July 19, 2024


Analysis

Shaw Local’s 2021 Bears report card: Wide receivers

2021 was a disaster for the Bears at wide receiver

Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) gets past the Pittsburgh Steelers defense for a touchdown during the second half Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, in Pittsburgh.

The Chicago Bears entered the 2021 season believing that if nothing else they had gone above and beyond all necessary efforts to fix their offensive woes by rebuilding their quarterback and wide receiver corps.

While they failed at quarterback in the ‘21 season, there are still multiple reasons to believe the future is bright with Justin Fields, and 2022 may deliver a much better outcome.

Prior to the season, the Bears came to the conclusion speed can kill in the NFL. They added free agents Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd, two of the fastest players in the league. They drafted Dazz Newsome. They even picked up Breshad Perriman, who just might be the fastest player in the league, off waivers in season.

In the end, spring’s and summer’s bright promise turned into fall’s and winter’s great disaster.

Positives: Darnell Mooney. Sadly that’s it.

In his sophomore campaign, the former fifth-round pick solidified himself as a strong No. 2 receiver with big play ability and the consistency to be an excellent third-down threat almost anywhere on the field.

Mooney’s ceiling does appear to be capped as a No. 2 though because of his size limitations. He’s not going to be a consistent winner on contested balls, and if anything he struggled a tad more with drops in ‘21 than he did as a rookie.

But he posted 1,040 yards and a 13 yards a catch average with more than half of his catches (49 of 81) for 1st downs. Other than improving 60-minute focus to decrease his drops, there‘s not a lot more you’d ask of a No. 2 receiver.

Negatives: Allen Robinson’s fall from grace.

Certainly Robinson was disappointed and frustrated by his inability to get a new contract, but once he was tagged and guaranteed $18 million, he quickly accepted the tender and appeared ready to go out and earn an even bigger deal this year.

When Andy Dalton went down just five quarters into the season, Robinson became the forgotten man.

Robinson was targeted 11 times by Dalton in the opener vs. the Rams. Over the next four games with Fields, Robinson was targeted four, six, three and five times by Fields. He was targeted more than six times only once the rest of the season (seven in the first Packers game.)

Goodwin and Byrd never made a difference. Goodwin dealt with various nagging injuries. Whether it was Fields’ inability to run the offense or they just aren’t good enough is hard to say, probably a little bit of both.

Defining moments: 1. Over four days from the Nov. 21 last-second loss to the Ravens, 16-13, followed by Thanksgiving that week, which brought the last-second win over the Lions, 16-14, Mooney posted back-to-back 100 yard games, setting him up to reach the 1,000-yard mark on the season.

2. In Week 9, a Monday night in Pittsburgh, Fields appeared to finally discover what he had in Robinson, finding him four times for 68 yards, including a 39-yard bomb down the right sideline with 2:00 left to play that set up what appeared at the time to be the winning score two plays later.

But Robinson injured his hamstring on the play and was out for the next three games. He returned against the Packers and then missed two more December games with COVID-19.

Contract status: Robinson, Goodwin and Byrd are all free agents again. Mooney, Newsome, Nsimba Webster and Isaiah Coulter are the only wideouts currently under contract.

Grade: D.

Plan: With Mooney the only legit NFL receiver on the roster, general manager Ryan Poles biggest challenge in his rookie year is to completely rebuild this group. It seems certain he will have to attack it in both free agency – Mike Williams, Christian Kirk, Sammy Watkins, Chris Godwin, Will Fuller are all names to watch – and the draft.

If they are unable to or choose not to re-sign Robinson, which looks like an awfully tough putt anyway, No.1 wideout is one of the strongest groups in free agency this year, and, along with edge rushers, the greatest strength of the draft.

If the Bears don’t use at least their second- or third-round draft choice on a wideout, it will be a real shock.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush was the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.