Why Darnell Mooney impressed Ryan Poles from Day 1

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Ryan Poles and the Bears front office had a lot to do this offseason once they got everyone in place. He admitted on Tuesday that they were a couple of weeks behind schedule, as they sorted through free agency and the upcoming draft. But now, Poles says his team is all caught up, and that includes taking a look at the roster he inherited.

When discussing the team as it’s currently constituted, Poles often spoke in broad strokes, or by lumping position groups together. But he did single out one player in his praise.

“Bright spot was Darnell Mooney,” Poles said. “As guys have come in to workout, we've had the opportunity just to introduce each other and he stopped in and I was really blown away by the person.

“He’s got a quiet confidence about him, and he’s hungry to be special. I’m always looking for guys that keep raising their own bar in terms of where they want to go. He just wants to be special, and you can feel that in him.”

Poles respected how Mooney didn’t let being drafted in the fifth round negatively affect him. He just came into Halas Hall to play to the best of his abilities every day, developing into a reliable wide receiver fairly quickly. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t take long for Mooney to become a regular contributor on offense, especially when you remember he was a fifth-round pick. In Week 4 of his rookie season, Mooney played on 74% of the Bears offensive snaps, and was targeted nine times. His production spiked up and dipped down throughout 2020, as one would expect for a rookie. But by Week 1 of his sophomore season, he was clearly one of the top options on offense. By the end of Week 17, he had crossed the 1,000-yard threshold, and was by far and away the team’s leading receiver.

The production is nice, but again, it’s Mooney’s mentality that impresses Poles the most. It’s also a bit of a template for the type of player Poles wants to be the new prototypical Bear.

“I think we’ve all been around people that just want to be the absolute best that they can be, and it’s contagious, and it gives you energy,” Poles said. “It gives you hope, and it shows me that we’ve gotta keep getting guys like that, and keep adding them to the roster. Because if everyone has that mentality, and they keep pushing each other, then all of a sudden the team starts to raise the bar, and the standard. Then it’s wins, then the division, then it’s going for championships.”

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