Bear down, or Bears down bad?
The Bears' wide receiver corps is remade from its pretty bad 2021 state. With No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson heading west to the Rams, Chicago had work to do this offseason to give potential franchise passer Justin Fields more weapons.
Well, the group was given a facelift, for sure. Whether it will be helpful this season is a total unknown.
New general manager Ryan Poles has been busy bringing in wideouts to join Darnell Mooney: rookie Velus Jones Jr., free-agent signings Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown, and trade acquisition N'Keal Harry now fill out the room.
While it remains to be seen how the rankings fall, one thing seems certain: Mooney will enter the season as Chicago's top receiving target. After that, it's difficult to envision how rookie offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will deploy the other wideouts.
Here's how the Bears' wide receiver room shapes up.
Bears WR depth chart
Mooney figures to be the team's top wide receiver entering the regular season. After that, it's anyone's guess before preseason games are played.
1. Darnell Mooney
2021 stats: 17 games (14 starts), 81 receptions, 1,044 yards, four touchdowns.
Fields and Mooney showed promising signs of a connection last season. The sophomore receiver emerged as Fields' favorite target, with 33 of his 81 receptions in 2021 coming from the rookie passer.
Mooney is the only sure thing on the roster, and his versatility will help: he had 416 snaps in the slot and 553 out wide last year. Expect more volume for him in his third year in the league.
2. Equanimeous St. Brown
2021 stats: 13 games (two starts), nine receptions, 98 yards, no touchdowns.
St. Brown is familiar with the division. He started his career with the Packers, playing four years (missing one due to injury) and grabbing 37 passes for 543 yards and one touchdown in 37 games. A catch a game isn't bad, or something.
Chicago signed Brown to a one-year deal, so unless something goes very wrong in camp, he should make the team, too.
3. Tajae Sharp
2021 stats: 15 games (seven starts), 25 receptions, 230 yards, no touchdowns.
Sharp may be listed as the No. 3 here, but that won't last with the number of injuries in front of him on the depth chart (more on that below).
With Pringle, Jones and Harry all hurt, Sharp, who caught 25 passes for the Falcons in 2021, finds himself in a position to get some volume during the preseason.
If Sharpe shows out in preseason, there's a chance he makes the bottom of the room as a depth wideout, or as a veteran on the practice squad.
4. Dazz Newsome
2021 stats: N/A
Newsome was a 2021 sixth-round pick, splitting time between the practice squad and the active roster throughout the year. In all, he wasn't used at all in the pass game, spending time exclusively returning punts.
That "exclusive" time was very short: Newsome returned six punts in all last season over three games played in total.
Byron Pringle (Injured)
2021 stats: 17 games (five starts), 42 receptions, 568 yards, five touchdowns.
Pringle is entering his first season with the Bears after three seasons with the Chiefs, where he was used largely as a depth receiver behind Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman. He had his heaviest workload in 2021 as a kick returner and a receiver.
Pringle's ideal role in the Bears' offense is slot receiver, meaning he probably won't be the No. 2 receiver.
Unfortunately for the Bears and Pringle, the wideout suffered a quad injury that'll keep him out some time, so his acclimation with the new offense is going to take a small hit leading into the regular season. It's unclear how long he'll be out.
Velus Jones (Injured)
2021 stats: N/A (rookie)
Jones was the Bears' lone receiver selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. He's a 25-year-old rookie, which isn't exactly fatal to a career, but it's not reassuring, either.
Jones has great speed and should fit in as a stretch-the-field threat. Early camp reports have indicated as much. There are also reports of drop issues. Hopefully for Bears fans, those reports are overstated.
Jones was dealing with an undisclosed injury leading up to Chicago's first preseason game, but it doesn't sound too serious.
N'Keal Harry (Injured)
2021 stats: 12 games (four starts), 12 receptions, 184 yards, no touchdowns.
A first-round flameout with the Patriots, Harry was traded to Chicago for a conditional 2024 seventh-round pick. That's not much hope that he'll rekindle his career.
That last part is particularly important: Harry never lived up to his first-round billing in New England, so he will be something of a reclamation project with the Bears. Pairing him with a second-year passer isn't particularly enticing.
With the Bears' wide receiver room so thin, Harry had an opportunity to slide up the depth chart, until an ankle injury suffered during camp forced him to sit out for roughly two months.