Breaking Down Justin Fields’ Saturday Afternoon

| August 28th, 2023

Justin Fields played 13 snaps in a preseason game, and because his offense had the nerve to look rusty many on social media, of course, went haywire.

With that in mind, let’s break down all 13 of his snaps — in this video, you’ll see:

  • Improved post-snap process
  • The most vanilla passing calls you’ll find
  • Physical mistakes throwing the ball
  • Much, much more

Check it out and let me know what you think!

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Justin Fields’ Rushing Puts Him In Strong Historical Company

| August 23rd, 2023

In doing research for an upcoming project, I stumbled upon an interesting set of correlations within Fields’ rushing data — as you may know, Justin Fields led the NFL in 2022 with 7.1 Yards/Rush, the best figure of any player since 2014 (assuming a minimum of 100 carries).

That 2014 leader was Russell Wilson, who led the league with 7.2 Yards/Rush. But it’s what Wilson did in the season after 2014 that we care about — in 2015, Russ threw for his first 4,000 yard passing season and never stepped back after doing so.

Wilson’s production (specifically Touchdowns, Y/A, and Total Passing Yards) improved in 2015 because defenses couldn’t allow Russ to run freely and thus sacrificed defenders in coverage to cover him, and obviously we’d love to see the same from Justin Fields in 2023. But, interestingly enough, Wilson’s sack rate remained one of the worst in the league even as he took that 2015 step forward.

Russ was always one to take plenty of sacks, including a 2nd-year season where he recorded a 9.8% sack rate, but seeing his 2014 sack rate (8.5%) repeat in his 2015 season (8.5% sack rate) is a reminder that even if Fields takes a step forward as a passer he’ll continue to take an inordinate amount of sacks compared to his peers. That said, if Fields throws for 4,000+ yards and 34 TDs? I don’t know how much anyone will complain about 45-50 sacks.

But Russell Wilson is just one name — across the league, how successful are QBs that run well?

Surprisingly, the list of NFL QBs that have led the league in Yards/Rush is a list filled with talent:

  • Josh Allen (2021)
  • Lamar Jackson (2019, 2020)
  • Russell Wilson (2014)
  • Robert Griffin III (2012)
  • Cam Newton (2011)
  • Michael Vick (2002, 2004, 2006, 2010)
  • Randall Cunningham (1990)

Of this list, only Randall Cunningham (1990) and Michael Vick (2004 & 2006) topped Fields Yards/Rush figure of 7.1 Y/R.

Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but if a QB leads the NFL in this category and stays healthy long-term they historically tend to be good players. Just how good you think the list’s QBs are depends on your perspective on players like Cam Newton (lack of longevity), Lamar Jackson (passed for 3,000+ yards exactly once, though BAL hasn’t helped him), and Michael Vick (never passed for 3,000+ yards in Atlanta), but for a city like Chicago that’s been starved of serviceable QB play for years I’d take the floor that comparisons like Cam Newton impart if it gives me a chance at a ceiling like Josh Allen or Russell Wilson.

With DJ Moore, OL upgrades, a renewed Chase Claypool, boosts at TE, and a second year in the offense, who knows? Maybe Justin Fields’ “Russell Wilson 2015” season is just around the corner. We’ll have to wait and see.

Your Turn: Do you see Justin Fields as more Russell Wilson or Michael Vick?

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Reviewing Titans @ Bears: Let’s talk Offense

| August 15th, 2023

Today we pick up where we left off yesterday as we break down Saturday’s offensive standouts. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Editor’s Note: Check back with this article throughout the day — as I produce more All-22 cutups, I’ll update this article to include more analysis 

Carter Cruises:

  • On a day where Justin Fields didn’t throw an incomplete pass and DJ Moore scored his first touchdown in Chicago, who would’ve guessed that the man wearing #69 would’ve been one of the brightest stars on the offense? Ja’Tyre Carter showed off great footwork in both the run and pass game, great hand usage as a pass-protector, and an extra helping of violence as a combo blocker that led to a few destructive finishes.
    • Nothing dismantles an NFL offense like injuries on the offensive line, so a depth lineman like Carter playing well is the best possible thing that could’ve happened over the weekend. Time will tell if his positive play was a product of legitimate growth as a player (rather than a product of playing the Titans 2nd & 3rd string), but his game against Tennessee was a drastic step up from his late-year showing and that’s exactly what you want to see out of a second-year player.

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After Months Of Waiting, It’s FINALLY A Chicago Bears Football Monday

| August 7th, 2023

Football is back this weekend, baby! Thank goodness!

Since it’s impossible for us to know what players & teams are working on during camp sessions, “evaluating” the videos we see from practice (especially the videos from practices without pads) feels rather silly. Thus, after reading Training Camp reports for ~2 weeks, I’m ready to watch downs where the stats get recorded.

The Preseason may not count towards the Bears’ overall record, but it’s full of:

  • Padded Reps
  • In a game-like setting
  • Where we can assume that players all over the roster are going to try their best to win each down (as opposed to workshopping new techniques that they haven’t yet readied via practice)

That’s not a perfect recipe for glimpsing the future of the 2023 Bears’ season, but it should be more than the scraps we get through Twitter X on the day-to-day.

The players seem to take the preseason seriously (well, as seriously as you can take a team you aren’t game-planning for) as evidenced by the comfortable play of QBs like Patrick Mahomes preseason (222 yards and 3 TDs while completing 18 passes on 26 attempts), Tua Tagovailoa (179 yards and 1 TD while completing 15 passes on 16 attempts), Geno Smith (256 yards and 0 TDs while completing 39 passes on 45 attempts), and plenty of other QBs where strong preseason showings very quietly signaled good things to come.

Don’t take the above paragraph too seriously, preseason performance certainly isn’t a sure thing, but this time of year is all about fun anyways — let’s have some this weekend!

I can’t wait to see what surprises Saturday afternoon has for us. Will Chase Claypool carry his camp dominance into the game? If the starters don’t play, does that mean multiple series of Tyler Scott, Ja’Tyre Carter, and other young guns? At which position (and when in the game) will Terell Smith get his first reps? My mind is racing just thinking about the possibilities.

To Help Pass The Time…

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DJ Moore Is A Very Good Wide Receiver And I Can’t Wait To See Him Play

| August 3rd, 2023

Based on reports from around Chicagoland, the offense struggled in yesterday’s practice — so much so that Justin Fields mentioned in his presser that “It’s really good to have days like this.” and that in his opinion it’s good for the offense to go through adversity in these early stages of training camp.

Here’s my issue: I don’t want to wet blanket everyone else’s wet blanket attitude, but we’re talking about football practice. This builds on Tuesday’s article, but the toughest part about this time of year is how much we, as outside observers, could never know about what’s going on in practice.

Is Justin Fields working with new throwing mechanics for the first time? Is Fields going out of his way to force tighter-window throws than usual in effort to get comfortable on gotta-have-it throwing downs? Would he have attempted these throws if he wasn’t wearing his red jersey? If he would’ve, does that make the practice picks (that many NFL pundits think are a consistent sign of pushing limits in Training Camp) better or worse?

Personally, this week has felt full of unnecessary hand-wringing by anxious Bears fans — I get it, we’re all dying to know whether Justin Fields has taken that elusive QB “next step” or not, but unfortunately we’re going to see our answer displayed on the practice field over the next few weeks.

Procedurally, I like hearing that the Bears are working Fields as a pure passer (sounds as if they aren’t letting him scramble in 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 drills and the defense isn’t leaving a spy to cover him, which tests Fields’ arm as much as possible) and trust that they’re doing all they can to help him succeed at all levels. Whether he does or not is up to him.

In the meantime, I treated myself to a bit more of DJ Moore’s tape and had a lot of fun digging up gems. Here’s a few of my favorites:

1. DJ Moore is the whole package as a WR, and on this route he:

  • Beats his CB across his face
  • Powers through contact as he releases
  • Bursts downfield before recognizing the pass is underthrown
  • Stiff-arms his DB downfield to subtly push off and create a football-sized bucket for Darnold to throw into, which he collects for the TD.

He’s the real deal, should be fun next year.

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Self-Scouting Luke Getsy’s 2022 Play Calling

| August 2nd, 2023

The Bears’ offense was one of the worst in the NFL in 2022 for a variety of reasons. I have already highlighted issues with personnel on the offensive line, running back, and wide receiver, and looked in depth at some of the ways quarterback Justin Fields struggled in his sophomore campaign.

Today I want to take a closer look at play caller Luke Getsy to see what we can learn about how he masked and/or contributed to Chicago’s struggles. With that in mind, I looked at how Chicago’s play calling compared to the rest of the NFL at difference down and distance scenarios. All statistics are from Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder.

Two quick important notes:

  • In order to keep game situation from skewing the data, I only looked at the first three quarters.
  • I also explored data only between the 20s to avoid field position impacting the play calls and how defenses played.

1st Down

Let’s start with a look at 1st down, which is about the most neutral situation an offense can be in. The table below shows how frequently and effectively the Bears ran and passed the ball compared to their NFL peers. Chicago’s rank is shown, and any values in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

A few thoughts:

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Never Get Too High (Or Too Low!) On Training Camp Reports

| August 1st, 2023

I don’t know about you, but I loathe uncertainty.

Will Justin Fields take the next step this year?

Can any of the Bears’ young DL step forward and save their pass rush?

Chicago will finally beat the Packers on Week 1, right?

Questions like this eat at me whenever I think about the 2023 season, and for good reason — each question’s answer is a massive domino that could swing Chicago’s year.

But as excited as I am that the Bears are back in pads today at Halas Hall, I want to caution everyone from drawing any hard conclusions from these football practices — after all, Training Camp isn’t the indicator we tend to want to make it, for better and for worse.

Us fans, so starved for football after 7 long months of offseason, want to take every video clip and use it as proof of QB progress, the skill of a rookie WR, or even the efficacy of a Defensive Back, but in reality these football practices are so full of chaotic experimentation, new installs of offensive/defensive terminology, coaches pushing boundaries, and rapid chemistry-building on both sides of the ball that mistakes become common (even intended) and lead to sloppy practices like the Bears had just yesterday.

To some, Fields throwing multiple INTs in a practice may seem like cause for alarm. On that note, take a look at early reports from the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals’ first day in pads and see what beat reporters had to say about the soon-to-be AFC Champions:

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Dissecting a Drive: Justin Fields’ Offense Evolves Versus Buffalo Bills

| July 31st, 2023

Happy Monday everyone! Get set for another week of Bears’ camp with extensive Saturday notes written by our own Johnathan Wood here:

Our first episode of Dissecting a Drive covered a drive so early in the year that the Bears offense (& Justin Fields’ play within it) felt juvenile compared to where they finished the 2022 season — so much changed schematically after their win over the Patriots that to claim that Chicago’s 2023 offense will look anything like it did early in 2022 feels foolish.

With that in mind, I charted the evolution of Chicago’s offense by taking a look at the Bears’ 9-play opening drive against Buffalo late in the year to continue prepping for what Luke Getsy may do with the 2023 Bears — in this drive, we see:

  • How the threat of Justin Fields’ legs dictated Sean McDermott’s initial defensive calls
  • The space Luke Getsy was able to open up by using those adjustments against Buffalo
  • How Luke Getsy used Fields to gain blocking advantages in the running game
  • A few nice examples of the Bears’ comprehensive Boot rolodex
  • And much, much more

Check it out and let me know what you think!

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Thoughts from 07/29 practice

| July 29th, 2023

I had the chance to attend Bears practice today, and wanted to share a few observations.

Before we go too far, here’s your obligatory reminder not to read too much into one unpadded practice in the early days of training camp. None of these observations are meant to be absolutes about what is going to happen this season.

With that out of the way, let’s get down to it.


  • I’ll start with Justin Fields, who is far and away the most interesting Bear this year. I spent more time watching him than I should have, and thought it was a mixed bag overall.
    • First the good: Fields was totally in control during team drills. The 1st string offense seemed to dominate their red zone 11 on 11 session (though I didn’t have a great view of it), and they were 2 for 2 in two minute drills to end practice, including consistently getting the ball snapped with about 30 seconds left on the clock when . I especially loved seeing Fields rip a quick slant to Claypool right at the top of his drop to pick up an easy 15 yards. He needs to really improve in the quick game this year, so that play – while not a huge highlight – was my favorite of the day.
    • Now the bad: in all of the QB drills where they were throwing the ball into nets with no defenders present, Fields kept doing a double or triple clutch before letting the ball fly. That’s an issue in the quick game, and I’d like to see him just get the ball out quicker in those situations to practice what it should look like in a game. His accuracy on short passes was also not super consistent, which has also been an issue through his first 2 NFL seasons.
  • One other QB I was interested in seeing was undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent, who is making the jump to the NFL out of division 2 Shepherd. The ball has a really nice spin coming out of his hands, and his accuracy on short and medium passes was quite solid, but his lack of arm strength really showed up on anything deep. He also looked really skinny next to the other QBs, so if he sticks around on the practice squad this year, he’ll need to spend some serious time in the weight room and improve his arm strength to have any chance at making it in the NFL.
  • The Bears did a lot of red-zone work, and Robert Tonyan kept showing up everywhere. He was on the field with the 1st and 2nd string offenses, and was probably their most targeted player. I’m not sure if that was just a product of the day or a sign that they want to feature him as a red zone weapon.
    • The red zone sessions also featured a ton of motion, which was great to see. It’s something that provides the offense with an advantage, and it’s something that the Bears didn’t use much of last year, but almost every play in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 featured somebody motioning before the snap.
    • They also had a lot of designed QB runs in the red zone session, and not just with Justin Fields. PJ walker and the 2nd string offense had a good number of them too. I expect that will be a real part of their red zone offense this season.

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Dissecting a Drive: Luke Getsy Versus the Minnesota Vikings

| July 21st, 2023

Happy Friday everybody!

Like most football fans, I’ve always been enthralled by the concept of play-calling — the idea that one man pulls the strings behind the actions of 11 superathletes and that, at least in the eyes of many, the very fate of each football game rests on his shoulders and his matchup with the play-caller across from him. Even typing that out gives me chills!

But as cool as the concept of play-calling is, the opaque nature of the role makes it equally frustrating for football fans: “Why can Andy Reid’s team spin around in the huddle and still score touchdowns at will but my team can’t even pick up a 3rd and 1?”

Questions like this are poison for fans of teams with bad offensive or defensive units (like the Broncos, Cardinals, and early-season Bears on offense, Browns, Las Vegas, and the Bears again on defense) and can make fans feel like the football gods are out to get them — for any Chicago fan that lived through the Nagy era, you know the horrible feeling I’m talking about.

So how do we evaluate the Bears’ play-callers in 2023? I aim to do just that with a video series I’ll be running throughout this upcoming season called Dissecting a Drive — once a week, we’ll take a look at a key offensive or defensive drive (some good drives, some bad ones) and go through the ins and outs of each play-call to try and parse out which parts of the offense are a credit to Luke Getsy and which parts of the offense are as simple as good (or bad) players making a good (or bad) play.

In an effort to practice with the new video format, I took a look at an old drive from Week 5’s Bears game against the Vikings — in it, we see:

  • A pair of really nice run designs that use pre-snap and at-snap motion to scheme leverage for Chicago’s blockers
  • How Justin Fields can make a “wrong” play-call “right” (as well as how he did the opposite)
  • A visual example of how important every yard gained or lost is within each 3-down series
  • And much, much more

Check it out and let me know what you think!

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