Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney has been somewhat overlooked this offseason. The failure of new General Manager Ryan Poles to add a headline-grabbing free agent at wide receiver created a narrative that the Bears lack the necessary pass-catchers to give second-year quarterback Justin Fields a chance.
Perhaps there’s a different opinion about the Bears’ wide receivers inside of Halas Hall. Perhaps Poles has confidence in the current depth chart, plus a rookie or two, because of Mooney and his ability on the field and character off of it. And perhaps it’s Mooney who will emerge as Chicago’s brightest star on offense in 2022. He’s training this offseason to become one, and he shared what he’s focusing on in his workouts following Chicago’s voluntary minicamp last week.
“My conditioning,” Mooney said. “I want to be able to play 6 quarters. I want to be able to play faster than anybody on the field and not get tired.”
Mooney referenced wide receiver Cooper Kupp’s endurance during last year’s Super Bowl victory as an example of the type of conditioning he wants to achieve. It’s a lofty goal, but one Mooney is capable of meeting. He is, after all, the same guy who bought a JUGS machine for his apartment shortly after signing his first NFL contract.
Mooney set career highs in receptions (81) and yards (1,055) in 2021. His chemistry with Fields was obvious soon after Fields took over the starting job, and their work together this offseason will continue their growth. “We grew a lot,” he said.
The Bears’ lack of activity at wide receiver in free agency is an indication of how much faith they have in Mooney. Head Coach Matt Eberflus singled him out last week as a player he’s excited about. And, look, the free-agent additions of Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown are, if nothing else, good depth. But it’s Mooney who has a chance to become a star in 2022.
“I know what I want out of my life,” Mooney said. “I know what I want out of this league. Disrespected as a fifth-rounder… At the end of the day, I will get my respect. I’m going to keep going ‘til I get my respect.”