The Chicago Bears offense looks fantastic.
That’s something we, as Bears fans, don’t get to say very often.
Justin Fields is in sync with DJ Moore. He’s in sync with Cole Kmet. We haven’t seen a passing output like this in back-to-back weeks since 2018, when Mitch Trubisky went on a heater in three straight games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots.
But if the Bears offense is going to continue to look like this, Darnell Mooney’s contributions to the offense must improve.
Entering the season, it looked like the Bears had 4 viable passing options for Fields. Moore, Kmet, Mooney and Chase Claypool. After five games, Moore is breaking records and Kmet is on pace for his best season as a pro, but the other two have not produced as we had hoped.
Claypool is now the Miami Dolphins’ problem, which means it becomes increasingly critical for Mooney to play a key role in this offense. What Fields is doing right now is amazing, but he can’t continue this with only two pass catching options doing damage to opposing defenses.
Mooney’s stats are sorely lacking. Mooney has only caught 8 of his 16 targets at this point. His 50% catch rate is last on the active roster (he’s only ahead of Claypool). According to Pro Football Reference’s success rate, Mooney’s only successful on 37.5% of his targets, for comparison, Moore and Kmet are both around 65%. Mooney is currently on pace for about 350 yards receiving on the season.
When Moore and Kmet are catching 80% of their targets, there’s plenty of room for Mooney to improve. The bottom line, Mooney has to show improvement.
Fields is not going to be able to slice up defenses like he has the last two weeks with only two main targets. A third option needs to become viable and it would be hard-pressed to imagine Robert Tonyan becoming that option at this stage in his career.
Mooney is on pace to set career lows in receptions, yards, catch rate and success rate. He has had three games (against Tampa, Kansas City and Washington) where he failed to have a single catch on 101 snaps and 5 targets.
Mooney doesn’t need to have games where he’s going north of 100 yards receiving, that’s DJ Moore’s job. But Mooney has to keep defenses honest and give Fields another option. In his games against Green Bay and Denver, he had 4 catches in each game for 53 and 51 yards respectively. Those types of performances are perfectly complimentary and is exactly what Fields needs. Heck, if he even had closer to three receptions with total yardage in the 40s, that would suffice.
Perhaps Mooney hasn’t fully recovered from last season’s ankle injury, although the Bears haven’t suggested that at all. Perhaps the ankle is okay but Mooney doesn’t quite trust going 100% on it. Whatever the reason is, Luke Getsy, Fields and Mooney need to figure it out and figure it out soon.
The Vikings don’t have a great defense, but they do like to blitz and they do limit explosive plays. The Bears are going to have to sustain more drives against Minnesota and to do that, they are going to need the likes of Mooney to be involved in the game plan and produce results.
The results from Moore and Kmet are fabulous, but if we want to see similar results out of Justin Fields moving forward, Darnell Mooney is going to have to become a viable option for Fields moving forward the rest of the season.