Chicago Bears: Biggest questions at the WR position

darnell mooney, bears

As the Chicago Bears report to training camp in exactly two weeks and the wide receiver position is perhaps the most intriguing on the offense. Besides Allen Robinson, the Bears feature 2020 fifth-round pick, Darnell Mooney, as well as fourth-year wide receiver Anthony Miller. Add in speedsters Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin and head coach Matt Nagy is looking to have his offense take another step forward with quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Justin Fields.

The Bears depth chart also features Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, rookie Dazz Newsome, Rodney Adams, Thomas Ives, Chris Lacy, and Jester Weah, creating some intriguing competition for the final two or three roster spots.

As the Bears report to Halas Hall, what are some questions at the wide receiver position? Let’s find out.

1) Can Anthony Miller finally live up to the draft status?

Heading into 2021, Miller is on the Bears roster bubble with one final shot to prove that he belongs with the Bears. Year three saw Miller catch 49 receptions for 485 yards but just two touchdowns. Miller should be guaranteed a roster spot, however, to truly make an impact, he’ll need to prove that he’s ready to go the extra mile to really make a serious case for getting some legitimate playing time.

Mooney’s emergence last season wasn’t good news for Miller, who essentially lost the starting job. Chicago is still searching for a productive slot wide receiver, meaning the opportunity for Miller to turn his career around still exists, perhaps more than most are willing to admit.

2) Will Byrd and Goodwin push for a starting spot?

Bears head coach Matt Nagy wants speed on offense, the main reason Goodwin and Byrd were brought in. Goodwin opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns but when he last played in 2019, he averaged 15.5 yards per reception, showing off his big-play ability. Byrd spent last season with the New England Patriots, totaling 47 receptions for 604 yards, averaging 12.9 yards per reception.

With uncertainty at who will be the starting slot WR for the Chicago, it’s quite possible Goodwin or Byrd push for a starting spot, especially if Miller doesn’t perform. Beyond Robinson and Mooney, the competition at WR is wide open, giving Byrd and Goodwin an equal chance of winning, especially if Chicago opts to run more three-receiver sets on offense, grouped with 11 personnel heading into 2021.

3) What will the duo of Robinson and Mooney accomplish in 2021?

A year after combining for 163 receptions, 1881 yards, and 10 touchdowns, the duo of Robinson and Mooney could see a major jump due to more consistent quarterback play from Andy Dalton and Justin Fields. Every sign coming from Halas Hall throughout OTA’s and minicamp seems to signal that Nagy wants to run a pass-first offense, giving both wide receivers more opportunities.

Dalton and Fields have both shown the ability to hit the deep ball consistently enough to the point where Mooney’s speed will finally be used to the fullest extent. Both quarterbacks also showcase good accuracy and the ability to fit throws into tight windows, giving Robinson a chance on each play.

Robinson and Mooney could certainly burst onto the scene in 2021, becoming one of the NFL’s top wide receiver duos. The talent and potential was on display throughout 2020 but with better decision-making at quarterback, both players should see a reasonable jump in production.

The Chicago Bears’ wide receiver competition is heating up

darnell mooney, bears

The wide receiver position and the Chicago Bears are generally not on good speaking terms. In the last decade, the Bears only had two household names: Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The talented duo assisted the Jay Cutler era Bears, with both ranking in the top 10 in total receiving yards in the franchise’s history. After their departure, however, the Bears were left with few options at the position. It would be three seasons until the Bears found an answer to their wide receiver dilemma.

In 2019, Ryan Pace brought in former Jacksonville Jaguar Allen Robinson as one of the biggest free-agent signings of the year. Robinson, fresh off of an ACL injury, Robinson was looking to make teams pay. Ryan Pace and the Bears, fresh off of a 3-13 record, looked to give their young quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) some weapons. Pace then brought in speedy slot receiver Taylor Gabriel, a flex tight end in Michael Burton, and drafted a running back that would turn out to be game-changing in the passing game in Tariq Cohen.

Fast forward to 2021. Only Allen Robinson and Tariq Cohen remain. Draft picks like Anthony Miller in 2018, and Darnell Mooney in 2020 have established a foundation of talent at the position. Fortunately, the Bears were able to retain Allen Robinson on the franchise tag. However, with the deadline to agree on a contract extension rapidly approaching on July 17th and no negotiations occurring, it appears that this could be Allen Robinson’s last season in Chicago.

Heading into the 2021 NFL draft, the wide receiver position lacked depth on the Bears’ roster. So, a week before the draft, the Bears brought in Marquese Goodwin.  Goodwin, who opted out of the 2020 NFL season, is known for his explosive speed. In fact, Goodwin is such an explosive athlete that he performed in the 2012 Summer Olympics for Team USA in the long jump.

As of April 28th, the first night of the NFL draft, the Bears’ WR room looked like this:

Allen Robinson

Darnell Mooney

Anthony Miller

Marquese Goodwin

Javon Wims

Riley Ridley

Jester Weah

Thomas Ives

Khalil McClain

Rodney Adams

When the Bears traded up to pick star quarterback Justin Fields, it only became inevitable that the Bears look at the wide receiver position to assist their young quarterback. However, it wasn’t until the 6th round that the Bears took a wide receiver off the board – Dazz Newsome, the talented athlete out of North Carolina. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken collarbone requiring surgery but is expected to return in time for the pre-season.

A few weeks later, the Bears announced they added more speed to the position, with the addition of Damiere Byrd. Byrd has elite separation ability and complements Justin Field’s deep ball accuracy.

As rookie minicamp started, the Bears brought in Chris Lacy for a tryout. Liking what they saw, they signed him to a deal as well. Unfortunately,  Chris Lacy’s time at the Lions was relatively uneventful, and he’s little more than a depth piece.

As of June 22nd, the Bears’ WR room looked like this:

Allen Robinson

Darnell Mooney

Anthony Miller

Marquese Goodwin

Damiere Byrd

Dazz Newsome

Rodney Adams

Chris Lacy

Javon Wims

Riley Ridley

Jester Weah

Thomas Ives

Khalil McClain

Putting it all together

This WR room is much bigger than it was at the beginning of the off-season, which is good. The Bears have options. Anthony Miller was on the hot seat entering the off-season, and some still believe he sits on the bubble. With this year being a contract year for Miller, he will have to prove to the front office that he deserves an extension. I’m convinced he will get what he wants.

The Bears currently have thirteen wide receivers on the roster, and teams will typically carry six into the season. Meaning seven of these names will no longer be Chicago Bears when September rolls around.

Realistically, the Bears didn’t bring Marquese Goodwin and Damiere Byrd in without expecting them to be on the full 53-man roster. I also don’t see how Jester Weah or Riley Ridley out talent them onto the roster.

For those familiar, I already think the connection between Fields and Robinson will set the league ablaze. But I also think that Anthony Miller will take the next step into his progression and that Damiere Byrd will have a breakout season with Fields arm talent.

Now we are ways away from the 53-man roster deadline, but I’m comfortable in sharing my projected roster after the Pre-season ends.

My Projected WR Room as of August 31st

  1. Allen Robinson
  2. Darnell Mooney
  3. Anthony Miller
  4. Dameire Byrd
  5. Marquese Goodwin
  6. Dazz Newsome

But what are your thoughts? Who gets cut? Who’s the #3? Let me know.

Chicago Bears: Darnell Mooney ready for a major jump in year two

darnell mooney, bears

After finishing his rookie season with the Chicago Bears with nine starts, 61 receptions, and four touchdowns, wide receiver Darnell Mooney will enter year two as a breakout candidate for the Bears. Some would argue that Mooney broke out last season, but the former fifth-round pick is just scratching the surface of how good he really can be.

The plan for Mooney is simple: Develop into WR2, becoming a perfect complement to eight-year veteran Allen Robinson. Mooney showcased flashes of how complete of a player he could develop into last season, quickly becoming a starter and never looking back.

Chicago’s coaching staff was impressed with Mooney’s rookie campaign, and entering two, Mooney’s expectations are sky-high.

“They told me I exceeded expectations and that I played very well,” Mooney said via the Bears official Youtube page. “To me, I didn’t exceed everything I wanted to accomplish but going into year two, I just want to be more of a threat to the defenders and more of an asset to the team.”

Mooney brings so much to the Chicago Bears:

One attribute of Mooney is being a team player, knowing that helping the offense succeed should always be the first priority. Operating from the slot but also playing time on the outside last offseason, Mooney is open to being used in any role, especially as head coach Matt Nagy sees fit.

“Just sitting down, thinking of creative ways, whatever coach Nagy comes up with,” Mooney said. “He has a creative mind with plays and wherever I can be in a good position to be more of an asset to the team, I’m willing to take that on.”

Smart coaching can be the difference between good and great players. In Mooney’s case, he’s willing to do anything to take a significant jump in year two, especially since the starting wide receiver job is his to lose at this point. The game has also slowed down significantly for Mooney, which is of immense benefit.

“Extremely benefit, sometimes and before the play even happens, I can see how it plays out in my head and then seeing defenders body language and understanding the defensive look,” Mooney said. “It is extremely benefit to have that experience under my belt.”

As Mooney enters year two with the Chicaog Bears, look for him to truly burst onto the scene and gain some league-wide recognition that wasn’t present last offseason. Mooney has done everything and more to warrant taking a major jump in year two, something that will happen with stabilized quarterback play.

Chicago Bears: Top 5 things to be excited about for the 2021 season

Ladies and gentlemen, after what seems like an eternity we have arrived. The offseason is entering rookie training camps, and OTA’s are around the corner. After what I can call an absolute home run of a draft, the Chicago Bears have created a ton of buzz about the 2021 season. Statistically, however, the Bears have the 3rd toughest schedule, according to CBS Sports, with a collective opponent 2020 win rate of .550. The schedule appears to be designed with rookie quarterback Justin Fields in mind, as those crafty heads up at NFL HQ slated a majority of the Bears primetime match-ups towards the latter half of the season. You know, just in case Head Coach Matt Nagy pulls the plug on the Dalton experience and throws Fields into the mix.

With all this being said, this season is shaping up to define the direction of the franchise for the next 3-4 years. I don’t foresee the Bears marching into Sofi Stadium in early February, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a plethora of people and developments to watch this season. From returning talents like James Daniel and Eddie Goldman to the continuing development of Darnell Mooney and David Montgomery. This season is sure to excite any fan. Here are the top 5 things to be excited about as a Bears fan heading into the 2021 NFL season. 

#5: The boys are back in town – Linemen win games

When burgeoning talent DT Eddie Goldman announced his decision to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season, it felt like being hit by a truck. I imagine that’s what opposing Centers and Guards felt as he tore through offensive lines with ease in 2019. I understand the decision though the game is just that – a game. Personal health and family safety will always be more important. I can only hope Goldman picks up where he left off, completing a key tandem with Akiem Hicks anchoring our rush defense.

Another returner this season is pro-bowl OL utilityman, James Daniel. This one gets me excited. After suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in week 5, Bers fans saw a carousel of line-men attempting to stabilize the front 5. Surprising breakout performances by former practice squad members Alex bars and Sam Mustipher indicate the front three interior linemen positions have both depth and talent on the roster. Daniels’ return also signals a much-needed return to stability. 

Bears GM Ryan Pace clearly made improving the Offensive Line a top priority in the off-season. Bringing in Elijah Wilkinson in Free Agency, re-signing Germain Ifedi, and trading up in the second round to steal Oklahoma State stud Teven Jenkins, while selecting Missouri big man Larry Borom in the 6th. Charles Leno and Bobbie Massie will not be returning to Chicago this season. Honestly, I’m not all that upset about it.

Jenkins will most likely get the starting nod at the left tackle spot. This leaves the Right tackle spot an area for competition. Offensive life coach Juan Castillo told reporters that “Larry Borom will compete with Germain Ifedi at RT, but Ifedi will line up at RT to start the season.” That leaves the rest of us wondering if Daniels lines up at center as he did in 2019, or at guard allowing Sam Mustipher to continue his hot play. Regardless of the endless possibilities on the interior offensive line, it looks stacked. David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen (also returning from injury) are sure to eat up the run game with James Daniel’s return to the line.

#4: This is Desai’s world, we’re just living in it 

There’s a new defensive sheriff in town, and his name is Sean Desai. A branch off the ole’ Vic Fangio tree, Sean Desai is a defensive secondary scheme savant. I love Chuck Pagano, an amazing man with an amazing story. But his secondary schemes did not play well to the secondary talent acquired under the Fangio years. After the 2018 Bears Defense dominated the league, the 2019 & 2020 Bears rewarded fans with a step back in just about every metric.

Under Desai, I strongly think the Bears defense is in store for a return to form. Desai is not only an actual professor, holding a Ph.D. from Temple University and teaching classes at Lake Forrest College, but he also schools offenses with his secondary schemes. Doc Desai’s ability to educate and communicate with players lead to his glowing review from DB Prince Amukamara. As Chicago Bears reporter with the Chicago Tribune, Brad Biggs reports, “Amukamara credits Desai for the first pick-six of his career.”

Look, I still believe Eddie Jackson is a top 5 safety in the NFL. I hope he lives up to his reputation this year under a defense that will be built on the backs of the Bears secondary. Losing Kyle Fuller may throw a wrench in Desai’s plan, but young products like Jaylon Johnson and Kendel Vildor will continue to establish themselves as dominant forces. In a schedule that features quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Russell Willson, and more. A staunch pass defense will be a necessity if the Bears hope to see success. 

#3: From cubs into Bears – Offensive Prospects 

The 2021 Chicago Bears roster is full of 2nd and 3rd years players poised to become household names.

David Montgomery went on a tear ending the season, with over 100 yards in three out of six games. Finishing the 2020 season with just a hair over 1000 yards, I am confident we will see another 1k yard season in 2021. I’m putting my money around 1400. Expect Monty to continue his elite ability to break open-field tackles. His vision is one of the best in the league and I can’t wait to see him put defenses on notice. 

Darnell Mooney What another mid-round steal for Ryan Pace. This kid is fast, has elite hands, and is first among rookie WR’s in broken tackles according to PFF. Any rookie that buys a Juggs machine with his first paycheck then proceeds on to drop only one pass after being targeted 98 times in a season is good in my book.  His speed and route running abilities will be a feature of this offense as Justin Fields establishes himself as QB1. Mooney has a knack for burning nickel corners and getting behind safeties. Fields has a knack at throwing incredibly accurate deep balls. Let’s hope Jalen Ramsey can keep up this time. 

Anthony Miller — This one is a controversial take, a bit spicy if you will. Miller has every tool needed to be an elite slot in the NFL. He just hasn’t taken the next step. With his career on the line, I think he has every reason to do it this year. There’s valid concern around Miller’s maturity. After his late-game ejection against the Saints, many called for the Bears to ship him off during the season. I think it was a wise decision by the front office to keep Miller on staff. As wide receiver coach Mike Furrey stated, “There’s a small increment in improvement so he’s done great, he’s been in our rooms, no issues.” Drafting speedy slot Dazz Newsome also sends a blunt message to Anthony Miller, saying “we have a replacement, let us know when we need to put him in.”

#2: The Packers? What is going on over there? 

How does it feel to have talent surrounding a big question mark under center? That’s what being a Bears fan has felt like for the past three decades. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t want to play in Green Bay, and I don’t blame him. The team is refusing to let him walk, and I don’t blame them. Regardless of what happens, I have to admit this has all been extremely amusing. If Blake Bortles becomes QB1 for the Green Bay Packers, this will be one fun show to watch.  

#1.5: Getting to see live football again

My first live Chicago Bears game was in the 2015 preseason against the Kansas City Chiefs. We got blown out. But seeing Cutler, Jefferies, and Howard live was amazing. It’ll feel even more amazing to see Justin Fields and this talented unit out on the field again. There’s nothing quite like being at a Football game. I can’t wait to go back. 

#1: Fiel- I mean the Rookies. 

Pace’s trade with the New York Giants to move up to pick #11 and snag Justin Fields was the shot of adrenaline the Bears fanbase needed. After two consecutive years of letdowns, it seems like the Front Office has finally started listening to the fans. This was Ryan Pace’s best draft as GM. No contest. Pace was able to steal early-round talent late in the draft with picks like Khalil Herbert, Thomas Graham Jr., and Dazz Newsome. He filled needs in the Offensive Line with Maulers like Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom.

I’m stoked to see Justin Fields on Soldier Field. Also, these UDFA’s are fantastic as well. Charles Snowden, an early-round talent, went undrafted. The 6’7”, 240 lb monster of a man is listed early as a defensive lineman. To all the rookies, if you ever end up reading this. Take a breath. Welcome to the greatest city on Earth. Congratulations, and get ready to play some Bears football. 

Altogether, buckle up Bears fans. Though we may not win a ton of games, this team is poised to turn heads. I haven’t been this excited about a season since, well, honestly I can’t remember!