Film Review: Justin Fields and OSU - Strengths

Justin Fields has been ruled immediately eligible to play for Ohio State in the 2019 season.  Previously spending his one collegiate year at Georgia backing up talented signal caller, Jake Fromm, he enters a Buckeyes depth chart without much in the way of competition. In his freshman year, he never was really able to muscle away consistent featured series, but he did feature quite a bit in a specialized role and in a number of blow out games. At the end of the year, his stats read 42 runs from 266 yards and 4 TDs on the ground and 27/39 passing for 8.4 YPA at a 4-0 TD/INT ratio. But stats alone don't often tell the whole tale, and as such, it is fundamental that we look a little bit deeper. Let's take a look.

Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images




Strengths
The first thing that stands out about Fields is his very natural, strong arm. In an effort to compare Fields to previous OSU QBs, any comparison mostly falls short because none have nearly the natural arm strength as Fields. This arm strength translates in multiple ways.

First, let's look at it when he's allowed his natural mechanics. Here he's able to gather his feet uncork a bomb 50 yards down field to the far sideline. And the placement is dead on.



I don't know how you can start a film overview of Fields and not start with that pass. From a pass mechanics standpoint it's all there, great weight transfer, really good upper body torque, and a very efficient release.

But let's really put the emphasis on arm strength. Here's an instance where he gets late pressure with an inside move from the DE. While Fields is still able to step into his throw, he is impacted prior to completing his release. Yet he's still able to really push the ball down field, even if it ultimately ends up incompletely just beyond the outstretched fingers of his WR.



But while chicks dig the deep ball, his arm strength doesn't just translate to an ability to push the ball down field. He is also able to put the ball on a line when needed and really drive it. Let's look at a few examples. This first example is probably his best progression he had at Georgia. It's a slip screen look that is immediately capped, and from there he just works across the field. As his feet rotate inside for his next progression, his head stays level, but his base gets a little wide. While you'll often see QBs get a little wider with their step on these sorts of drive throws, Fields starts wide, and is still able to drive this ball in very accurately (we're going to get back to his base in a second).



From the same game, here's a TD pass. At the backend of his drop, he starts getting a bit bouncy and the throw is late (we'll talk about this), but his throwing mechanics, arm strength and ability to put the ball accurately on a line (without over-throwing) result in a great pass.



With his throwing, it isn't just about arm strength though. He also throws an extremely catchable ball. It's a quick, predictable release, with good ball rotation and trajectory. Rarely do you see him throw a ball where the receiver looks like he's fighting it with his hands.



He's also shown an ability to alter his arm slot to over the top mechanics when there is a man flashing between himself and the receiver.



Overall, he is a very gifted thrower. Showing ability to put the ball on a line, down the field, and with good pace.

While I wouldn't call him a great athlete, he is a good athlete and a very efficient runner. Let's start with how he manages to escape the pocket. Understanding that his straight line speed isn't his strength at this level (though it shouldn't be considered a weakness), he typically utilizes the crease created by the upfield pass rush of the DE to escape inside the DE and immediately get vertical. This is consistently his escape plan, which often works well because it stresses the defense quickly.



This vertical path, along with his long strides, work to his advantage in several ways. Because he isn't the most fleet of foot, it churns out yards before the defense can collapse. By running downhill, it plays to Field's strengths as a runner: his running power. Both on scrambles and designed runs, one thing he consistently demonstrated was the ability to stick his back foot in the ground and lower a shoulder to initiate contact and get extra yards, as well as break weak arm tackle attempts.





This sets up some ability to force poor angles from defensive players not anticipating his long stride. When defenders are able to have in-out pursuit angles, Fields doesn't often creates more than is given in tight areas (outside the final leg drive), but when he threatens down hill, his deceptive long stride causes defenders to take poor angles which he can then sometimes beat, at least marginally. Furthermore, while he doesn't create extra yards on his own often, he is great at setting up blockers and getting the most out of his teammates in the run game, which is an underrated skill. He shows a good understanding of patience, allowing blocks to get in place, and then sticking a foot in the ground and cutting off of it.





In the zone read game, UGA wasn't terribly creative as expected for a limited package. However, Fields himself was traditionally good when facing traditional ways of defending the read. Here, he sees the DE staying square to him and gives.


He also understands some fundamental alignment tweaks and what it means for his read. He often got a soft edge (DE aligned inside EMOL) and shifted his read. Here, effectively reading the nickel for both keep and give.


In that same game he would see the nickel hold his water and he would keep as the defense had no defender accounting for the QB.

Overall, Fields understands the basics of pre-snap rotations and basic alignments/numbers. He still looks like he can get confused at times when asked to check direction of runs or protections, but overall, he is probably ahead of the curve on the mental side of the game.

Conclusions
Fields is a very natural thrower, able to push the ball down the field and on a line, all while throwing a very catchable ball. He also can threaten the defense with his legs, as least sufficiently, even if he isn't necessarily a dynamic athlete. Overall, this gives a great base to work with, but he also isn't without flaws. In the next installment, we'll look at some of his weaknesses he needs to improve upon.