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Bears 2021 position preview: Wide receiver

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The following is the third of nine position previews in advance of training camp.

Bears teammates showed their appreciation for receivers Allen Robinson II and Darnell Mooney last year by voting them the veteran and rookie winners of the prestigious Brian Piccolo Award.

Robinson and Mooney certainly showed their value on the field in 2020—combining for 163 receptions, 1,881 yards and 10 touchdowns—and return in 2021 to lead a deep receiving corps.

Robinson is a highly respected team leader who is entering his eighth NFL season and fourth with the Bears. After spending four years with the Jaguars, Robinson signed with the Bears in 2018. The Penn State product has appeared in 45 games over three seasons in Chicago, catching 255 passes for 3,151 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Robinson had 55 receptions for 754 yards and four touchdowns in 2018 and followed with 98 catches for 1,147 yards and seven TDs in 2019. Last season he hauled in a career-high 102 passes for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns. The 102 receptions were the sixth most in the NFL last year and tied for the second most in Bears history.

"I don't think I truly understood the full impact that 'A-Rob' has on the team," offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who joined the Bears last season, said in April, "until I was here and able to be with him every single day on the practice field and every single day in the meeting room, to watch how Allen Robinson affects his teammates and to watch how Allen inspires his teammates with his knowledge of the game, his work ethic and his professionalism."

Mooney, meanwhile, will look to build on a breakout rookie season. The Bears traded up in the fifth round of last year's draft to select the Tulane product, who emerged as an impact player even after all offseason workouts and preseason games were canceled due to COVID-19.

One of the most pleasant surprises for the Bears in 2020, Mooney set a franchise record for most receptions by a rookie wide receiver with 61 while amassing 631 yards and four touchdowns.

"When you turn on the tape—regardless of whether it's a practice or game—you feel his conviction and passion on every play," receivers coach Mike Furrey said in April. "He came in as a rookie, yet his professionalism and leadership by example has influenced those of more established years in the NFL."

WR Darnell Mooney had a breakout rookie year in 2020, catching 61 passes in his first NFL season. Where do his 61 receptions rank all-time among Bears rookies? Take a look through the list to find out.

Speed infused into offense

The Bears added depth and increased competition at the receiver position during the offseason by signing speedy veteran free agents Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd.

Goodwin has appeared in 75 NFL games with 40 starts over seven seasons with the Bills (2013-16) and 49ers (2017-19), catching 140 passes for 2,323 yards and 13 touchdowns. He opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns as a member of the Eagles.

Goodwin was selected by the Bills in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Texas. The 5-9, 180-pounder later signed with the 49ers and had his best season in his first year in San Francisco in 2017, starting all 16 games and catching 56 passes for 962 yards and two touchdowns.

Goodwin represented the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games as a long jumper. He competed in the event at the Olympic Trials this summer but failed to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

Byrd has appeared in 44 NFL games with 20 starts over five seasons with the Panthers (2016-18), Cardinals (2019) and Patriots (2020), catching 91 passes for 1,092 yards and four touchdowns. The 5-9, 180-pounder has also averaged 25.2 yards on 14 kickoff returns with one touchdown and 8.1 yards on 14 punt returns.

Byrd entered the NFL in 2015 with the Panthers as an undrafted free agent from South Carolina. Three of his four career touchdowns came in back-to-back games late in the 2017 season. He returned a kickoff 103 yards for a score in a 22-19 win over the Buccaneers and followed a week later with TD receptions of 9 and 13 yards from Cam Newton in a 31-24 victory over the Packers.

Last season in New England, Byrd established career highs with 16 games played, 14 starts, 47 receptions and 604 yards.

The Bears added another new receiver in the NFL Draft when they selected Dazz Newsome in the sixth round out of North Carolina.

Newsome appeared in 43 games over four seasons for the Tar Heels, catching 188 passes for 2,435 yards and 18 touchdowns. The 5-10, 185-pounder had a breakout junior year in 2019, establishing career highs in all receiving categories with 72 receptions, 1,018 yards and 10 TDs. Last year he followed with 54 catches for 684 yards and six TDs.

Newsome is especially dangerous in the slot and is adept at gaining yards after the catch. That type of natural ability also helps Newsome on special teams. Over the last three seasons, he averaged 11.1 yards on 48 punt returns, including a 75-yard touchdown against Syracuse in 2018.

Looking to take next step

The Bears' receiving corps also features three young veterans with something to prove in Anthony Miller, Javon Wims and Riley Ridley.

A 2018 second-round pick from Memphis, Miller has caught 134 passes for 1,564 yards and 11 touchdowns while appearing in 47 games with 17 starts in three seasons. But he has not performed with enough consistency and showed a lack of discipline when he was ejected from last season's playoff loss to the Saints after punching safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

Miller and the rest of the Bears' receiving corps had been warned not to let Gardner-Johnson goad them into a penalty. In a Week 8 defeat to New Orleans, Wims had been ejected for punching Gardner-Johnson.

Speaking of Wims, the 2018 seventh-round pick from Georgia has caught 28 passes for 266 yards and two TDs while appearing in 33 games with seven starts the past three seasons. Last year he played in 13 contests with one start and caught six passes for 48 yards and one TD.

Ridley, a 2019 fourth-round pick who teamed with Wims at Georgia, has appeared in only 10 games in two seasons with the Bears, catching 10 passes for 108 yards.

Others in the running

Other receivers who will compete for roster spots in training camp and the preseason are Rodney Adams, Thomas Ives, Chris Lacy, Jester Weah and undrafted rookie Khalil McClain.

Lacy is the only one in that group to catch a pass in an NFL regular-season game; he had three receptions for 60 yards while appearing in eight contests with two starts for the Lions in 2018-19.

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