Justin Fields had happy feet.
That’s the conclusion the Bears quarterback came to after meeting with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko earlier this week.
Towards the end of the Commanders game, Fields said, he didn’t feel as comfortable in the pocket as he had at the start of the game and left it too early. It was human nature – Fields was pressed 12 times and threw 27 passes.
“My internal clock was speeding up a bit, just maybe because of the last pockets I was going to get in the game,” Fields said Thursday. “So I just said [the coaches] if they feel like i’m getting nervous and maybe leaving the pocket too soon when it’s there, just remind me to reset. Like, reset after every game. Because there will be times when I have time and can sit in there.
For all the talk of stunting the Bears Fields by refusing to add proven receivers to their roster, an inconsistent offensive line could do even more damage. Fields’ admission that the team’s pass blocking caused him to change the way he was playing the game at its most critical moment sounds alarming loud and clear.
So what will the Bears do about it?
Head coach Matt Eberflus has pledged to make changes to his personnel and game schedule after a period of self-assessment over the team’s long weekend. Eberflus declined to say if he would start another offensive line combination against the Patriots on Monday night, but it seems likely.
The most obvious change would be moving left guard Lucas Patrick to center, the position they gave him $8 million over two years to play in March. That would bench Sam Mustipher, who has the worst Pro Football Focus passing block rating of any center with more than 225 snaps this season.
Orland Park native Michael Schofield, who had nine snaps against the Commanders, would become the most likely player to start at left guard. He has 81 career NFL starts.
When Eberflus was asked why he wouldn’t bring Patrick back to center, the head coach didn’t respond.
“That’s a good point,” he said. “As I said, we are looking at all situations this week.”
Patrick, however, said he hadn’t “played to my standards, from close range” this season.
“There are some serious things that I’ve been working on to try to work out the issues, which side I’ve played on,” he said. “I try to find a rhythm. Personally, I have to be better for this team.
He said it takes a “different approach” to playing both left and right, but “the guy I’m going against doesn’t care if I got 1,000 snaps, one snap, in 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 kept him from breaking. Patrick shared time until Week 4, when Cody Whitehair’s injury moved him to left guard. He started the next two games there.
There’s a healthy debate in the analytics world about whether the offensive line is responsible 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 Fields’ sacks came when pass rushers reached him faster than the league’s average sack time of 4.29 seconds. Fields’ coaches said he needed to throw the ball faster.
Either way, it’s a problem. Fields admitted it on Thursday.
“It’s definitely a big thing – just making sure that just because [pass rushers] came back here quickly the last game or two, three games ago,” he said, “doesn’t mean they’re going to come back quickly.