I had one friend tell me that the Chicago Bears were going to make the playoffs, but he also said they would go 13-3.
Needless to say, the record prediction was extreme.
The Bears did manage to make a late-season push, and with some help, make the playoffs.
Now it is time to run it back, and there is no reason to believe they can’t.
I know one way they can ensure a return to the playoffs and it rhymes with Reshaun Datson.
— WOLFE ???? (@WhatsWolfe) February 4, 2021
The Texans want first-round picks, defensive starters, and probably a replacement QB.
Wouldn’t it be beautiful to see Watson and Trubisky switch teams after the Bears passed on Watson in the 2017 Draft?
If we look past the QB situation, the Bears have a couple of rookies that impressed me last season.
These are the two players I want to focus on as breakout players in the 2021 season.
If they can take the next step and become elite starters, we can definitely see the Bears back in the playoffs.
1: WR Darnell Mooney
TE Cole Kmet will get an honorable mention here, but my focus is on WR Darnell Mooney.
Both of them were rookies in 2020, but the door for Mooney is wide open to become a star.
Mooney has the ability to line up in any spot on offense which means he should be getting a lot of carries and targets.
Unfortunately, this is the Bears and Matt Nagy is calling the plays (up until November 13th when he handed that duty over to Bill Lazor).
Mooney only saw double-digit targets in 2 games and had 4 carries the entire season, and 3 of them came after Lazor took over play-calling.
In total, Mooney had 61 receptions on 98 targets for 631 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Now that Nagy has taken a step back, this should give us hope that Mooney will become a much bigger piece of the offense.
Another reason would be WR Allen Robinson is heading out the door very soon.
With the Bear’s top WR gone, and potentially WR Anthony Miller as well, it opens the door for Mooney to take over.
Even if Miller and Robinson stayed with the team, Lazor and Nagy need to find a way to get Mooney more involved in the offense.
Most missed tackles forced on catches among rookies:
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 3, 2021
I can’t “bear” the thought of another great talent being wasted in Chicago.
2: CB Jaylon Johnson
It is extremely difficult to be a starting CB in the NFL in your rookie season.
It is even tougher when the offseason is destroyed by COVID-19 and you are in a Bears-style defense.
Rookie Jaylon Johnson was asked to do this in 2020 and impressed everyone.
AbsolUTE dominance.@NBAxJay1‘s been puttin’ the clamps on ‘em since day 1⃣.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 28, 2021
I can’t sit here and say he was a lockdown corner the entire season.
He had zero interceptions but tied for 9th in the league with 15 pass breakups.
A huge benefit for Jaylon was he had CB Kyle Fuller to help him along his rookie journey.
Fuller is an underrated CB in the NFL and might even crack the top 10.
Unfortunately for the Bears, Fuller has a $20M cap hit with $9M in dead money.
As we have seen, the Bears are not afraid to cut players if they are too expensive (cut Floyd, Amukamara, Long, and Gabriel in 2019).
This will thrust Johnson into the CB1 role if the Bears cut Fuller.
Trial by fire is the best way to get everything out of your young players in my opinion.
Jaylon Johnson: 14 forced incompletions this season
Led all rookies DBs ❌ ???? pic.twitter.com/MvGTTS1GNe
— PFF (@PFF) January 29, 2021
Johnson got to walk in 2020 and get a feel for NFL speed compared to college.
Now, it is time to run.