There is a certain hierarchy around the NFL regarding quarterback-wide receiver combinations worth respecting. Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp, Tom Brady to Mike Evans, Joe Burrow to JaMarr Chase, and Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs rank near the top. It doesn’t even register on the radar of most fans or media when it comes to Justin Fields to Darnell Mooney. That is nothing new for the Chicago Bears. At least one person thinks this could be a fatal mistake.
Cameron Heyward is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. He made All-Pro for the third time last season as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his long career, he’s played against many great quarterbacks-receiver combinations. The 33-year-old was asked about Justin Fields during his appearance on NFL Total Access recently. He had glowing words for the young quarterback, declaring the league would do well not to underestimate him. Not just because Fields is ridiculously talented, but also because he has legitimate weapons to throw to.
Heward would know. He saw their work in person.
“He always puts the defense at a disadvantage [because] he’s able to run [and] he’s able to throw. I loved him in college because of those reasons. I hated playing against him because of those reasons.
“You look at what he does: He’s able to stretch the field with the tight ends, he’s got a great receiver. He’s just got a lot of pieces growing around him. In that game, we were tired as heck. We were trying to get off the field and he made it hard on us.
“With Justin, I’m so happy I got my pick on him, because he’s just going to continue to get better. The picks won’t happen every single time. He’s a heck of a talent, he’s going to continue to learn – they just gotta build around him.”
It is easy to understand his stance. When the Bears and Steelers met last season, the Pittsburgh defense had Mooney contained all game long. Then as the 4th quarter approached, their control vanished. In the space of just under 15 minutes, Fields hit Mooney for 20 yards and then used him on an end-around for a 15-yard touchdown. A couple of drives later, the duo struck again for a 16-yard score to take the lead.
Pittsburgh was given a gift when Fields didn’t throw Mooney’s way on the game’s final drive. They might’ve gotten a chance at a closer field goal attempt than the 65 yards they eventually tried if he had. Heyward knew his team had witnessed something that night. It was the first glimpse of how dangerous that combination can become.
Justin Fields and Darnell Mooney are locked in.
The two have spent countless hours together during the offseason. They’ve worked out together, watched film together, and thrown endless pass patterns together. It is obvious their chemistry is light years ahead of where it was last season. Across 11 games, the two connected 35 times for 523 yards. Averaged out to 17 games, that would’ve equaled 808 yards. Remember, those two didn’t work together at all in training camp or the preseason.
Imagine what they can accomplish with a full off-season to prepare, and an offensive system that doesn’t feel like a high schooler crafted it. Justin Fields is anxious to show the NFL what he can do. So is Mooney. These are two hyper competitors that have gotten lots of disrespect over the past several months. It wasn’t like they needed the motivation, to begin with. Now?
Heyward might be right.
The rest of the NFL better not take them lightly. If Fields gets anything close to adequate protection this year, Mooney will torch defenses left and right, especially if the Bears plan to utilize more play action than last year.