There is a certain hierarchy around the NFL regarding which quarterback receiver combinations are worth sticking to. Matthew Stafford at Cooper Kupp, Tom Brady at Mike Evans, Joe Burrow at JaMarr Chase and Josh Allen at Stefon Diggs rank near the top. It doesn’t even register on most fans’ or media’s radar when it comes to Justin Fields to Darnell Mooney. This 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. During his long career, he played against many excellent quarterback-receiver combinations. The 33-year-old was asked about Justin Fields when he appeared on Full NFL Access recently. He had glowing words for the young quarterback, saying the league would do well not to underestimate him. Not just because Fields is ridiculously talented, but also because he has some legit guns to throw at.
Heward would know. He saw their work in person.
“He always puts the defense at a disadvantage [because] he is able to run [and] he is able to throw. I loved him in college for those reasons. I hated playing against him for those reasons.
“You look at what he does: he’s able to stretch the pitch with tight ends, he has a good receiver. He just has a lot of bits growing around him. In this game, we were tired as hell. We were trying to get out of the field and he made it difficult for us.
“With Justin, I’m so glad I chose him, because it will just keep getting better. Choices won’t happen every time. He’s a hell of a talent, he’s going to keep learning – they just have to build around him.
It is easy to understand his position. When the Bears and Steelers met last season, Pittsburgh’s defense contained Mooney throughout the game. Then, as the 4th quarter approached, their control disappeared. In the space of just under 15 minutes, Fields hit Mooney for 20 yards and then used him for a 15-yard touchdown. A few drives later, the duo hit again for a 16-yard score to take the lead.
Pittsburgh got a giveaway when Fields didn’t throw Mooney’s way on the game’s final drive. They might have had a chance to go for a closer field goal attempt than the 65 yards they eventually went for had he done so. Heyward knew his team had witnessed something that night. It was the first glimpse of the dangerousness of this combination.
Justin Fields and Darnell Mooney are locked up.
The two spent countless hours together during the offseason. They trained together, watched movies together, and threw endless passing patterns together. It’s obvious that their chemistry is light years away from what it was last season. In 11 games, the two have connected 35 times for 523 yards. Averaged over 17 games, that would have equaled 808 yards. Remember, these two haven’t worked together at all during training camp or preseason.
Imagine what they can accomplish with a full offseason to prepare for and an offensive system that doesn’t look like a high school kid. Justin Fields is eager to show the NFL what he can do. Moony too. They are two hyper competitors who have received a lot of scorn over the past few months. It wasn’t like they needed any motivation to begin with. Now?
Heyward may be right.
The rest of the NFL better not take them lightly. If Fields gets anything close to adequate protection this year, Mooney will burn defenses left and right, especially if the Bears plan to use more game action than last year.
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