Bears

Ryan Clark: Justin Fields needs to run to save his life

Bears

Outside of the run game, the Bears offense and Justin Fields have looked completely out of rhythm over the past two weeks. They’ve struggled to move the ball consistently and they’ve struggled to score. The team is looking for solutions, and former safety Ryan Clark says the best option to get Fields back on track might be something fairly obvious that seems to have been forgotten.

“I want (Fields) to run the football,” Clark said on “Get Up” on Monday morning. “I know sometimes these quarterbacks who are talented like he is, and who are athletic like he is, they don't want to run the football, right? They don't want to be seen as the quarterback that can't throw. But it's the only way to save his life. Not even save his career, it's the only way to save his life.”

Clark compared Fields’ struggles to the struggles of one his draft classmates, Trevor Lawrence. Clark believes it was the decision to let Lawrence run more that helped him take the next step as the leader of the Jaguars’ offense.

“I was watching the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this season and I went back to the Cincinnati Bengals game when they decided to call quarterback runs,” Clark said. “Trevor Lawrence gets in the rhythm, now he's scrambling, now he's making plays on the run. And if you watch him against Miami, this is a dude who is using his athleticism to lead to his talent as a passer. Well, Justin Fields is the most talented rookie that they have doing that.

 

“Do you know how many called quarterback runs Justin Fields has had in the last two games? As many as I have had, and I don't play quarterback.”

While that’s not entirely true, the Bears have called some run plays for Fields including RPOs where he has the option to handoff or keep the ball, the point remains. One of the biggest strengths in Fields' game that was hyped up in the pre-draft process was his ability to run the ball. Everyone knew it, from Ryan Pace to your aunt who only watches the Packers games. We heard about blazing 4.4 speed and how excited the Bears were to unleash that on opposing defenses. Except Matt Nagy, and now Bill Lazor, really haven’t done that very much at all.

“You have to utilize that part of his football game,” Clark said. “Let him know that you're comfortable with him utilizing that part of his football game because you can't protect him.”

That’s the other piece of the puzzle here: the Bears have had a tough time protecting Fields when he drops back to pass. There are several logical reasons why. Developing chemistry between a quarterback and his line takes time, and they’ve played limited reps together. On Sunday, the Bears also played their fifth-string right tackle since Germain Ifedi and Larry Borom are on IR, Elijah Wilkinson was on the reserve/COVID-19 list and Lachavious Simmons wasn’t getting the job done. What do you expect when you’re that far down the depth chart and you’re facing arguably the top front seven in the NFL?

The Bears have managed to shore up those protection issues at times by bringing in extra tight ends, or an extra lineman to help double team players. That works well in some instances, but also takes an extra playmaker off the field. If you’re looking to put together a long drive, it can be effective, but it also makes it harder to hit on explosive plays.

Maybe scheming up creative ways to get Fields going with his legs could be the key to not only helping the offensive line, but also generating some big plays.

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