How constant pressure is hurting Justin Fields


Taking hit after hit, game after game, takes a toll on a quarterback. Rookies, vets, mobile QBs and pocket passers alike can take a toll when pressure accumulates throughout a game, or a season, and doesn’t relent. On Thursday, Justin Fields admitted it started to affect him during the Bears’ loss to the Commanders in Week 6.

“I felt like later in the game, like my internal clock was speeding up a little bit, just because of maybe the past pockets that I would get in the game,” Fields said.

It’s concerning to say the least, so Fields spoke about it with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko, and Fields had a request for them.

“I just told them if they feel like I'm getting antsy and maybe leaving the pocket too early when it's there, just remind me to reset. Like reset after every play. Because there are going to be times when I do have time and I can sit in there… just making sure that just because they got back here fast last play or two, three plays ago, doesn't mean they are going to get back fast (on the next play). So just playing every play. Every play is going to be different.”

A request like that from a player may sound alarming for a coach, but Getsy reiterated that the best way for coaches to help Fields slow his clock back down if he starts rushing is to simply give him reminders on the sideline. There aren’t special drills or exercises to help him. It’s just communication, and more importantly, experience.

“You can’t simulate what it feels like to have those guys around you, the timing and trying to read coverage, make sure you have the protection in the right way, where’s your weakness in the protection, all that stuff going through your mind and being prepared for the play and going through the progression,” said Getsy. “You can’t simulate that to that level.”

One thing the Bears can do to help, however, is to simply protect him better. Fields has been pressured on 50.3% of his dropbacks this season. That’s the highest rate among all QBs with at least 100 dropbacks, with Daniel Jones’ 46.5% rate coming in second. The pressure has come from multiple positions, so it’s not like the Bears can simply alter their scheme slightly to help cover up a deficiency in one area.

According to PFF, Lucas Patrick has allowed 11 pressures in 57 true pass set opportunities (passes excluding play action, screens, short drop backs, plays with fewer than four rushers, and plays where the time-to-throw is under two seconds). That’s ninth most among all guards, but his 19.3% pressure rate is second highest at the position (minimum 50 opps). Sam Mustipher has allowed seven pressures in 69 TPS opportunities. That’s the fifth highest total, and his 10.1% rate is second highest among centers. Braxton Jones has been the worst offender with 17 pressures allowed in 69 TPS opportunities. That total is fourth highest among all tackles, and again, his 24.6% pressure rate is second. Teven Jenkins hasn’t been perfect, surrendering five pressures in 52 TPS opportunities, but he’s well down the list at guard. Larry Borom has been the best, giving up only four pressures in 69 TPS opportunities.

Unsurprisingly, Fields has been a very different quarterback when he’s pressured compared to when he’s kept clean.

Pressured: 33.3% completion rate, 6.9 YPA, 2 TD, 3 INT, 22 sacks, 43.8 passer rating
Clean: 65.8% completion rate, 7.9 YPA, 2 TD, 2 INT, 1 sack, 87.6 passer rating

“If we keep him clean or give him a rush lane to sneak out, he's a very special player,” said Lucas Patrick. “We need to live up to the standard we have in our room to really help him become the elite player that he is. You can't change my mind that that guy is not a future stud in this league.

“We just have to be better for him because he deserves it.”

The Bears spent the extra time during their mini bye evaluating how they can do that. They looked at each individual player and the scheme, and changes could be coming in each department. At the end of the day however, Braxton Jones says the only change that’s needed is improved execution from the linemen on the field.

“It’s not like it’s some magical formula, we need to go out there and do something new or crazy, or anything like that,” Jones said. “We just got to do better with our rules and what we’re being coached to do.”

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