Justin Fields is struggling through two weeks of his third season in the NFL.
We know how well he can run the ball and make plays with his legs. But that's unsustainable in the NFL. The Bears need him to figure out how to be an effective passer. He hasn't shown that yet.
Over two games, he has 427 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions to his name. From a film perspective, it's clear he's missing reads, using sloppy footwork and failing to deliver the football.
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It's been a rough go for Fields, but according to ESPN's Dan Graziano, the Bears aren't concerned.
"This likely comes as a surprise, but I'm not detecting a high level of concern from inside the Bears' building on Fields," Graziano recently wrote. "The Bears (and Fields) have looked terrible in their opening two games, but from what I have been told, the coaching staff always believed this would be another building year for Fields and the offense, especially in the early going. Outside expectations for a major leap forward this offseason were a little bit higher than the internal ones, and the Bears retain optimism that they'll see growth from their young QB as this season progresses."
Despite internal versus external expectations, those on the outside hold merit.
Are outsiders expecting Fields and the Bears to reach the Super Bowl? Absolutely not. The playoffs? I'm not, for one. All anyone on the outside expects is an improvement. And it's clear as day Fields hasn't improved passing from the pocket, or at all, for that matter.
Of course, there are caveats.
For one, the Bears are through two weeks of football. That's too small of a sample size to determine Fields' fate. Decisions like moving off your quarterback aren't made midseason. Give Fields until the end of this season.
Further, the blame is shared from an offensive perspective.
If you've watched any film, it's visible the offense is still working through kinks and miscommunications. Some are of a more alarming degree than others, i.e. Chase Claypool's lack of effort and misunderstanding of the playbook in a few cases. But the offensive line is still a hot mess and the play-calling isn't suitable for Fields' game.
One thing Fields must work on himself, however, is evading pressure in the pocket. That means dirting the ball or taking off downfield if things get hairy behind the line of scrimmage.
A recent statistic showed around 80% of Fields' career sacks have come with over four seconds in the pocket. That's way too long to expect to get a throw-off without pristine protection --- something the Bears don't have.
"It is clear, in talking with the Bears, that too many of the 10 sacks that Fields has taken are on him and that he needs to make better and quicker decisions in the pocket," Graziano wrote. "But as they develop the run game, that should help him."
Talking with Fields this week, reporters learned his understanding of this issue, and broader ones, specifically. According to Fields, the coaches want him to stand strong and confident in the pocket and remain there, even when things start going south.
Fields admitted he took this advice too literally. That was evident Sunday when the Buccaneers gained a strip sack off of him after he stood in the pocket for too long. The signal caller understands he needs to go back to escaping the pocket and extending plays when necessary.
"I’m leaving. I’m gone. Time clock, I’m gone out of the pocket," Fields said. "That’s why that happened (the strip sack) because they (the coaches) wanted me to work on staying in the pocket during the offseason, which, there are times where you do, but when that internal clock goes off, that’s when you need to get out and extend the play, make a play."
The Bears were adamant about evolving their offense into one that emulates a more modern NFL attack. In essence, that means less running and more passing. Unfortunately, they've tried to make Fields into a pocket quarterback, something we know he's not best at.
If they want to make life easier for him, they need to adapt the offense to his preferences. Move the pocket, design run plays, easy passes, etc. Don't make Fields stay in an always-collapsing pocket with split-field and rudimentary concepts.
It's not working.
The ball is in the coaches', and Fields', court to respond to their 12-game, franchise-record losing streak. If they can't, then the concerns will grow. Time is only their friend for so long.