The NY Jets will be keeping a close eye on Justin Fields in tonight’s game.
Justin Fields put on a show in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson. Throwing for 385 yards and six touchdowns, playing the majority of the game while dealing with an injury, Fields showed grit, determination, character, leadership, and a ton of skill in the victory.
So what does this have to do with the NY Jets?
It means that Ohio State will face off with Alabama in the National Championship later tonight and Joe Douglas, the Jets scouting department, and Jets fans will get another chance to get a look at a guy who the Jets may draft at No. 2 overall.
Fields is far from a guarantee for the No. two overall pick. But Jets fans should still be interested in how he performs on the biggest stage that college football has to offer.
The simple answer in terms of what fans should want out of Fields is the exact same type of performance we saw the last time he took the field. He was accurate, made good decisions, went through his progressions well. and so much more.
Considering that Fields fixed almost every problem that scouts had with him in one appearance, just continuing to play well is what Jets fans should be looking for.
But there are a few things, in particular, to keep an eye on once again.
Next: 1. The injury
1. The NY Jets wants to see how Justin Fields is affected by his injury
Fields’ ability to run the football was essentially non-existent from the middle of the second quarter on, after taking a devastating hit to the ribs from James Skalski. Naturally, the big question now is how this will affect Fields in this game.
Will the running game be there for him? He is a pretty mobile quarterback. However, if it is taken away from him, he will once again be forced to be a pocket passer.
Now, these effects should interest Jets fans for two reasons. The first being that in order to be a successful quarterback in the NFL, you need to be able to sit in the pocket and throw the football. Yes being mobile helps, but the ability to be a pocket passer is also very important.
Fields showed out versus Clemson when throwing from the pocket, going through reads, and delivering balls downfield to his receivers. But that really isn’t Fields’ game.
As mentioned earlier, he’s very mobile, escaping the pocket and rolling out quite often. So if he is limited in his mobility this is something to keep an eye on.
The other effect of this injury is on his decision making. Having an injury is going to be in the back of Fields’ mind all night long and it is safe to assume that there may be a bit more of an effort than normal to avoid taking hits.
Will Fields stay composed, use his check downs or throw the ball away? Or will we see him regress back to what he did against Indiana earlier this year and force the ball into coverage?
These are questions Jets fans should be keeping an eye on.
Next: 2. Continuing to grow
2. The NY Jets want to see Justin Fields continue to grow
By “continuing to grow” my meaning is simple. Jets fans should look to see if the problems that scouts have had with Fields show up again in this game or if Fields continues to grow as a passer and get past those mistakes.
The biggest things to look for are his ability to make multiple reads and his ability to handle pressure from the defense. As discussed before, Fields’ decision making hasn’t always been great when the pass rush gets home.
Regardless of whether he is injured or not, this is something to keep an eye on. Poor decision making is one of the reasons that the Jets may wind up moving on from Sam Darnold, so if they are going to pick a quarterback at No. 2 overall, he needs to be a good decision-maker.
When it comes to making multiple reads, this hasn’t always been showcased in Fields’ game. The Ohio State offense is often so well schemed that he doesn’t have to move off of his first read.
But in this upcoming game, as with the last game, Fields will have to go through his progressions. He did this very well when tasked with facing a stingy Clemson defense.
There was really just one play in which Fields locked on to running back Trey Sermon and made a poor decision. Other than that, he was spectacular. He went through his progressions well and made good decisions.
Both of these things are keys to being an NFL quarterback. If Fields can check both of the boxes against Alabama, he should be in serious consideration to be the next leader of this franchise.
Next: 3. Handling the moment
3. The NY Jets want to see if Justin Fields can handle the moment
I talked about this last week when previewing Fields versus Clemson and it holds true for this game as well. While this is a different type of moment, it is still a huge one and will be a true test of his leadership and composure.
First off, this is the national championship game. That brings enough pressure on its own.
By far the biggest game with the most at stake that Fields has ever played. Winning this game would solidify him as a big-game performer, clutch, and a winner heading into the draft.
Secondly, his team is expected to lose, again. For the second game in a row, Ohio State is viewed as the lesser team heading in.
Alabama has been the most dominant football team at the college level by far this year. They present a much bigger challenge than even Clemson. In a situation where he isn’t expected to succeed, if he can, it will be very impressive.
Finally, this has letdown written all over it for Fields and Ohio State. Yes this is the national championship and that should be enough to get them motivated. But there was something extra in the semi-final that won’t be there in this game.
Ohio State spent the entire year wanting to get back at Clemson for their semi-final loss the year before. They even posted the final score in their locker room.
That motivation won’t be there this time. In a sense, this game for Ohio State is like the gold medal game for the 1980 US men’s hockey team. Beating the Soviet Union in the semi’s was the big one, but they still had to show up in the gold medal game and beat Finland.
If Fields can stay focused and lead his team to a victory in this game, that would be extraordinarily impressive. Staying focused and overcoming the lack of a revenge narrative to motivate this team will show a lot about Fields’ leadership as a football player.
And that’s something that should not go overlooked when it comes to who the Jets would pick to lead their franchise.