Chicago Bears training camp is less than a month away, which means it’s time to start looking ahead at the roster the team is bringing to Lake Forest.
We continue with the wide receivers, who are either going to shock people or be very underwhelming. There’s no in-between. With the loss of Allen Robinson this offseason, Darnell Mooney will officially be the top wide receiver for Justin Fields. With the quiet addition of Byron Pringle and the selection of rookie Velus Jones Jr, there are many questions going into training camp.
This is arguably the weakest wide receiver room the Bears have had since 2017. Still, before counting out this group, they need to play on the field. We’ll get a taste of that during training camp.
Let’s take a look at the wide receivers heading into training camp.
AP Photo/Duane Burleson
Darnell Mooney, a man who quickly turned into a fan favorite during his rookie season, is headed into his third season. Last year, he cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career.
The relationship Mooney has with Justin Fields is special. He was Fields’ go-to guy, and after an offseason of those two working out together, there should be some major improvements.
Mooney has big shoes to fill, filling Allen Robinson’s spot, after he was Mitchell Trubisky’s target for three seasons. With Robinson now with the Rams, Mooney goes into training camp as the clear WR1.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Despite a rocky start to his Bears’ career off the field, Byron Pringle was Ryan Poles’ “top” wide receiver signing this offseason. Coming from the Chiefs, who are loaded on offense, Pringle only started in eight games over three seasons.
Though he only started in eight games, Pringle played in 46, catching 67 passes for 898 yards and seven touchdowns. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but a fresh start in Chicago could turn his career around.
It’s worth noting that Pringle was used more this past season than in his previous two. He was targeted by Patrick Mahomes 60 times, with 42 catches for 568 yards. As he is likely coming in to be Fields’ second option, he will see more opportunities to be successful than he did last year in Kansas City.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Velus Jones Jr., the only wide receiver the Bears drafted this offseason, is slotted in currently as the third wide receiver on the depth chart going into training camp. Last season at Tennessee, Jones had 62 receptions for 807 yards and seven touchdowns.
What is concerning about Jones is his age. He’s 25 years old going into training camp, an older age for a rookie. It took him until five seasons to be a successful wide receiver in college, with only 58 catches for 627 yards between 2017-2020, (four seasons). Despite the concerns, there’s a lot of excitement surrounding Jones. He has a chance to be a draft steal and help Fields out, a lot, on offense.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Former division rival, Equanimeous St. Brown, is now a Bear. St. Brown played in 37 games over the last three seasons for the Packers, catching 37 passes for 543 yards and one touchdown.
St. Brown has been a depth wide receiver for the Packers, having a decent career, so far. He found a lot of success as a rookie but never built on it after missing the 2019 season, due to an ankle injury. It’ll be interesting to see how the Bears use St. Brown. We’ll have a better idea as training camp comes around.
The Bears added another veteran wideout in Dante Pettis this offseason. He spent two full seasons with the 49ers, before being traded mid-season in 2020 to the Giants. Pettis played well during his rookie season in 2018, catching 27 passes for 467 yards and five touchdowns. Since his rookie season, he has just 21 catches over three seasons.
A change of scenery may be all the 26-year-old wide receiver needs heading into 2022, and he has a good chance to lock down one of those final receiver roster spots.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Five-year veteran Tajae Sharpe joined the Bears this offseason after one year with the Falcons. Before his time in Atlanta, Sharpe played for the Titans and Vikings.
In 2021, Sharpe had 25 catches for 230 yards. In his career, Sharpe has 117 catches for 1,397 yards and eight touchdowns. Those aren’t awful numbers, taking a look at his 11.9 yards per catch. If he can find the same success he did with the Titans, this would be a good signing by Poles. Like Pettis, he has a good chance to make the final roster.
AP Photo/Stacy Bengs
Dazz Newsome didn’t see much playing time in his rookie season. In just three games, Newsome had two catches for 23 yards. In his second season, Newsome has a chance to play more, with a chance to make the roster given uncertainty on the depth chart.
Newsome came into last year with some excitement, after a solid college career at North Carolina. With a chance to play more this season, there’s a chance he could make a push for a roster spot in an otherwise unproven receiving corp.
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David Moore comes to Chicago, after playing with both the Broncos and Packers last season. In his two games, he had zero catches. Despite the lack of success in 2021, Moore played well in four seasons with the Seahawks. In his Seahawks career, Moore had 78 catches for 1,163 yards and 13 touchdowns. If he can bounce back after a tough 2021, this could turn into a solid signing for the Bears.
(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
Chris Finke is another depth player who is yet to see action in the NFL after a five-year college career at Notre Dame. Finke was with the Chiefs last season. Finke had 106 catches for 1,251 yards and eight touchdowns in his college career. He’ll be competing for one of those final two wide receiver spots.
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Nsimba Webster joined the Bears last season, after two years with the Rams. Webster returned four punts for 13 yards last season in Chicago. He’ll be vying for one of those final roster spots at wide receiver, where his special teams ability would give him an advantage. But he faces a tall task locking down one of those final two spots.
AP Photo/James Kenney
Undrafted free agent Kevin Shaa will join the Bears for training camp this season. Shaa had a solid college career with 82 catches for 1,364 yards and 12 touchdowns over his four years at Liberty. Shaa will go into training camp looking for a roster spot. At best, he surprises the coaching and earns a depth role on the team. At worst, he can earn a spot on the practice squad if he’s not cut. No risk for Chicago with potentially a high reward.
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
Isaiah Coulter goes into his second year with the Bears after spending his rookie season in Houston. Coulter has been a practice squad player for the Bears, but did suit up for three games last season. Coulter had just one target against the Lions in 2021. Outside of that, he hasn’t seen much NFL action, outside of preseason.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Outside Darnell Mooney, the Bears are going to need other wide receivers to step up this season, especially as Mooney will be the focus of double teams. Bryon Pringle and Velus Jones Jr. have the potential to be just that.
Pringle had a huge jump in production last season with the Chiefs. He’ll likely start the regular season slotted as the second wide receiver on the depth chart, so he will see the most playing time he has in his NFL career. The chances will be there for Pringle, he just has to make the most of them, to step up and help second-year quarterback, Justin Fields.
Then there’s Jones, Chicago’s third-round pick, who has the potential to make a significant impact as a rookie. He’s impressed during the offseason program with his speed and run-after-the-catch ability, and there’s a belief he can develop into a true playmaker.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
We’re unveiling our Bears 2022 training camp position previews, where we’re breaking down every player by position and examining the biggest question facing the group.
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