The Chicago Bears offense is in familiar territory. They have question marks everywhere. It starts with the offensive line and how undermanned it appears every single week. Quarterback? Nick Foles is an improvement over Mitch Trubisky but not by a lot. Even the skill positions can’t be called true strengths at this point. Allen Robinson is very good at wide receiver. Anthony Miller? Javon Wims? Neither has stood out enough. One name though that is garnering attention is Darnell Mooney.
In a 2020 draft class that appears to have delivered some truly impressive receiving talents, the humble 5th round pick from Tulane has flown under the national radar. Yet despite no proper offseason and being somewhat buried on the depth chart, he rapidly drew the attention of coaches in training camp thanks to his undeniable speed and surprisingly sharp route running.
By the time of the opener, he was already getting snaps.
Through six games, Mooney has 196 yards on 30 targets. The second-most among wide receivers on the team. Nobody expected that back in the spring. Now it has people excited about what he could do in the future. Several moments have occurred in recent weeks where Mooney was wide open down the field. Yet Foles hasn’t been able to hit him yet.
That feels like just a matter of time. One person who is already buying into the Mooney hype? Former personnel director and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick. He told the Chicago Tribune that not too long from now teams will be fearing him as much as another noteworthy deep threat once upon a time.
“If you really want to get excited about a guy in that offense right now, the guy to get excited about is Mooney. He’s going to be a player. Mooney looks like current-day version of a young DeSean Jackson. He has that kind of stride and that kind of explosive playmaking ability. And we get deeper into this season, he’s going to become a bigger and bigger factor in that offense. They’re going to push the ball to him more and more and more. And they should. He may be the biggest weapon they have.”
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) September 20, 2020
If Darnell Mooney can do this there’s really not much stopping him from becoming one of the league’s best deep threats pic.twitter.com/IUmHwaY2F9
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) October 4, 2020
Darnell Mooney should see more opportunities soon
Thus far the Bears have kept his snaps in the 40-50 range. The same as Anthony Miller. Give how many times he appears open on plays, the time might be coming for them to give him a few extra each week. Chicago is suffering from a severe lack of big plays this season. An ailment that has carried over from 2019. It’s hard to generate offense in the NFL without big plays.
Mooney is the only one on their roster who is really capable of providing them on a consistent basis. Tarik Cohen was lost to a torn ACL. Robinson and Miller aren’t really vertical threats. Speed is a killer in this modern NFL and the rookie is all the Bears have. They have to find a way to get him the ball in space more often.
Opportunities have just been tough to come by.
Part of that is the competition they’ve played. Chicago has lined up against three-straight top 10 pass defenses in Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, and Carolina. They’ll see their fourth-in-a-row on Monday night against the 4th-ranked Los Angeles Rams. Then again it hasn’t matter. Darnell Mooney had those defenses beat a few times. Nobody remembers though because Foles’ passes were off-target.
Is this week finally the one where he hits it big? The Bears certainly hope so. Riddick has no doubt that moment is coming. It’s only a matter of time.