Bear down or Bears down bad?
The Bears’ wide receiver corps has been restored from its rather poor state of 2021. With No. 1 wide receiver Allen Robinson going west to the Rams, Chicago had work to do this offseason to give would-be franchise passer Justin Fields more guns.
Well, the group has definitely had a facelift. Whether it will be helpful this season is entirely unknown.
New general manager Ryan Poles has been busy bringing wideouts to Darnell Mooney: rookie Velus Jones Jr., free-agent signings Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown, and trade acquisition N’Keal Harry now fill the space .
While it remains to be seen how the rankings drop, one thing seems certain: Mooney will go into the season as Chicago’s top receiving target. After that, it’s hard to imagine how rookie offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will use the other wideouts.
MORE: Bears 2022 schedule – Every game, date and time for Chicago’s season
This is how the wide receiver room of the bears is formed.
Bears WR depth chart
Mooney appears to be the team’s best wide receiver going into the regular season. After that, it’s anyone’s guess before preseason games get played.
1. Darnell Mooney
Statistics 2021: 17 games (14 starts), 81 receptions, 1,044 yards, four touchdowns.
Fields and Mooney showed promising signs of connection last season. The sophomore receiver proved Fields’ favorite target, with 33 of his 81 receptions in 2021 coming from the rookie passer.
Mooney is the only sure thing on the list, 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. Calm St. Brown
Statistics 2021: 13 games (two starts), nine receptions, 98 yards, no touchdowns.
St. Brown is familiar with the division. He began his career with the Packers, where he played for four years (missed once through injury) and 37 passes for 543 yards and a touchdown in 37 games. A tag game isn’t bad or anything.
Chicago signed Brown on a one-year deal, so unless something goes terribly wrong at camp, he should make the team too.
3. Tajae sharp
Statistics 2021: 15 games (seven starts), 25 receptions, 230 yards, no touchdowns.
Sharp may be listed as #3 here, but that won’t last with the number of injuries ahead of him on the depth chart (more on that below).
With Pringle, Jones and Harry all injured, Sharp, who caught 25 passes for the Falcons in 2021, is poised to get some volume preseason.
If Sharpe shows up in preseason, chances are he’ll be at the bottom of the room as a deep wideout or a veteran on the practice team.
4. Dazz Newsome
Statistics 2021: N / A
A 2021 sixth-round pick, Newsome split time between the practice team and the active roster throughout the year. Overall, he was not used at all in the passing game and spent his time solely returning punts.
That “exclusive” period was very brief: Newsome returned six punts in three games played all of last season.
Byron Pringle (injured)
Statistics 2021: 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 primarily used as a depth receiver behind Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman. His heaviest workload came in 2021 as a kick returner and receiver.
Pringle’s ideal role on the Bears offense is slot receiver, which means he probably won’t be the No. 2 receiver.
Unfortunately for the Bears and Pringle, the wideout suffered a quad injury that will keep him out for some time, so his adjustment to the new offense will take a minor hit leading into the regular season. How long he will be out is unclear.
Velus Jones (injured)
Statistics 2021: N/A (Beginner)
Jones was the Bears’ only receiver pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. He’s a 25-year-old rookie, which isn’t exactly fatal for a career, but it’s not reassuring either.
Jones has great speed and should fit as a stretch the field threat. Early camp reports have indicated this. There have also been reports of drop issues. Hopefully these reports are exaggerated for Bears fans.
Jones was struggling with an undisclosed injury prior to Chicago’s first preseason game, but it doesn’t sound too serious.
MORE: Recap of the Bears’ 2022 draft
N’Keal Harry (injured)
Statistics 2021: 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 seventh-round pick in 2024. That’s not much hope that he’ll revive his career.
That last part is particularly important: Harry never lived up to his first-round billing in New England, so he’s going to be something of a winback project with the bears. Pairing him with a second-year passer is not particularly enticing.
Because the Bears’ wide receiver space was so tight, Harry had the opportunity to slide up the depth chart until an ankle injury sustained during camp forced him to sit out about two months.