Darnell Mooney must improve in this area for Chicago Bears

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 25: Darnell Mooney #11 of the Chicago Bears catches a pass over Will Harris #25 of the Detroit Lions during the second quarter at Ford Field on November 25, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 25: Darnell Mooney #11 of the Chicago Bears catches a pass over Will Harris #25 of the Detroit Lions during the second quarter at Ford Field on November 25, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Bears are going to be relying on Darnell Mooney in a big way in 2022. He is pretty clearly their top wide receiver, and it is hard to make a case for anyone else leading the way. Mooney has progressed in big ways since being drafted in the fifth round, and if he continues to ascend then he will be ready for the role.

Still, if there is one area where Mooney will have to get better to become that man, it is contested catches.

Darnell Mooney must improve at contested catches

Last season he had 20 contested catch situations, per PFF. He caught just four of them. That sounds as bad as you think. Of 94 qualified wide receivers, he ranked 91st in contested catch rate. That was tied with Laviska Shenault and ahead of just Jalen Reagor, and Darius Slayton. Names just above them include Zach Pascal and Kaliff Raymond. This is not where he can live if he wants to be successful.

Mooney came into the NFL as a thin wideout, and that was part of the reason he fell. Still, Devonta Smith is thinner, and he is at a 39% catch rate, while Mooney is at 20%. Tyreek Hill is at 28% which is a realistic goal for him to look at moving forward. That is where Mooney was in 2020. He caught four of 14 targets. Unfortunately, he still caught four contested balls this year, but on 20 targets.

Even the speedster wideouts like Hill have 20 contested-catch attempts every year. Stefon Diggs, the elite route runner had 32 contested-catch targets last season.

This is not something that is going to go away. As more attention shifts to him, and he gets more of the overall target load he is going to get more contested-catch targets.

dark. Next. How much responsibility does Justin Fields get for sacks?

We saw Mooney progress from a depth rookie to a starter by week one, by week one of the following year he was ready to be the top target ahead of Allen Robinson. Now, Mooney is not sneaking up on anyone. A big step in week one this year could feature becoming a more physically dominant wideout.