Justin Fields Needs to Learn to Fight Another Day

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

From videos, it seems Justin Fields is willing to take checkdowns more often. Do you see this being a big thing for the offense when he is taking those 4- to 5-yard completions? — @dabearszach

It definitely will be a positive if the Bears can get the running backs more involved in the passing game. Those are some of the “layups,” as offensive coordinator Luke Getsy calls them. Take the short gain, live to play another down. Those dump-offs eliminate the chances for a huge play on some of those snaps but they also create a profit, if even a small one. They keep drives moving. The Bears totaled only 62 targets for running backs/fullbacks last season with David Montgomery leading with way with 40 (34 receptions, 316 yards).

From my perspective, there have been too many checkdowns to running backs or throws to tight ends on short-curl or hook routes in 7-on-7 periods in camp. You don’t want to see an abundance of passes directed to running backs. The goal is for the quarterback to see the Nos. 1 and 2 reads and get the ball out or if he has to work back to No. 3, do that but with speed and tempo. That is being decisive with the ball.

Checkdowns happen. Because the Bears can be Cover-2 heavy at times on defense, there are going to be plays in which that’s the outlet. If you have two-deep coverage over the top and they are capping the vertical throws and you see the linebacker drop, boom, you drop it off to the running back and go to the next play. That is what the defense wants. Being decisive is seeing it fast in the pocket and delivering the ball rhythm. It doesn’t matter who it is going to, but you don’t want a bunch of completions to running backs or short checkdowns to tight ends. It has been a consistent theme.

Biggs is, of course quite right. However, as I’ve said, before, Fields has a bad habit of simply holding the ball too long, and, especially in two minute situations at the end of games, it cost him and the team.

Biggs points out that the Bears defense can be covered 2 heavy, and that forces you to take with the defense gives you underneath. In two minute situations teams are always in this kind of coverage. The entire goal is to prevent the offense from making big plays. This is where Fields falls down. Be patient, take the shorter gains in these periods and be confident that you’ve got time to do it.

Rumor has it that when Fields was intercepted last week by an unknown, undrafted rookie it was in a two minute situation when the down and distance was first and 20. Everything was covered underneath and Fields threw the ball up for grabs in an effort to make a play that wasn’t there.

Even the always overly positive Adam Jahns at The Athletic had to admit after a glowing report about the Bears’ preformance in a another two minute drill that, “All of that success, though, came after Fields was intercepted by cornerback Josh Blackwell on his first pass in the situational drill.” Again. that is, on first down in a two minute situation where Fields could have thrown a low percentage but safe ball where only the reciever could have caught it and lived to fight another day.

Instead, he threw the ball up and it was intercepted. Game over and the Bears lose another one possession game at the end.

That kind of thing can’t keep happening this year. Taking the underneath throw has to be the answer. And if that means checking the ball down more often in camp, well, perhaps that’s something Fields needs to get more used to doing in situations that call for it.

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