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The Established Bears Receiver Threat

Analysis: Darnell Mooney's credentials as a No. 1 receiver hardly appear a concern for the Bears, who need to focus more on finding a viable No. 2 or 3.

A great deal of offseason concern over Bears wide receiver issues centers around Darnell Mooney.

The perception is Mooney lacks the ability to be a team's No. 1 receiver. 

While Mooney definitely lacks draft pedigree, the problem with this thinking is it discounts what Mooney already has proven, mainly last season. 

Pro Football Focus  calls Mooney the most underrated Bears player.

If players had to be first- or second-round draft picks to be a team's No. 1 receiver, Cooper Kupp would need to give back his offensive player of the year award.

Mooney can be a No. 1 receiver because he already has been.

Last season Allen Robinson struggled through injuries, COVID-19, the mental effects from not being given a contract extension and a reported rift in his relationship with former coach Matt Nagy.

It's difficult to assess the impact of the contract and his relationship with Nagy but when Robinson had injuries and COVID-19 it's easy to look at what Mooney did as their real No. 1 and see how he performed when he was the main option.

Robinson missed the 10th, 11th and 12th games due to injuries and the 14th and 15th games due to COVID-19. He also suffered an ankle injury, which slowed him but didn't sideline him completely in Weeks 6 and 7.

The two earlier games when Robinson tried to play with an ankle sprain came against Tampa Bay and Green Bay. Mooney had seven receptions for 84 yards in those two games, better than Robinson's total in both categories.

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So obviously Mooney stepped up when called upon.

In the other five games when Robinson was completely unavailable, Mooney had only Damiere Byrd, Jakeem Grant and Marquise Goodwin as alternative options to take pressure off his back

Mooney made five receptions in all five of those games. He had 121 yards against Baltimore, 123 against Detroit, 63 against Minnesota and 57 against Seattle in the snow. In fact, he made five catches in six of the seven games when Robinson was out with an injury or on the injury report and was playing hurt.

Five receptions might not sound like great production, but average five catches and it's 85 in a season.

Considering Mooney averaged 13 yards a reception, it's definitely No. 1 receiver output. Robinson only averaged 13 yards with the Bears in 2018 when he made only 55 receptions.

Last year's production didn't rank Mooney among the top 10 receiver threats in the league but he was top 20 among receivers both in receptions and yardage and did it in about as disfunctional an offense as any team could have. They ranked last in passing from Weeks 3 through 17.

Mooney playing No. 1 in a receiver corps with Byron Pringle as the No. 2 might not be quite like having Chris Godwin and Mike Evans but they're running an offense like Green Bay runs and Allen Lazard was No. 2 among wide receivers for Packers with 40 receptions last year.

It's not unreasonable to view as acceptable a full season with Mooney as the No. 1 because he did it already and it was Robinson who failed to uphold his end as the No. 2 threat because he caught only 38 passes.

The real challenge will be coming up with receivers capable of taking on the duties of a highly productive No. 2, and for that there are numerous candidates including Pingle and Velus Jones. 

None of them have proven they can do what Mooney was doing before he became a No. 1.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMav