Chicago Bears: The good and bad of Darnell Mooney at WR1
The positives of having Darnell Mooney as WR1
Allen Robinson’s regression in 2021 required Darnell Mooney to take on a larger role in the passing game. Mooney was up for the task and finished his second year in the league with 81 catches for 1,055 yards. Playing in Matt Nagy’s offense with a rookie quarterback and subpar offensive line did Mooney no my favors. No matter how much the Bears’ offense struggles going forward, it’s hard to imagine things will look much worse than they did in Mooney’s first two seasons.
Mooney has improved rapidly since entering the league, and at 24 years old, he is still reaching his final form. Coming out of Tulane, Mooney was projected to be a backup/big-play threat. However, by mid-season, Mooney had passed Riley Ridley, Javon Wims, and Anthony Miller to earn the spot as the team’s second wide receiver. It wasn’t just the fact that Mooney had 61 catches for 631 yards as a rookie that was so impressive; it was that he had to completely retool his game to fit into Nagy and Trubisky’s horizontal passing attack. Mooney went from a player who averaged nearly 17 yards per catch in college to a possession receiver in the short pass game. This growth continued into 2021 and may even trickle into the 2022 season.
Mooney has also developed a strong relationship with Justin Fields. We’ve seen through the Baker Mayfield Odell Beckham Jr. saga that the connection between a quarterback and receiver shouldn’t be taken for granted. Fields was comfortable throwing to Mooney in big spots and showed great trust in his receiver to come down with tough catches.
If the two were able to form this bond in only a handful of games, we could see the chemistry continue to grow in 2022 and beyond. We also know the two complement each other’s games quite well. Though it was a small sample size, Fields was one of the most accurate quarterbacks in football when throwing downfield in 2021. As previously mentioned, Mooney specializes in the team passing game. This fit could help maximize Mooney’s potential.