Here at Establish the Fun (where football is fun and we like establishing that harder than the Atlanta Falcons), we like doing things differently. Much like the actual sport of football, nothing is ever stagnant here at E.T.F., and players and schemes who I think are cool could change over time.
We’re on week ten of the NFL season, and fun is still being pumped out at critically high levels! In this season where nothing makes sense anymore (the Giants are good and the Saints aren’t? Aaron Rodgers is playing bad football? This has never happened in my conscious football watching life!), watching the development of players across the league has been cool to see. Younger guys are getting adjusted to the speed of the game, and are thriving because of it.
This is also true at the college level, where again, nothing makes sense at all. However, we must break the news: WE HAVE A COLLEGE PLAYER ON E.T.F.! Let’s get started and introduce this banshee of a player to the Establish the Fun crowd.
Justin Fields’ Main Character arc
One thing that I’ve learned this season in my second year of truly covering the entire NFL is that development is never linear. Things could look bleak for a player, but if you watch the process behind what a player is doing week in and week out, you can get behind this guy for the future. We’re seeing it in Miami with Tua, in Philly with Jalen Hurts, and we might be seeing it right now with Justin Fields.
Let’s rewind a few weeks. Coming off a horrendous performance on Thursday Night Football against the Commanders, there were legitimate questions about Justin Fields’ long-term fit as a Chicago Bear. He looked skittish, uncomfortable, and the offense struggled.
Now let’s come to the current day. Fields is coming off winning the NFC Player of the Week for setting the regular season single game QB rushing record (Colin Kaepernick holds the all time record with 181 yards in the playoffs) by running for 178 yards as the Bears almost pulled off the upset against the Miami Dolphins. What stands out when you compare the play of Fields against the Commanders to Fields now is the confidence and decisiveness. If he likes what he sees, he’ll pull it. If he doesn’t, he can take off.
Let’s examine some of the passing. On this touchdown to Darnell Mooney, the Bears line up in a trips formation to Fields’ right, and the Dolphins are in Cover One. The second receiver in the trips runs an in-breaking route, and Mooney runs a wheel. This creates a natural pick route, and given Mooney’s positioning, he has the entire other side of the field to work with. Fields sees this, knows he has a matchup he likes, and pulls the trigger for a touchdown. This is a beauty of a throw too, putting it only where Mooney can catch it.
This throw was an incompletion, but man I just love the process and the decisiveness in this throw. Before the snap, the Dolphins show single high coverage, but rotate to Cover Two at the snap, with the corner away from the side with the most numbers rotating to the deep half of the field. Fields drops and sees the linebacker with his head turned to him trying to run with Cole Kmet, and almost delivers a laser down the middle.
If the line picks up the stunt that Jaelan Phillips and Christian Wilkins run, this might be a big play. Fields is throwing the ball with confidence, not only in his teammates, but in what he’s seeing, and now you can tell that the process is starting to improve.
What’s also been impressive about Fields in this stretch is the creativity of his passes. He’s changing arm angles, varying up releases, and getting real fancy with ball fakes. On the bootleg touchdown to Cole Kmet, his action with the run fake freezes Phillips enough to give him the edge, and he creates a throwing window to Kmet, who runs into the end zone. I’m all in on the Fields train right now.
LETS TALK ABOUT THE RUNS BABY!
Justin Fields is truly one of the most electrifying runners at the QB position in the sport. Nobody who is 230 pounds should be moving like he does, and yet his ability to stop and start, as well as change directions on a dime, is uncanny. He’s second in yards per game and broken tackle + missed tackle rate among QBs with a minimum of 30 carries, and his Expected Points Added per attempt is on par with Josh Allen.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has incorporated more designed QB runs in the offense, and both Fields and the Bears have improved because of it.
This is a designed QB Run, a power play with jet motion attached to displace the linebackers. Fields’ ability to get skinny through gaps at 230 pounds is also sick to watch. He’s rarely going backwards when he gets tackled.
The Bears also ran a pin-pull QB Sweep with Fields similar to the play Josh Allen scored on against the Jets on Sunday, and also threw in this zone read. Jaelan Phillips reads this perfectly, and this is a bad pull by Fields based on rules. However, when you’re the caliber of athlete that Justin Fields is, your margin for error on these plays is as wide as the Suez Canal.
He leaves Jaelan Phillips (who’s 40-yard dash and 20-yard shuttle are in the 83rd and 91st percentile of ALL edge rushers who entered the draft) in the dust. Phillips is not a bad athlete, but Fields turns him to stone as if he’s Medusa.
Now, I leave you with Justin Fields’ absurd 61 yard touchdown scramble. Let’s watch it first before I tell you what I think is crazy about it.
Here’s what’s crazy about it to me, and why Justin Fields has proven he’s one of the most electrifying runners in the sport.
First, the Dolphins are in zone coverage, meaning most defenders have eyes on the QB. You could have the entire eyes of Miami-Dade County on Fields on this touchdown run and I don’t think it would’ve mattered. Everyone saw him take off and score.
Second, he completely erases the angle of Jevon Holland in the open field. When you really see him start to stride it out, he’s leaving very fast players in the dust.
Finally, and the most important thing: HE LEAVES HIS FEET RIGHT BEFORE TAKING OFF! He’s actively trying to get a throw off, jumps, then decides to freeze Jerome Baker where he stands.
NEITHER OF HIS FEET ARE ON THE GROUND! THIS IS INSANE!
Fields’ recent play has given not only Bears fans, but NFL fans, a sense of hope for the young QB. He’s finally playing with decisiveness, and now that he’s trusting himself and letting himself play football, he’s beginning to flourish.
Harold Perkins is a human missile at LB
If there were any college linebacker that’s like Bullet Bill from Mario Kart, it would be LSU’s spectacular freshman Harold Perkins. The 220-pound backer from Cypress, Texas is a missile for the Tigers, and has seen his snap count increase week by week, in varying spots (via Pro Football Focus).
As you can see, he’s primarily been a designated pass rusher, which has been something that he’s good at. He’s fourth in the country in pressure rate (min. 50 pass rush snaps), and has 20 pressures in 81 snaps.
However, against Alabama he was unleashed. A problem for the Tigers this season was figuring out ways to get him on the field, but in their upset victory over Alabama, they just put him on the field and let him cook. If you’re looking for a reference, Alabama is Week 10 in that chart above. Perkins was lined up EVERYWHERE, and caused havoc EVERYWHERE. He finished with eight tackles, seven pressures, three hurries and a sack, but most importantly he announced his presence on the biggest stage.
The first thing that jumps out about Perkins is how freaking explosive he is. He played receiver and running back in high school, and ran a 4.49 40-yard dash prior to enrolling at LSU. That speed is clear when you put on the Alabama game, and LSU defensive coordinator Matt House turned Perkins into essentially a demon weapon from Soul Eater.
On Perkins’ sack, he was a spy on a play called Odd Mirror. And the Valley Shook’s Max Toscano outlined it here, but why it’s so advantageous is because it allows the defense to play different coverages behind the front, while adding a spy on a QB. While Bryce Young is a great athlete, he doesn’t scramble to run. So as soon as Young left contain, Perkins turned into Bullet Bill, and you can see the closing speed. That’s a special football player right there.
While LSU wanted to speed up Young’s processing, they also didn’t want to blitz extremely heavy. How they supplanted this was by using simulated pressures, and bringing Perkins as a rusher from depth, as an off ball LB. He hints at a blitz here, but then backs off until the last second, when he comes through unblocked and disrupts the pass. Again, the speed pops out.
Perkins also flashed on the line as an edge rusher. He’s got exceptional change of direction, and while he didn’t get a sack on the edge, he created pressures and gave the Alabama tackles problems. When he’s able to redirect in a pass rush and slip to the inside, it’s a pretty sight to see.
Of course he’s a freshman so there were play strength issues, but overall, Perkins was one of the most impactful players on the field. In a football world where having queens on the chessboard is pivotal, LSU has found one in Harold Perkins.
Kenneth Walker runs to the top of the Rookie of the Year race
Calling Kenneth Walker III a revelation at the RB position for Seattle might be an understatement. The rookie back from Michigan State is 15th in the NFL in rushing yards and fourth in touchdowns, yet how he’s doing this has been a really fun study.
Walker has what I call ‘patient quickness’. That means he’s moving really fast, but he’s never out of control. He can set up his blockers really well and finds holes easily. It’s why among runners with 100 carries or more, he’s 13th in percentage of times he’s hit at the line of scrimmage.
The Seahawks run split zone with jet motion, and watch how Walker steps towards the backside hole to freeze Isaiah Simmons, who’s supposed to be filling that hole, then bursts through as Charles Cross finishes off his block. The patience to let the block build without being slow paced is impressive to see from a young player.
This mid zone play is another example of his ability to set up blocks. Watch the jump cuts and how they affect the defenders, specifically Zaven Collins (25). He gets him to commit to a side, then goes the opposite way. Walker has put that all over his tape this year, and it’s helped him turn pedestrian plays into big ones.
Another thing that’s stood out about Walker this year is his tackle breaking ability. Walker is fourth in the NFL in broken tackle and missed tackle rate (per Sports Info Solutions). His leg drive through tight areas has helped him get extra yards, and makes defenders think twice about trying to arm tackle him.
Watch him carry defenders on this weak side zone. Once he gets a head of steam, it’s really fun to watch, hence his spot on Establish the Fun!
The Seahawks have been one of the league’s biggest surprises this year, and the offense is a major reason why. The play of Geno Smith gets a large amount of the (deserved) attention, but Walker has played his way to the top of the Offensive Rookie of the Year race. His patience in letting blocks build before bursting through the seams of a defense is fun to see for a rookie, and Seahawks fans should be excited about him both now and in the future.