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Chicago Bears Training Camp Preview: Wide Receivers

Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears

The Bears are counting on big things from second-year wide receiver Darnell Mooney

Let's cut to the chase: wide receiver will be the most important offensive position for the Chicago Bears in 2021 for a few reasons. There will be a new quarterback under center (Andy Dalton or Justin Fields), head coach Matt Nagy will be calling the plays once again, and some players need to step up their production. Furthermore, the Bears need to fill the void that Anthony Miller left behind after Chicago traded him (along with a seventh-round draft pick) to Houston for a fifth-round draft pick just before the start of training camp. Here is a look at all the wide receivers currently on the Bears' roster with training camp now underway.

Allen Robinson II

Robinson is the unquestioned No. 1 receiver in this group, but he'll be playing with a huge chip on his shoulder this year. Instead of getting a long-term deal after his contract expired after last season, the Bears placed the franchise tag on him. Now, while he will earn $17.8 million for this season, he's long deserved a long-term investment from the team. Since putting on the Bears uniform in 2018, Robinson has caught 255 passes for 3,151 yards and 17 touchdowns.

He's averaged 12.4 yards per catch, all while playing with four different mediocre quarterbacks and an often-banged-up offensive line. If he has another monster season this year, either the Bears will need to pony up or Robinson will find his payday elsewhere.

Related: Chicago Bears 2021 Preview

Darnell Mooney

The second-year man out of Tulane earned his spot as the Bears' slot receiver last year. He caught 61 balls for 631 yards (10.3 ypr) and four touchdowns, while 20 rushing yards for good measure. His speed and route running had some scouts grading him higher than the fifth round, where the Bears selected him with the 173rd overall pick. And with Anthony Miller gone, Mooney will need to be more productive in Year 2 in order for the Bears' offense to be successful.

Marquise Goodwin

This eight-year veteran will get the first crack at grabbing Miller's starting spot based on experience alone. He last played for San Francisco in 2019, as he opted out of last year due to the pandemic. But before that, Goodwin amassed 140 receptions for 2,323 yards and 13 touchdowns for Buffalo (2013-16) and San Francisco (2017-19). He also averaged 21.3 yards per kickoff return during his first three years in the league. He'll also be looked to for leadership with so many younger guys in training camp.

Riley Ridley

The 2019 draft pick from Georgia has bounced back and forth between the practice squad and the active roster. He's appeared in 10 NFL games so far but only has 10 receptions and 108 receiving yards to show for it. The Bears were hoping Ridley, whose brother Calvin plays for the Falcons, would provide depth at the position when called upon, but he has not fulfilled his potential yet. With Anthony Miller in Houston, this is Ridley's chance to step up and be a regular contributor for this offense. He needs to have a strong preseason if he wants to stick around in September.

Javon Wims

The 224th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft has had slightly more production than Ridley (28 rec., 266 yds., 2 TDs in 33 career games) but still hasn't convinced everyone that he can start in this league. It certainly didn't help that he received a two-game suspension for throwing a punch in the Week 8 loss to New Orleans last year and dropped what should have been a surefire touchdown in the postseason loss to the Saints. Like Ridley, Wims must also deliver this August, or else he could be shown the door.

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Dazz Newsome

Perhaps making Ridley and Wims nervous is the Bears' sixth-round choice in this year's draft out of UNC. Newsome began training camp on the PUP list after suffering a broken collarbone during minicamp, but he has since been cleared to practice. The Bears drafted him in the hopes of upgrading the bench, which is a bigger need now with Miller's departure. Newsome caught 188 passes in Chapel Hill for 2,435 yards (13.0 ypr) and 18 touchdowns, while adding 679 return yards for good measure. If Newsome delivers as advertised during practice, Wims and Ridley will be looking over their shoulders.

Damiere Byrd

Entering his sixth NFL season, Byrd hopes to turn his production from the last two seasons into a roster spot with the Bears. Between Arizona (2019) and New England (2020), Byrd recorded 79 receptions for 963 receiving yards (12.2 ypr), and two touchdown receptions. Those numbers alone give him a leg up on other players on this list, but his performance on the field will solidify his spot. His one-year, $1.13 million deal includes $387,500 in guarantees.

Justin Hardy

If anyone knows about receiver depth, it's Hardy. He didn't play last year but spent the five seasons prior catching passes from Matt Ryan in Atlanta. He mostly came off the bench with the Falcons but made the most of his chances as evidenced by his 95 career catches for 946 yards with nine touchdowns. Now entering his age-30 season, Hardy needs to display the consistency he showed in Atlanta in order to find a spot with the Bears. His one-year, $895,000 deal has just $90,000 in guarantees.

Rodney Adams

If anyone has the biggest uphill climb to make this roster, it's Adams. Chosen by the Vikings in the fifth round of the 2017 Draft, he never saw the field, as he was on the practice squad as a rookie. Then from 2018 to 2020, he bounced back from the Colts' practice squad to the reserve/retired list, before ultimately being released. With no games under his belt, Adams will have to work his up way from the very bottom if he wants to impress this coaching staff.

Thomas Ives

After signing as an undrafted free agent out of Colgate in 2019, this Chicago-area native has been on the Bears' practice squad for the last two seasons. He offers size (6-4) and ran a 4.40 40 at his pro day but after not sniffing the active roster the last two seasons, he'll need more than a good showing to make the team. With Anthony Miller gone and the uncertainty surrounding Ridley, Wims, and a few others, this could be Ives' chance to finally stand out. 

Chris Lacy

After bouncing back and forth between the active rosters and practice squads for New England, Detroit, and Dallas over the last three seasons (3 career catches), Lacy is looking for a new start with the Bears. He has an intriguing combination of size (6'3") and speed (4.51 40) but will have to navigate a very crowded depth chart in order to get that new start.

Jon'Vea Johnson

Johnson has spent his first two seasons on either the Cowboys' injured reserve or practice squad, and after getting let go by Jacksonville following minicamps earlier this year, Johnson is also hoping to hit the reset button in the Windy City. The former Toledo Rocket is a tad undersized at 6'0", 192, and like Lacy, he also has plenty of work ahead of him to achieve that.

Jester Weah

Weah is another player who has yet to appear in a regular-season game. He spent time on Houston's practice squad in 2018 and was briefly promoted to Washington's active roster in December 2019 but did not appear in a game. After Washington cut him in September 2020, the former Pitt Panther spent the remainder of the season unsigned. Weah comes from a long line of soccer players, including his uncle George, a former FIFA Player of the Year and the current president of Liberia.