Justin Fields walked off of the Memorial Stadium field in Bloomington, Indiana this past Saturday having played his worst game as an Ohio State Buckeye.
Lowest rushing total. Most incompletions. Fewest completions. Worst completion percentage.
But it actually wasn’t that bad. He completed 14-of-24 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown. Fields was careful with the football and led an offense that scored 42 of OSU’s 51 points.
Of course, when measuring his performances against each other, some are bound to fall short. Fields was outstanding in his first two games, which made his “pretty good” game on Saturday stand out.
He missed some passes high and overthrew Chris Olave on a deep ball. If he just connects on the throws he normally makes, Fields would have had a career day on Saturday. Instead, he only accounted for four touchdowns.
After the game, he knew he left some throws out there that he’d like to have back.
“No, I definitely didn’t play up to my potential,” he said. “I know I missed way too many throws out there. So I’ve just gotta work on that and just keep getting better and the team has to keep getting better. So I think there’s a lot of room to grow but we’ll just continue to keep working and just continue to work.”
As with many things when it comes to the quarterbacks, Fields pointed the blame at his footwork on some of his errant throws.
“I just had to get my feet set,” he said. “Just moving around, I think I moved around the pocket well. Just trying to get my feet set before I throw the ball, that’ll make me more accurate.”
The high throws haven’t really been a problem before Saturday, which is either reassuring to know that he can get back to his old accurate ways, or concerning to know that these issues can pop up at any time.
“I think it was just today,” Fields said of his issues. “I was kind of off. I’m not sure why, but I felt the first two games I was setting my feet well and I was throwing the ball pretty accurately. But today, I struggled a little bit with that. So I’m actually glad that happened. It’s just a learning opportunity so I’m actually glad that happened, just for me to get better and just focus on it more in practice.”
Quarterbacks have off days, just as shooters do in basketball. Against the Hoosiers, Justin Fields completed 58.3% of his passes, which he has had to answer for. Meanwhile, Clemson starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence has failed to reach that mark in either of his conference games this year. JT Barrett missed that mark in his first two games of 2017.
The point here, is that it’s not unusual to miss some throws. Nobody should have expected Justin Fields to complete passes at Dwayne Haskins’ level, even though he did for the first two games. The good news is that there were receivers who were running open, and also that the issues are going to be addressed moving forward.
“I thought we missed some deep balls. I thought we had guys open and Justin missed them,” head coach Ryan Day said after the game. “He knows he left some yards on the field. But again, I think the maturity of a coaching staff, the maturity of a team is to go find the issues on film and get them fixed. Because as time goes on, and we start to play other teams, and we get into the thick of the Big Ten, those issues are going to come up.
“And so it’s our job to find them and get them addressed. And to really be critical of the players without creating resentment. And that’s the key. And I thought we did that last week. The kids took the coaching. And we got to keep building from here and find those issues because they’re there.”
I think I read once during the Tressel era, that quarterbacks only complete 50% of their deep passes even with no coverage in practice. If you throw some deep balls, you’re going to miss some deep balls. That’s not an issue. High throws to open receivers on short balls was more concern to me, those balls can easily lead to interceptions.
The only thing anyone can learn from JT Barret’s style, is you’re unlikely to get through the season to the end of the Michigan game healthy if you adopt it.
Great attitude. Kid is impressive.
Very timely and wise article;
Let’s be honest, very few if any of us expected him to be at this passing level so quickly, especially after his performance at the Spring Game.
1. His poor passes only cost us 7 pts.in in the red zone on our initial drive.
2. His passes later were crisp, see Dobbin’s dart in the end zone.
3. He is a soph. 1st road, 1st B1G and against a team that gave us fits.
4. His passing required IN’s attention and helped open up the run game.
5. The coaching staff had him re do errant plays and throws.
6. Very wise comments.
Yes, footwork. But why? Because he’s bailing too quickly on the pocket and not stepping up into it. When he bails he’s taking away his downfield vision and the field is virtually cut in half for him. Step up and he’ll see that when his primary isn’t open he has other receivers who are. Outside the tackle box he’s eliminating good options. Stepping up instead of abandoning and moving left or right will also cure much of his feet not getting properly set. He’s got a wonky throwing motion to begin with (long wind up, poor elbow placement, fingers on the side of the ball rather than shading more over the top of it) and moving outside the pocket just adds to his accuracy issues.
JT was a master ball handler in the RPO. Justin Fields would do himself justice if he’d take some personal time and study JT’s ball handling. If he can clean up just those hand full of errors he could become a very good to great QB.
This coming weekend is the perfect laboratory for honing the passing skills and technique especially with the O-line providing the time they’ve given for Fields to pass. Practice this week and apply it on Saturday. He should have time to pull out a notepad and write down the results of every pass against Miami.
I think your article is a fair assessment. Fields knows he can throw better passes and he is committed to making any needed corrections in his throwing process. I am encouraged that he is taking responsibility for getting better even though his game against Indiana was certainly good.
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