When discussing Justin Fields, people struggle to find the source of his constant problems at finding consistency as a passer. The primary talking point experts harp on is protection. It’s never been good enough to help him develop. Yes, the offensive line deserves some share of the blame for this. However, others have said much of the blame falls on Fields himself. They cite his bad tendency to hold the ball in the pocket when his first read isn’t there, unable to get to his second or third options quickly enough before pressure sets in.
It sounds too simplistic. That can’t be the only reason, right? It turns out it isn’t. Robert Schmitz of Da Bears Blog caught a comment from former quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan about how slow Fields’ drop-back from the snap was. He looked further into it and came to a startling discovery. It’s true. The Bears QB is significantly slower than other quarterbacks around the league.
Other quarterbacks on five-step drops:
- Patrick Mahomes – 1.5 seconds
- Justin Herbert – 1.7 seconds
- Joe Burrow – 1.6 seconds
- Geno Smith – 1.6 seconds
- Trevor Lawrence – 1.5 seconds
You’re starting to get the idea. Most top quarterbacks in the NFL operate on a footwork clock of 1.5 to 1.7 seconds from snap to hitting their back step. Fields takes a half second longer than the average of those numbers. In a league where you’re often afforded no more than three seconds to throw the ball, that wasted time can make all the difference.
Justin Fields lacks a sense of urgency.
There is no other way to describe it. This isn’t to say he doesn’t want to win. That’s far from the truth. It is more a measure of his personality. How he operates on every snap seems too laid back. There is nothing quick about it. That might explain why the quick game never seems to work with him. It requires a certain degree of timing and anticipation to be effective. Fields’ slower drop and his lengthy windup constantly throw off the timing of each play. By the time he’s looking to his first read, the receivers likely are already past the point where the ball should be out.
It shouldn’t be surprising that head coach Matt Eberflus constantly harps on timing and anticipation being primary focuses for Justin Fields. He knows those are what’s holding the passing game back from functioning properly. Analytics say a quarterback should get the ball out within 2.5 seconds after the snap. If Fields takes two seconds to reach his back step on a typical drop, that means he only has a half-second left to make a decision before pressure starts to set in.
So yes. It’s true the protection needs to be better. However, it’s becoming clear that Fields is too often his own worst enemy.