Training camp is underway! And with it, a new era of Chicago Bears football begins. Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace are long gone, leaving the franchise to usher in a new Matt (Eberflus) and Ryan (Poles) in their place. Halas Hall is the place to be this summer as the new guys prepare for the 2022 season with practices and workouts. So, let’s take a look at who’s on the team right now as things get into gear.
Meet WR1: Darnell Mooney
2021 stats: 81 catches (140 targets), 1,055 receiving yards, 4 TD; 6 carries, 32 rushing yards, 1 TD
ESPN’S 2022 projections: 76 catches (128 targets), 1,088 receiving yards, 4 TD; 4 rushes, 25 yards, 0 TD
The New Guys
There are 8 new receivers at Bears camp. That’s a whole lotta new bodies. And yet, there is considerable grumbling when discussing the revamped receivers room. Admittedly, the signings of Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Tajae Sharpe, Dante Pettis, David Moore, Chris Finke, and Kevin Shaa weren’t game-changers. And trading for N’Keal Harry makes fora a fun reclamation project. Overall, the collection of post-hype sleepers GM Ryan Poles has cobbled together has the potential to be fun. Imagine if someone like Pettis recaptures the form he had when he was healthy in San Francisco. Or if Harry rediscovers the magic that made him a first-round pick. That would make for an interesting development.
Don’t Forget About…
I try not to get too excited about position coach hires, but new WRs Coach Tyke Tolbert’s hire intrigues me. Tolbert has been coaching NFL receivers since 2003, doing so while getting his hands on many different types of pass-catchers. What further drives my interest in what Tolbert has done with young receivers in the past. For example, he had Anquan Boldin in Arizona, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in Denver, and Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton with the New York Giants — all as rookies. Velus Jones Jr. is the only rookie draft-pick receiver the Bears invested in this offseason, but Tolbert’s presence suggests his development is in good hands.
Highs and Lows
I’m high on… Darnell Mooney. Specifically, the potential Mooney has to become a true WR1. Some view Mooney as being on the cusp of WR1 status. And while he gets WR1 duties by default this season after Allen Robinson II’s departure, Mooney can earn his stripes with a strong follow-up to his first 1,000-yard season. And depending on how that goes, it could lead him down a path that ends with him cashing out in a major way.
I’m worried about… the rest of the receivers room. It might not be the worst group in the league, but that’s where PFF ranked them back in June. Not quite how you’d expect to build a team around Justin Fields. With that being said, I’m looking forward to seeing how that gaggle of pass-catchers goes about proving doubters wrong.
What We’re Looking For During Camp
Someone other than Darnell Mooney becoming a favorite Justin Fields target would be a major development. It would be nice to see someone grab the opportunity, run with it, and never look back. There are targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns that are there for the taking. And because Mooney can’t get ’em all, somebody is bound to stuff the stat sheet. Who wants it?
If I were to bet on it, I’d wager on Velus Jones Jr. ending up as Fields’ top target among players not named Darnell Mooney. Jones was reportedly lining up everywhere during minicamp in June, which speaks to his potential versatility and possible volume usage in this offense. And I suppose it can’t hurt having a locker right next to QB1.
The Final Word
A pop culture quote, clip, song, or something else that fits the vibe of this position group