Through the first quarter of this NFL season, the Bears' 2020 draft class has looked fairly impressive. Second round picks Cole Kmet and Jaylon Johnson have already contributed quite a bit (Johnson especially), but it's been 5th-round receiver Darnell Mooney who's turned the vast majority of heads through the first three games. Talking with media on Wednesday afternoon, Matt Nagy explained when the Bears knew that Ryan Pace had found his latest late-draft steal.
Yeah, so, to tell you the truth, it was probably the first day we came out here in grass and actually watched him," he said. "And we knew, ‘OK, yeah, this one’s real.’ It was pretty neat to see, because you see it on tape, and you never really know.
"And that’s what’s so beautiful about the offseason, is that you’re able to see guys that you hit on or maybe you missed on. You get a feeling for it. And then in training camp you have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to do. We didn’t have that, so the first time we got to training camp, and we saw the way that he ran routes and the way that he caught, his personality, the next question was, ‘OK, great. Looks good in shorts and a t-shirt, but what about when pads come on?’ And then the pads came on, and he kept doing it."
So far, Mooney has modest numbers. – 8 catches, 93 yards, and one touchdown – but the rookie's already on the field for more snaps than any Bears' receiver who's not named Allen Robinson. After spending the last couple years trying to find a bonafide WR2, Nagy's cautiously optimistic that the search is over.
"And the other thing – this kid, like, he never gets tired. It’s unbelievable. The kid just runs and runs and runs," he added. "We had to pull back in training camp to not overcook his legs. And we did that. And I think what you’re seeing now is the next test. It’s ‘OK, we’re playing the Detroit Lions, game 1. Is the game going to be too big for him? Is he going to just start doing things different because the game’s’ … no, didn’t do it. So that’s probably why some more reps and more snaps and a guy that has just less reps than Allen Robinson is to his credit. This kid works hard ... on a day off, he’s walking over and trying to get jugs machines in. All the extra work that a lot of rookies don’t do, this kid’s doing it, like, every single day. It’s awesome. We like that, we want to keep that going."