Why Fields can improve versus the Browns
There are a number of reasons why Justin Fields can improve against the Browns, even in just one week.
First of all, there are the obvious first game jitters that are now out of the way. Getting thrown into the game suddenly was something that he had prepared for as well as possible, but he’s still human and not everyone can jump right in and perform and a high level immediately. In fact, looking around the NFL, none of the rookie quarterbacks in the 2019 quarterback class had a good game in their first game, and only Mac Jones of the Patriots stumbled through a win in his second game.
Second, another glaring problem is that Fields was carrying out a game plan designed for Andy Dalton, who is a very different quarterback. Dalton is a master of the dink-and-dunk, stands tall in the pocket, and depends upon his wide receivers running complex patterns and plays.
In other words, Dalton has full command of the playbook, and the play selection for that day no doubt had some very subtle wrinkles which were fine-tuned for the Cincinnati defense. A rookie like Fields is definitely not going to catch on to those nuances. The results might be much different if the play selection has plays that are more appropriate for a rookie, and especially a rookie who is mobile.
Third, a nasty secret in the NFL is if the quarterback runs 4.44 in the 40-yard dash with athleticism, it’s not a shameful play to run with the ball. This statement is bound to anger football purists who will no doubt take issue with this point and insist that this cannot work at all in the NFL.
While this is generally true for many college quarterbacks, e.g., Johnny Manziel being a case in point, this should not be over-generalized to say that it can never work for any quarterback in any circumstances. Lamar Jackson proved that he is not Johnny Manziel.
Especially in Jackson’s rookie year, one-read-and-run was an acceptable play even if he was not MVP caliber in his rookie year (by the way, he did win the dang award in year two, and purists are still moaning about his mistakes in year four. He still gets the greatest respect in my book).
So, purists may quiver, shake and fume, but some quarterbacks can in fact make a living using the run if certain circumstances. Fields and the Bears may incorporate this to some extent in Sunday’s game plan. So what? Can the Browns stop it? The Browns have to take it seriously.
Fourth, the strong-armed Fields may make better use of wideouts Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson. Robinson in particular is off to a slow start after posting 1,250 receiving yards last season, with only 59 this season. He did make a touchdown catch from Dalton last week and then later dropped a potential touchdown pass from Fields.
Mooney has been 11 catches on 15 targets for 92 yards so far this season, but he too dropped a touchdown pass from Fields. If the receivers help out Fields a little better, he may not look as terrible as he did last week.