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What More Time Can Buy Justin Fields

There will be no stopping plays in training camp to rule Justin Fields would have been sacked on a play, and it serves a greater purpose.

Shortly after Matt Eberflus became Bears coach, one of the first topics he addressed was Justin Fields' passing fundamentals particularly in regards to how fast the ball had to come out of his hand.

"I think it's about footwork and then the timing," Eberflus said. "The footwork and timing. There should be a clock on every single drop that he takes.

"There's the drop, the number of steps and then there's a hitch and a second hitch. And the ball has to be out of his hands on the first or second one. Based on the coverage and based on the call."

As a result, much emphasis was placed on Fields' footwork and delivery in practices this offseason. With getting the ball out quicker being a major point of emphasis, a major assumption was the Bears would only give Fields a few seconds in practices to get throws off before labeling a play a sack and moving on to the next one. 

That would be the clock Eberflus had initially mentioned.

There hasn't been a real clock, or even anyone calling a play a sack.

In fact, Fields generally was given plenty of time by coaches to get off his throws even though they thought he did improve his delivery and got passes out faster. 

The reason for a lack of clock may indicate how the coaches have adjusted to what they see as one of Fields' strengths.

They now recognize the quarterback they have is accurate downfield and is more capable of delivering big throws after a play breaks down.

In OTAs and minicamp they let Field throw well after the normal amount of time a passer would have in a game, as he drifted outsde the pocket or moved around within it.

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They ran scramble drills, but they also let plays go on so receivers and Fields would get an even better feel for this aspect of the game on their own.

Asked about his approach for training camp on stopping plays, Eberflus said he has no problem continuing the approach from OTAs and minicamp.

"I would say that we let the play go," Eberflus said. "Even though that a defensive lineman might come through and it might be sack, we let it go because we want to work on our scramble drill on both sides (offense and defense), you know? So we want them to react naturally, throw the ball, one, two, throw the ball, and if it breaks down, let's go ahead and scramble, OK, and let's work on our scramble coverage and our routes and our guys getting open, too.

"So, you’ll never hear me blow a, 'Oh, that's a sack,' unless I want it to be a sack for down-and-distance purposes. Typically, I'll let it just play out."

Fields found any number of different receivers this way at practices, from Darnell Mooney  and Byron Pringle to fullback Khari Blasingame and running back Khalil Herbert.

Their pass defense always had problems with Aaron Rodgers in such situations and this will provide extra preparation for those challenges.

Obviously Fields and receivers will get better the more they work at extended plays. He had 420 yards rushing last year while taking only about 57% of the team's offensive snaps. 

There's every reason to wonder what he could do if he runs more and passes more on the scramble drill.

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