NY Jets: Evaluating Justin Fields’ performance against Alabama

NY Jets, Justin Fields Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
NY Jets, Justin Fields Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The NY Jets were certainly keeping a close eye on Justin Fields on Monday night.

In a game where your team loses by 28 points in the national title game, it may be hard to single out the quarterback and evaluate his draft value. But if you really look at Justin Fields‘ performance against Alabama, you’ll see some positives and some negatives.

Now, this was nowhere near the performance that the NY Jets saw from Fields in the Sugar Bowl. He threw for 194 yards with one touchdown on 17-of-33 passing. The mobile quarterback also ran for 67 yards on six attempts.

Let’s get one thing clear — this blowout loss was not on Fields. The Ohio State defense gave up 52 points. Fields would have had to be almost perfect in order to match the output from the very special Alabama offense.

As mentioned earlier, there was some good and some bad from Fields last night. So let’s start with the good from Fields tonight.

The biggest thing that you can say about Fields last night is that he did not turn the ball over despite being under constant pressure. This was a big question for Fields, particularly since his poor performance against Indiana this year.

The Alabama front owned the Ohio State line pretty much from start to finish. Fields was able to stay composed in the pocket, either throwing the ball away, scrambling for a positive gain, or finding a man to throw to more often than not.

Another positive for Fields is that he didn’t force things downfield when it wasn’t necessary. The game did get out of hand in the second half, but it was still a 14-point game in the third quarter. As mentioned, this was on the defense.

Some quarterbacks may have started taking unnecessary chances when down by 11, 18, or 21. But not Fields. He played it smart.

Realizing that his offense did have the skill to drive down the field, he made good decisions for most of the night and put together a few very good drives.

One final thing that Fields was able to do in this game was effectively move the ball downfield when he got into a rhythm. Once again, he was able to show the potential of what he could be as an NFL quarterback.

There were only a few drives the entire game in which Fields and the Ohio State offense were completely stopped. More often than not, the Buckeyes did indeed move the ball downfield effectively.

Fields was making his reads, going through progressions, and finding his receivers. There were a few times, particularly late in the game, in which the Buckeyes drove all the way down the field then stalled out.

Ultimately, if you only look at the good, you would see a quarterback whose team was outmatched, who dealt with pressure all night long, and did what he could to keep his guys in the game.

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The NY Jets also saw some negatives from Justin Fields

With all that being said, there were some negatives. Starting with the fact that a guy who is supposed to go much later in the draft than he is (Alabama’s Mac Jones) outplayed him. But with Fields, in particular, there are two that stand out.

The first being that his statistics don’t jump off the page. Following a six-touchdown game in the semi-final, Fields threw for just one score and didn’t even reach 200 yards through the air.

There wasn’t much downfield and he was held to check-downs and 10-15 yard routes for the most part.

Though give credit where it is due, Fields threw a nice deep ball in the third quarter that went for a touchdown. These stats, however, make you wonder if Fields can be effective without a dominant running game.

After all, his best game also came in a contest where Trey Sermon ran for over 100 yards and the team established the ground game before opening things up through the air.

While this isn’t an overwhelming concern, when you are looking at the possibility of taking a quarterback at No. 2 overall, you’d like to see some more impressive numbers in the national title game.

One other problem with Fields’ performance in this one was the way his throws looked. On many occasions, the ball just didn’t have the same zip that it has had in the past. Now, this may be a result of the lingering injury from the previous game, but it is still a small concern.

The ball looked wobbly at times in this one. Fields just didn’t look as in control of the offense throughout the game. He didn’t look nearly as dynamic in the championship as he did in the semi-final.

So when you look at all that Justin Fields has done in college, how does he look heading into the offseason? Before his pro day, private workouts, interviews, or the NFL Combine, here’s what I’ll say about Fields.

In my mind, he is the clear choice as the second quarterback taken in the draft. Whether the Jets wind up taking him or not, I don’t know. There is a lot of speculation that the Jets will either trade back or take Oregon tackle Penei Sewell with the No. 2 overall pick.

However, there is a clear need for improvement at the quarterback position. If general manager Joe Douglas thinks Sam Darnold can do it, great. If not, Fields is the guy.

Barring a miracle that would see Trevor Lawrence drop to No. 2, Justin Fields is who the Jets should take if they’re looking for a quarterback.

He has all of the physical skills, he is a leader, and he has shown the ability to correct his mistakes. The other option would be Zach Wilson. But because of the lack of strong competition, I would shy away.

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I know Fields wasn’t amazing last night, but if I were a betting man, I would say Wilson would not have done any better against Alabama than Fields did.