Mooney strives to build on breakout rookie year

Staley Da Bear

Well-known member
Mar 16, 2019

In the season finale against the Packers, Mooney established career highs with 11 receptions and 93 yards. But the 5-11, 174-pounder suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter that kept him from playing a week later in the Bears' wild card playoff loss to the Saints.

Mooney's emergence as a rookie was even more impressive given that it came after all offseason practices and preseason games were cancelled due to COVID-19.

"The thing that stood out to me was his durability, up until that last game there when he got hurt," said coach Matt Nagy. "He got hurt with extra effort in that previous game, so you love that about him. He's really tough."

The Bears liked what they saw from Mooney in training camp. But with no preseason games, they really didn't know what to expect heading into their season opener against the Lions.

"We weren't sure going into that Detroit game how he was going to be able to hold up physically and mentally," Nagy said. "I'd say the very first thing is that he aced that test."

Mooney's playing time steadily increased throughout the season. He played 32, 60, 62 and 74 percent of the Bears' offensive snaps the first four weeks and later lined up for at least 74 percent of the snaps in nine straight games from Weeks 7-16.

"We just kept giving him more and more and more," Nagy said. "Now it's our job to make sure that as we go into this season, we make sure that he gets a lot of opportunities.

"He's a threat in this offense, and what he's doing out here right now in OTAs, he's literally gotten even better. He has that inner drive. It's that DNA thing that not everybody has. But he has it and we're lucky."

As Mooney gains more experience, the Bears are confident that he'll develop a deeper understanding of the game.

"Last year he really knew his route," Nagy said. "Now I want him to know the whole concept within the play. I always remember coach [David] Culley when he was in Philadelphia talking about Terrell Owens and T.O. always knowing the whole play. He knew when he was getting the ball pre-snap and he knew when he wasn't getting the ball.

"I think taking it to that level for Darnell is going to be really important, and I'm seeing him adjust his routes to certain coverages. He did that last year, but now it's going to be, 'Hey, pre-snap, I know I'm getting this football.' And that's really what we want all of our wideouts and tight ends to get to."