Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy had nothing but praise for wide receiver Darnell Mooney on Saturday morning prior to the team’s second padded practice of the weekend.Â After nine starts and 61 receptions as a rookie in 2020, Mooney entered the offseason with massive expectations of taking another major step forward.
With new faces at the quarterback position, consistent wide receiver play is a necessity for the Bears, who feel content about the wide receiver room featuring Mooney and eighth-year veteran Allen Robinson. A year ago, at this exact time, Mooney was an unknown commodity who took advantage of every opportunity, with results translating onto gamedays.
“Mooney right now is on fire with his route running,” said Bears head coach Matt Nagy prior to practice on Saturday morning. “He’s running some routes right now that I really haven’t seen him and A-Rob running those routes.”
More consistent quarterback play should lead to an increase in production who had a standout day on Friday, making a few key catches throughout practice, including a leaping grab over second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson.
“It’s more routes, he’s putting his own spin and stamp on more routes,” Nagy said. “Last year, he had a couple routes where he was really good at. When we evaluated him last year, we knew in the fifth-round, I’m just telling you, we knew in the fifth round, we were getting a steal.
Mooney’s work ethic has also impressed the coaching staff, something that many have taken notice of. The message coming out of Halas Hall is clear: Mooney just isn’t looking to win matchups with his speed. He’s looking to become a complete wide receiver and make plays in any way possible.
“He’s proven us so far, to be what we thought he was,” Nagy said. “Because he works hard and the other thing is, A-Rob is his mentor. A-Rob’s teaching him a lot of stuff. That’s to his credit for latching onto him and now he’s putting it out there on tape and it’s just it’s fun to see. And he wants to keep growing.”
The Bears returned to Halas Hall for practice on Saturday and will return again on Sunday, giving Mooney an additional two days to continue proving that the former fifth-round pick is ready for a big leap in year two and begin making a name for himself.