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The Bears receiving corps has come under national scrutiny this offseason, where many are concerned about quarterback Justin Fields’ weapons heading into Year 2. But it’s Darnell Mooney who remains a bright spot.
While Chicago’s passing offense was among the worst in the league in 2021, Mooney emerged as a top target in his second season with the Bears. Mooney recorded his first 1,000-yard receiving season. He finished with 81 catches for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns, which led all Chicago receivers.
The future is certainly looking up, and Mooney is starting to get recognition from around the league. Pro Football Focus ranked the NFL’s top 32 wide receivers, and Mooney made the cut as an up-and-comer at 32nd.
Mooney has gone from a fifth-round pick out of Tulane to a budding WR1 in a couple of years’ time. Between his deep speed, route running and after-the-catch ability, he can win in a variety of ways. Last year, Mooney tied for sixth in total receptions over 15 yards downfield (20), finished sixth in separation rate against single coverage and was one of 22 wide receivers with double-digit broken tackles after the catch (10).
There’s reason to believe that Mooney’s production is only going to improve from here as he gets comfortable with quarterback Justin Fields. Don’t be surprised if the Fields-Mooney connection soon morphs into one of the better young tandems in the NFL.
While Mooney was Chicago’s most productive wideout last season, he had the added benefit of Allen Robinson being the top target for opposing defenses. Now, Mooney will get his chance at WR1 without Robinson and with a slew of unproven commodities in Byron Pringle, rookie Velus Jones Jr. and Equanimeous St. Brown.
Can Mooney establish himself as a true WR1 for the Bears? We’re about to find out.