With any luck, the Justin Fields Watch will finally be over for the Chicago Bears after the starting quarterback missed his fourth game with his injured right thumb.
Fields got some work in at Halas Hall Monday morning as the Bears come off another 10-day layoff, and he certainly looks like a guy who’s ready for action.
He also might have revealed a subtle change to his game that fans and experts have been clamoring for.
A video of two seven-step dropbacks shared by CHGO’s Twitter/X account (which has since been deleted because of team media rules) caught a number of viewers’ eyes for their improved tempo compared to what he typically does in games.
Slow dropbacks have routinely been an issue for Fields, frequently contributing to pressure against him and lateness getting to reads. On seven-step shotgun drops, it’s not unusual for Fields to reach the top of his drop, which is considerably longer than, say, Tyson Bagent. If you’re hoping your offensive line gives you at least 2.5 seconds of protection, that’s a ton of wasted time.
Directly comparing the two #Bears' QBs dropback tempo is wild.— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) October 25, 2023
Tyson Bagent reaches the top of his drop about a half-second (0.5s) faster than Justin Fields on 5-step & 7-step dropbacks -- this gave Bagent more flexibility when dealing with pressure, and it may help explain why… pic.twitter.com/nuhQv4Hjdm
A quick stopwatch measurement of Fields’ two practice drops from under center, however, times out just under two seconds on both attempts, which could be an interesting development if it holds in games.
Why has it taken so long for us to see Fields moving this quickly on his drops? Beats me.
Are we going to see this against a live rush on Sunday against the Detroit Lions? Good question.
Still, with Fields’ professional future depending on what he does over the next seven games, little fixes can hopefully lead to bigger progress.
The former 11th overall pick in the 2021 draft has displayed elite characteristics when he’s not taking needless sacks or fumbling the football, and his production through the air has gone up – when he actually throws the football, that is.
But there’s been too much bust and too little boom in Fields’ high-variance style, and he needs to consistently do the things that can help him play average football and hit the simple stuff if he wants to start in the NFL for a long time – let alone with the Bears.
It may well be too much to hope that a quicker drop will change the course of his career just yet. But it can’t hurt. Right now, Fields needs to take every step forward he can – or backward, in this case.