Coming out of Ohio State, a lot of experts had the same scouting report on Justin Fields. A premier athlete with a great mixture of size and speed as a scrambler. A strong arm with the capability of striking down the field and throwing on the run. The biggest challenge for him upon reaching the NFL was not relying too much on those gifts. He would have to learn how to play the position primarily from the pocket as most top quarterbacks do.
That often takes time to master. Most college QBs aren’t used to the intricacies of playing from the pocket. They don’t understand the footwork or the reading of defensive coverages required. Fields though? He might not be any normal QB. Bucky Brooks is a former scout and now top draft expert for the NFL Network. He took an opportunity to review the Bears rookie’s work the past two weeks and in the preseason to see where his development is at.
Brooks came away surprised by something unexpected.
“After studying Fields’ play this preseason and last week against the Bengals, I came away impressed with his timing, patience and discipline inside the pocket. He works through his progressions, identifying his primary and complementary options before relying on his athleticism to get him out of trouble when the play breaks down. While Fields has been fooled by post-snap coverage changes and exotic blitz designs, the rookie deserves credit for making decisive throws to pass catchers on the perimeter.”
This sort of revelation should be scary. Not for the Bears but for their opponents in the near and far future. Fields is a rookie. The fact he is already displaying comfort inside the pocket is a testament to how fast he is grasping the position. He’s already a huge danger thanks to his legs. If he learns to grasp the mental side of the game and can equally burn defenses from the pocket as well? There might be no stopping him.
Evidence that Brooks talks about was plentiful from the win over Cincinnati. While there were moments that Fields abandoned the pocket too quickly, there were others he stood in there under pressure and delivered a gorgeous throw. Take this one in the 4th quarter to Allen Robinson. By all rights, this should’ve been the knockout shot on a 35-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, it was dropped.
Justin Fields demonstrated his progress in that play
Before the snap, he does a good job setting the protection. He recognizes the Bengals are going to blitz. The offensive line picks it up. Fields doesn’t rush, waits for an extra tick even as the pressure starts to squeeze in around him, and delivers the ball on a beautiful arc to Robinson. That is the type of throw 10-year veterans make. If he is making them every day in practice? It’s no wonder teammates and coaches are so excited.
This is why many consider the Bears remarkably lucky. Under normal circumstances, there is no way Justin Fields should’ve been available when he was during the draft. A player of his talent almost never drops out of the top 5. For him to slip all the way to #11 took a series of major strokes of luck. Everything from being in a loaded QB class to bizarre pre-draft rumors and the stigma of coming from Ohio State.
A program with a shaky QB history in the NFL.
None of that scared the Bears. They jumped up the board to get their guy, feeling he was a generational talent with a far sharper football mind than he was getting credit for. This recent grasping of pocket passing is one such bit of proof.