Justin Fields: Pressure made me speed up my ‘internal clock’

For all the talk about the Bears stunting Fields’ growth by refusing to add proven wide receivers to their roster during the offseason, an inconsistent offensive line might be doing even greater damage. Fields’ admission that the team’s pass-blocking made him change how he played the game at its most critical time sounds that alarm loud and clear.

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Bears quarterback Justin Fields is sacked by the Commanders’ Efe Obada on Oct. 13.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields is sacked by the Commanders’ Efe Obada on Oct. 13.

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Bears quarterback Justin Fields had happy feet — or so he concluded after meeting with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko earlier this week.

Late in last Thursday’s loss to the Commanders, Fields didn’t feel as comfortable in the pocket as he did at the start of the game and began leaving it too early. It was human nature; Fields was pressured 12 times and threw 27 passes.

“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 Thursday. “So I just told [the coaches] 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.”

For all the talk of the Bears stunting Fields’ growth by refusing to add proven receivers to their roster, an inconsistent offensive line might be doing even greater damage. Fields’ admission that the Bears’ pass-blocking made him change how he played the game at a critical time sounds a clear alarm.

So what will the Bears do about it?

Coach Matt Eberflus vowed to make changes to the personnel and game-planning after a self-evaluation period during the Bears’ long break. He refused to say whether he’ll start a different offensive-line combination against the Patriots on Monday night, but it seems likely.

The most obvious change would be shifting left guard Lucas Patrick to center, the position the Bears are giving him $8 million over two years to play. That would bench Sam Mustipher, who has the worst pass-block grade of any center with more than 225 snaps this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Orland Park native Michael Schofield, who played nine snaps against the Commanders, would be the most likely to start at left guard. He has 81 career NFL starts.

Asked why he wouldn’t move Patrick back to center, Eberflus didn’t push back.

“That’s a good point,” he said. “Like I said, we’re looking at all situations this week.”

Patrick said he hasn’t “been playing up to my standards, point blank” this season.

“There are some serious things I have been working on, trying to work out kinks, which side I have been playing,” he said. “I am trying to get in a rhythm. I personally have to be better for this team.”

He said it takes a different approach to play both left and right guard, but “the guy I’m going against doesn’t care whether I’ve had 1,000 snaps, one snap, playing left, right, whatever.”

Patrick broke his right thumb on the second day of training camp. When he returned for the season opener, he split time with right guard Teven Jenkins because the cast on his hand made it impossible to snap. That lasted until Week 4, when Cody Whitehair’s injury moved Patrick to left guard. He started there the next two games.

There’s a healthy debate about how much responsibility the offensive line bears for Fields’ 23 sacks, which are tied for the most in the league, or whether Fields is to blame. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, only five of those sacks came when pass rushers reached Fields faster than the league-average sack time of 4.29 seconds. Fields’ coaches have said he needs to throw the ball away faster. 

Either way, it’s a problem, and Fields acknowledged as much Thursday.

“That’s definitely a big thing, just making sure that just because [pass rushers] got back here fast the last play or two, three plays ago, doesn’t mean they are going to get back fast [this time],” he said.

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