a throw that we don’t see as often among young QBs — and it’s one he flourishes making.
Arrogant arm talent
Confidence can at times border on arrogance, but Fields isn’t arrogant with his arm talent like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, or Justin Herbert tend to be. Now, if we want to nitpick a little, I’d say he could have thrown this pass more safely if he led Mooney toward the sideline instead of letting him drift downfield. But this is just one of many examples.
We don’t see deep curls very often, but it’s something we’ve seen the Bears try at times off of play-action. But it doesn’t just have to come off play-action if — somehow — the line can block long enough to protect Fields.
I think this is an insane play call on 2nd and 6. The Bears go empty from 11 personnel. The back chips T.J. Watt, and the tight end blocks the backside end before releasing to the flat. The Steelers are in a single-high look, and a deep curl should be in a vacated area of the spot drop Cover 3 zone Pittsburgh runs. The slot does an excellent job in his stem to threaten both the outside cornerback and the safety.
Fields reads the cornerback’s leverage taking him vertically. Based on how the flat defender midpoints the flat and intermediate zone, Fields realizes he won’t be able to drive on this pass inside of the numbers. The linebacker doesn’t get depth, and Fields delivers the ball accurately to Mooney.
Fields must be protected better
This next pass is an excellent throw under pressure. In fact, Fields has shown a ton of toughness pushing the ball downfield under pressure as a rookie. But I do wish he’d take fewer hits as a passer and runner.
The Packers don’t slide the coverage to the four-strong side for some reason. This left them in a three vs. four situation against the Bears’ four-player levels concept. Fields reads this correctly. However, as this was on first down, I was screaming for him to immediately hit the flat route as he hit the apex of his drop.
This isn’t a quick game concept, but it does show Fields’ desire to make big plays no matter the personal cost. He’s not reckless like, say, Carson Wentz used to be — but he’s cut from the same cloth in that respect.