Ex-NFL player Merril Hoge offers brutal evaluation of Caleb Williams

Ex-NFL player Merril Hoge offers brutal evaluation of Caleb Williams originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Welcome back to another chapter of the Justin Fields vs. Caleb Williams debate. Today, we look at one of the harsher critics of Williams to exist in the NFL sphere.

Speaking with NBC Sports Chicago at Radio Row in Las Vegas, ex-NFL running back and current NFL analyst Merril Hoge shared his disinterest in Williams’ tape at USC. For reference, Hoge told NBC Sports Chicago he’s only halfway through Williams’ tape. But he hasn’t seen anything special thus far.

“The one thing that is clear [is that] he is not special,” Hoge said. “He is not something unique like Patrick Mahomes. And I hope the Bears don’t think ‘Well, let’s try to make up for our mistake for when we passed on Patrick Mahomes and go get Patrick Mahomes.’ The kid is not Patrick Mahomes. He ain’t even remotely close to that.”

It’s the great debate in Chicago sports in the present day. With the No. 1 pick in the draft, should the Bears use it on Williams or another quarterback, or stick with Fields for a fourth year? Hoge said he hasn’t watched any of the other quarterbacks in the draft yet, but he definitely wouldn’t select Williams.

What is he seeing from the tape that’s discouraging him from Williams’ game?

“First of all, his ability to throw on the run is very disturbing,” Hoge said. “It is very inaccurate and it’s all over the place. There’s a ton of RPO, which nobody is going to RPO themselves to a Super Bowl in our league. … You gotta push the ball down the field. There are times when he does that. He doesn’t play with a lot of anticipation because of all the clean pockets that exist for him.

“The thing that’s disturbing me right now is his inability to be consistent on the move as a thrower. And he’s willing to do that a lot more than he has to. You don’t have that choice in our league. … I don’t see anything magical with his arm. There’s not enough there at this point for me to be like we’re getting rid of Justin Fields and bring this guy in, who’s never played in the National Football League and has to overcome all of those hurdles just to give us a chance to win.”

That’s some serious criticism for Williams.

If anything, Williams is touted for his Mahomes-like abilities. Scouts and pundits around the league are certainly infatuated with his ability to make plays on the run and create accurate throws off-platform. Hoge isn’t seeing it.

Skeptics of Williams will also point to the poor year he finished last season with USC. They went 8-5, with head-scratching losses to Notre Dame, Utah and Washington. Even further, skeptics point to Williams’ reaction to losing to Washington, as he went to the stands to cry with his mother. Some take it as a positive to his competitiveness, others use it as evidence of his lack of character.

The real question is — are his skills better, or have the opportunity to become better, than Fields’ current skillset? At the end of the day, the Bears must ask themselves if any available quarterback’s skillset trumps that of Fields. That will tell them whether or not they should move off him, or not.

For Hoge, Fields remains the right answer for the Bears.

“I think you have enough with Justin Fields to have hope and continue to build with him,” Hoge said.

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