For all the complaining Allen Robinson has done since the end of the season about how the Chicago Bears froze him out of the offense, it overlooks one undeniable fact. Darnell Mooney played better than him in 2021. The former 5th round pick wasn’t part of some conspiracy by the coaching staff to sabotage Robinson. He was getting the ball more often because he was getting open more often.
More data has emerged to help prove this. Research specialist Arjun Menon of Pro Football Focus broke down the best wide receivers against man coverage last season. Unsurprisingly, Los Angeles Chargers star Keenan Allen ranked #1. An eternal reminder of how underrated he is. The bigger shock was seeing Mooney ranked 5th on the list, winning 77 of his 148 matchups in man coverage during the season.
They tried to tell me Keenan Allen is becoming washed and apparently Hunter Renfrow was better than him now? pic.twitter.com/P5U9vg6d75
— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) February 27, 2022
This should remind people that he is more than a one-trick pony.
Most will say his success is mainly due to him being fast. That is erroneous on many levels. This is the NFL. Everybody is fast. Sure, Mooney has 4.3 speed which is rarer, but it takes more than that to get open against pro cornerbacks. What constantly got overlooked in 2021 was his improvement as a route runner. Several times, he used clever setups and fakes to give himself some extra separation. It is why he was responsible for most of the Bears’ big plays through the air.
Mooney cracked 1,000 yards, becoming the first receiver drafted by the Bears to do so since Alshon Jeffery back in 2014. The questions have shifted away from whether he will be good or not. He has done enough on the field to prove that much. People are waiting to find out if the Bears can put more players on the field like him. Receivers that can take advantage of his presence.
Darnell Mooney is on an island at the moment
Going into the 2022 offseason, he is the only proven wide receiver under contract. Allen Robinson, Damiere Byrd, and Marquise Goodwin are all free agents. Dazz Newsome, Isaiah Coulter, and Nsimba Webster are totally unproven as offensive contributors. Mooney isn’t just the best weapon the Bears have at wide receiver. He’s the only one. This is why there is widespread belief new GM Ryan Poles will spend considerable resources overhauling the position.
The good news is both the free agent market and 2022 draft class aren’t thin on options. Maybe the Bears look to sign somebody like Chris Godwin, Mike Williams, or Christian Kirk. Or they could look to draft a David Bell, Drake London, or even Chris Olave. Hell, maybe they opt for both avenues. The point is Darnell Mooney will soon have some company in that wide receiver room.
If Poles does his job well, the Bears could be fun to watch this year.
Justin Fields will be happy. He already has a strong connection with Mooney. One that only figures to get better as the two build chemistry this offseason. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy promised to build the new offense around their strengths. That could lead to a lot of deep strikes this fall.