Bears receiver Darnell Mooney unfazed by more attention from opponents’ defenses

Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney

LAKE FOREST – Darnell Mooney isn’t too worried that there are more eyes on him now.

The second-year Bears receiver has noticed that defensive players are paying closer attention to him since Allen Robinson has been out the past three games with a hamstring injury and Marquise Goodwin missed Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.

But there’s no pressure for Mooney.

He remembers what it was like being the top target when he was at Tulane, especially during his junior season when Ohio State had its eyes on him through social media.

So while it might seem daunting to have more attention on him, Mooney is used to it.

“I’ve always looked at myself as a threat, so I feel like I’ve gotten that quite a little bit,” Mooney said, “but there’s definitely more pointing and eyes on me ever since (Robinson) went out.”

Mooney finished with 61 receptions for 631 yards and four touchdowns during his rookie season. So far through 12 games this year, he has 51 receptions for 721 yards and three touchdowns.

In the past three games Robinson has missed, Bears quarterbacks targeted Mooney 31 times, and he finished with 15 receptions for 271 yards and a touchdown.

Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey has watched as Mooney has grown each week with more experience.

Mooney’s confidence has grown as well, and he’s starting to understand the game more, beyond just the playbook. The receiver said Tuesday that he spies things out before a play and sometimes wishes they’d run another play since he knows what’s coming.

Furrey has noticed that the thought process is there when Mooney decides to make a move and tries to get open. His game has evolved. When Mooney gets the ball in his hands, he’s now trying to take it the distance.

“Obviously, that’s a growth thing that you go through as a wideout when you get in this league, and he obviously has that now,” Furrey said.

Robinson has been a big help to Mooney’s evolution as a player. Mooney said that Robinson has been constantly helping him even during his hamstring injury. The Bears top receiver talks to Mooney a lot and points out to Mooney everything that he sees since Robinson has better vision out on the field.

Mooney tries to absorb as much as he can from Robinson, constantly asking him about what he can do in different scenarios and what Robinson sees out there on the field that Mooney is missing.

“He gives me wise words, and I’m happy that he’s helping me,” Mooney said.

Mooney has caught touchdown passes from four different Bears quarterbacks during his time in Chicago. Two of Mooney’s touchdown catches have come from Justin Fields this season.

Fields has missed the past two games after he suffered a rib injury against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 11, and Andy Dalton has taken all the reps in the meantime.

While many Bears fans want to see Fields and Mooney play together since many see them as the future of the Bears offense, Mooney is happy to get the ball from whoever throws it.

“My relationships are good with all the quarterbacks, from Justin to Andy to Nick (Foles),” Mooney said. “My relationship is very good with all of them. Whoever is throwing me the ball, I just have to do what I need to do.”

Mooney doesn’t really see himself as one type of receiver. He tries to bring the best out of every receiver into his own game as he still tries to learn how to excel in the NFL.

The receiver told reporters that he’s had a solid season. Now he’s just trying to improve each week and doesn’t mind the spotlight.

“I’m used to it a good bit, so I’m not really worried about it,” Mooney said. “I just play my game and whenever I have the opportunity to get the ball and do something with it I try to take advantage of it.”

Michal Dwojak

Michal Dwojak

Michal is an award-winning sports journalist based in Chicago. He most recently served as the sports editor of The Glenview Lantern and Northbrook Tower and is a graduate of the College of Media at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.