While the rest of his teammates were showering and getting ready to celebrate a win, Bears receiver Darnell Mooney walked out on the turf of Soldier Field minutes after Sunday’s game. A Bears employee followed with a pitching machine and fired footballs at Mooney, who was still in full uniform.
The receiver was frustrated after the game, in which he had a drop. He told quarterback Justin Fields that perhaps the quarterback locked in on him too often, trying to get him the ball in a season in which he has only four catches on 11 targets. Mooney, though, blamed himself and not the Bears’ offense.
“I didn’t think I helped out as much as I planned to,” Mooney said.
None of the Bears receivers have. For all the attention given the Bears’ play-calling and Fields’ inability to operate it smoothly, there’s been a disturbing realization the Bears’ receiving room might be even more pedestrian than first thought. And it was considered one of the league’s least impressive before the Bears ever played a game.
It somehow got even worse Tuesday, when the Bears put Byron Pringle, the prize of general manager Ryan Poles’ first free agency swing, on injured reserve with a calf injury. He’ll be out at least four weeks.
The Bears knew this could be coming. Only three teams spent less than the Bears’ $11.2 million on wide receivers this season. Between now and the trade deadline, though, Poles should scout the market for a jolt at the position.
Receiver has never been a more important position in the league — teams will likely only part with players who are bad fits or are overpaid. Giants receiver Kenny Golladay, a Chicago native, qualifies as both. But even he might be needed by the Bears’ Sunday opponent; the Giants put receiver Sterling Shepard on IR with a knee injury.
Help isn’t on the way for the Bears — unless you consider that help to be rookie receiver Reggie Roberson Jr., whom they signed to the practice squad Wednesday.
“Whenever you lose a starter –or a player like that, that’s a good blocker and certainly stands for everything we believe in– that certainly hurts,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “And guys are gonna have to step into that role and share that role as well.”
“Well, we’ve only got so many guys, right?” Eberflus said.
The Bears are left with two healthy receivers who have caught more than one pass this season (Mooney and Equanimeous St. Brown), one with one 51-yard catch (Dante Pettis) and another, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who has played eight offensive snaps. N’Keal Harry, for whom Poles gave up a 2024 seventh-round pick in a July trade, has been on the IR since the start of the season. He’s eligible to return starting next week, though Eberflus has given no indication that his return is imminent.
The Bears have been left to pine for rookie Velus Jones, who could make his NFL debut Sunday against the Giants after missing most of the preseason — and the first three games — with a hamstring injury. He was limited in practice Wednesday, leaving Eberflus to say it would be “difficult” to know how much he can handle in a game situation.
“My heart, my head, my soul is in it,” Jones said. “But if my hammy’s not in it, that’s an issue.”
Expecting Jones to be in sync with Fields after so much time away is folly — even if Jones said he’s been “manifesting” what that might look like.
“I can help him out a lot,” Jones said. “That’s why they drafted me early in the third round.”
At this point, anything would help.
“We can definitely use him,” Fields said.