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NFL Draft

Breaking Down Justin Fields’ Impressive NFL Debut

  • The Draft Network
  • August 16, 2021
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In what ultimately became a showcase of Justin Fields’ long-sought-after skill set, the Chicago Bears’ first-year signal-caller provided an immediate jolt into the Chicago offense in what was Fields’ first taste of NFL action.

“It was actually kinda slow to me,” Fields said regarding the speed of the game.

While the pace of play will surely increase as time progresses and teams begin to work out of detailed defensive concepts instead of vanilla base structures, it was hard to not be thoroughly impressed by Fields’ outing against a Miami team flourishing with defensive depth.

The No. 11 overall pick in April’s draft, skeptics were aplenty during the offseason circuit toward Fields’ skill set and how it would ideally transfer into the NFL landscape. Rather than tailoring projection on collegiate production and the simplicity of the eye test, Fields slid on draft boards and was ultimately taken behind Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance among eligible signal-callers.

Saturday was a prove-it moment for Fields. A former 5-star recruit and transfer from Georgia prior to his illustrious career as a Buckeye at Ohio State, Fields enjoyed a slow start against the Dolphins before dominating play, showcasing his ability both via the air and on the ground.

Following a fumble and three consecutive drives without moving the chains, Fields settled in behind center against Miami’s second-unit defense, torching the Dolphins to the tune of 17 straight points to take the lead late in the third quarter. 

"He did a great job of bouncing back, which is what he's always done," Bears head coach Matt Nagy said after the game.

Initial series aside, Fields was everything Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace could have hoped for in his Soldier Field debut. Stout in the pocket, touch to the outside, zip to the inside, ability to maneuver while keeping his eyes upfield, Fields couldn’t have scripted a more ideal first preseason appearance—he really was just that special. 

Like he did in Columbus, Fields kept Nagy’s offense multi-dimensional, leaving Dolphins defenders on their heels throughout the entirety of his snaps. With a bazooka for an arm and a sturdy, powerful lower half, there was no surprise grace period in adjusting to the NFL’s pace of play. 

His identification of increasingly difficult-to-read progressions and his acute detail as a student of the game must continue to progress as defenses scout him and batten down the hatches to take away his tendencies. In what will go down as a flicker in the overall report card of his first year, Fields had the best performance of any first-year quarterback’s professional debut from this weekend’s slate of games. 

In seven series, Fields totaled 142 yards and a TD on 14-of-20 passing. On the ground, he added five rushes for 33 yards, including an eight-yard touchdown run to bring the Miami lead to three.

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From a bird’s eye view, this is an eight-yard scramble drill for a touchdown that could have easily resulted in a sack. However, when we peel back the layers, you begin to see why Nagy should cement Fields as the team’s QB1 without any hesitation. 

Lined up in shotgun with a 3x1 concept from left to right, Fields’ hot read is to the back in the flat, where the Dolphins do a nice job of hovering to take away anything shallow. Fields offers a quick shoulder fake before sliding his eyes up the middle where he’s immediately met by blindside pressure. Instead of tucking and taking the sack, Fields shakes off the arm tackle, leading to showtime in space.

Although moving to his left, Fields remained a thrower of the football, keeping his eyes downfield in case of a need to throw downhill to a receiver in the corner of the endzone. Instead, Fields took it upon himself, lowering his pads as he crossed the endzone for the score. It wasn’t a soft entry to the endzone by any means, rather, it was an “I’m going through you to pay dirt” moment no matter what—a play that should be praised in film for weeks to come and what ultimately represented the mantra of a dominant day for Fields in his professional debut.

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