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Darnell Mooney

How much might passing game improve?

Darnell Mooney's second season was cut short by an ankle injury, but he says he'll be ready to roll for training camp. The primary reservations aren't about Mooney's health, though, but the offense around him.

For one thing, the Bears acquired DJ Moore, and he seems a lot more likely to be the team's top wideout. But the concern for both Mooney and Moore is the passing offense in general. It was terrible a year ago -- last in the league, at just 2,598 yards, so 153 per game -- and it will need to improve by quite a bit to give the team a single viable wide receiver, let alone two.

Some improvement from Justin Fields as a passer is reasonable, but dramatic improvement? The history of lesser passing offenses one year later isn't encouraging.

I looked at the last 10 years of lesser passing offenses; teams that ranked in the bottom 5 in passing yards from 2012 to the present. Different teams, different quarterbacks (and a lot of those teams changed quarterbacks, of course), but I wanted to see what kind of improvement might be anticipated from the worst passing offenses from last season, like 32nd-ranked Chicago.

Of those previous 50, about a third (16) came back and were also bottom-5 passing offenses one year later. And slightly over half (27) ranked in the bottom 10 that next season.

Only five made it up into the top 10 in passing, with 14 more at least finishing in the top 20. That, I think, would probably be Chicago's ceiling -- and probably beyond Fields.

I think if you're invested in the Bears' passing game, Mooney or Moore or perhaps Cole Kmet, you're hoping for enough improvement from Fields that the Bears sneak out of the bottom 10 in passing. Almost half of those previous bottom-5 passing offenses were able to do it, so it's possible. But above-average? Odds are against it.

Bottom-5 passing offenses from 2012 to present, followed by their production (yards, TDs, rank) a year later, are presented below. Table is sorted by passing game ranking in that next season.

BOTTOM-5 PASSING GAMES, ONE YEAR LATER (2012-)
YearTeamYdsTDRkYds(Nx)TD(Nx)Rk(Nx)
2017Indianapolis322613304595397
2012Chicago329821284450327
2021Philadelphia358520294364258
2016San Francisco316621324235158
2014Jacksonville3001153144283510
2018Miami3309262841172211
2016LA Rams3313143040232811
2020Baltimore2919273242672113
2020New England3124123040982414
2019Indianapolis3314223041862414
2014NY Jets2946163241703315
2021New Orleans3437293239692416
2020NY Jets3115163139592017
2019Pittsburgh3214183141293517
2017Carolina3319222840712817
2015Minnesota3246143141192017
2013Buffalo3373162836142318
2021Indianapolis3588272838541720
2020Denver3673212838562020
2018Tennessee3255163039562921
2016Houston3418152936442821
2017Chicago3085133237472822
2015Kansas City3493203039141922
2018Arizona2884153237972023
2017Baltimore3235202937081823
2013St. Louis3360222934002023
2012Minnesota2935183236451823
2019Washington3205183237961624
2016NY Jets3645162835011924
2013Tampa Bay3181223232972125
2012Kansas City293783135612425
2018Buffalo3082133134762126
2012Seattle3234272935082726
2021NY Giants3463153134311727
2021Carolina3573143032461628
2019Denver3401162836732128
2014San Francisco3063203036461628
2015St. Louis2931113233131430
2014Kansas City3182182934932030
2013San Francisco3210213130632030
2012NY Jets3178143032701330
2020NY Giants3336122934631531
2017Buffalo3086163130821331
2016Buffalo3250173130861631
2015Buffalo3600232932501731
2014Minnesota3244172832461431
2019Baltimore3350372929192732
2018Washington3287162932051832
2015San Francisco3646162831662132
2013NY Jets3270133029461632
2022Carolina32461628??????
2022Tennessee32271629??????
2022Baltimore32021930??????
2022Atlanta29271731??????
2022Chicago25981932??????

--Andy Richardson

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