No fanbase in the NFL has been more tortured by their quarterback history than the Chicago Bears. That is a fact. Other fans might try to raise an argument. They are wrong. Chicago has seen one of their QBs make the Pro Bowl twice in the Super Bowl era. Even when things looked good, they weren’t. Jim McMahon couldn’t stay healthy. Jay Cutler was too erratic. This is the only franchise with no 4,000-yard passer in team history. Maybe this will help people understand why Justin Fields is under so much pressure.
He is supposed to be the one that finally breaks the streak of misery. That is why the Bears traded up to get him in the 2021 draft. Then his rookie year happened, and fans were left with nothing but uncertainty about the future. Not only is Fields starting over in a new offense, the national perception is his team did little to bring in more help for him. They hung him out to dry. Darnell Mooney doesn’t see it that way.
He thinks people are underestimating Fields.
The third-year wide receiver sat down for an interview on Red Line Radio. He was asked if he had accepted the perception that the team might not be very good this year. Mooney flat-out denied it. He has no doubt in his mind this offense can surprise people. His confidence comes from seeing the skill players assembled and watching Fields’ progression this summer. There is only one thing required for this thing to take off. Protection. They must keep the QB on his feet.
Fields was sacked 36 times in 12 games last year. He took a beating and was under pressure quite often. The offensive line was overmatched way too often. Fields’ tendency to hold the ball made matters worse. When he was protected, though, the guy made some eye-popping plays. His three best games against Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, and Detroit saw him sacked three times or fewer. Probably not a coincidence.
Justin Fields is at the mercy of his offensive line.
Right now, the unit looks nothing like it was last year. The only starter still in place is Cody Whitehair at left guard. Lucas Patrick replaced Sam Mustipher at center. Left tackle, right tackle, and right guard are undecided. Luke Getsy and his offensive staff are trying to sort the problem out. Thus far, no answers are forthcoming. It is difficult to trust such an unsettled group can be much better than last year. Not unless Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins take significant steps forward.
That said, a system shift could end up helping a lot.
Head coach Matt Eberflus said the Bears would be a run-first team. That is their identity. Run the ball in their new wide-zone scheme and let Justin Fields go hunting with play action. It’s not a bad idea since the QB was good off play fakes last year. That would also lean into their roster strength at running back with David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert. One can understand Mooney’s stance. With all the speed the Bears have at wide receiver, the only thing preventing lots of big plays is Fields ending up on his back.
We’ll see how GM Ryan Poles did retooling that line when training camp begins next month.