Bears' wide receivers were not the problem with passing game

  • Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) is congratulated by wide receiver Allen Robinson (12) after scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Chicago.

    Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) is congratulated by wide receiver Allen Robinson (12) after scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Chicago. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/23/2021 9:17 PM

Fifth in a series

So much has been made of the Bears' issues at quarterback and tight end in recent years that at times the wide receiver group has felt like an afterthought.

 

More time was spent discussing Allen Robinson's contract than his performance. We've invested more conversation in Anthony Miller's maturity, or lack thereof, than his ability. Ted Ginn was a lottery ticket with no payout.

We continued to puzzle over who Riley Ridley ticked off badly enough to keep him from dressing most Sundays, and whether Javon Wims has more lives than a cat. We remain somewhat amazed Darnell Mooney was available when the Bears picked in the fifth round of the 2020 draft.

When it comes to ceilings and floors, these guys are all over the board.

Positives: Robinson enjoyed his second best season as a pro, removing any lingering doubt he is a No. 1 and a Top 10 receiver. At 27, he once again showed himself to be the most mature, well spoken, always present and available player on the team.

He posted the sixth best season for a Bears receiver in team history after notching the ninth best season last year.

Mooney, the 25th wideout taken in the draft, became the Bears' all-time leading rookie receiver with 61 catches and established himself as a legitimate No. 2 almost from day one of training camp.

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The promising aspect about Mooney is the Bears rarely took advantage of his 4.37 40-yard speed, but his route running, hands and short area quickness were outstanding.

Negatives: The Bears were unable or unwilling to work out a contract extension with Robinson, which left them at risk of losing -- minus compensation -- one of their most important players. It was a serious distraction for the first month of the season.

Miller continues to be a puzzle, demonstrating excellent hands and quickness, but he became somewhat of an afterthought as Mooney emerged. He continued to struggle with maturity, concentration and focus.

Why Ridley can't get on the field is puzzling. In his rare opportunities he made a few plays and looked like a threat to be a No. 2 or No. 3.

Miller's and Wims' performances and decisions in the two Saints games had a serious impact on the Bears' chances to win them. Those ejections could cost both players their jobs this offseason.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Defining moments: Two that stick our are the decision to draft Mooney in the fifth round, and the decision not to cut Wims after the first Saints game or mete out any additional punishment to him beyond the league mandated two-game suspension.

Miller's mistakes are his own, but would he have made the same mistake in the wild-card game had Wims not been given a pass?

Contract status: Obviously the Bears most serious contract issue -- other than being projected to be several million dollars over the cap before they sign anyone -- is that Robinson is now a free agent.

If Miller is still a Bear in 2021, it will be the final year of his contract.

Hub's grade: B. There is no denying the quality or impact of Robinson's and Mooney's seasons. Even accepting the limitations of the Bears offense at quarterback and on the offensive line, it is hard to understand why Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles weren't able to do more with those two on the field.

It is impossible to grade this group any higher because most of the time those top two got little or no help.

Hub's plan: Ryan Pace has to find a way to re-sign Robinson. No. 1 receivers don't grow on trees and usually require a first-round pick or, minimally, a No. 2. Those are picks the Bears need to address greater (or equal if they lose Robinson) needs at left tackle, quarterback and safety.

Matt Nagy needs to retool his offense to take greater advantage of Mooney's elite speed, and I would invest one more year in trying to get Miller to grow up because he does have some special traits.

If the Bears don't retain Robinson, the best available player in the first round will probably be a wideout and the Bears will have to take one.

Robinson is the top receiver in free agency. If they lose him, Sammy Watkins, Corey Davis, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Will Fuller are all worth a look.

• Twitter: @Hub_Arkush

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