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Darnell Mooney “reminds me a lot of Allen Robinson” says Nagy

Notes & Quotes from today’s Chicago Bears presser, where Matt Nagy, Darnell Mooney, Deon Bush, and Tashaun Gipson spoke with the media

NFL Combine - Day 3 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

At today’s Zoom media presser, head coach Matt Nagy spoke about the team’s offensive skill positions and detailed how impressed he was with the Bears rookie wide receiver. Before answering any questions, he spoke on the recent news that former Bears player and coach Ron Rivera, currently the head coach of Washington, has been diagnosed with cancer. Nagy said that Rivera is “in our thoughts and prayers, along with his family. We’re all here in Chicago thinking about him, and we wish him the best.”

On the injury report, Nagy said that tight end Darion Clark, who signed a reserve contract this past offseason, has a shoulder injury and is out for the season. Josh Woods was revealed to have a groin injury, and although Nagy didn’t sound worried, he declined to provide a timetable for the injury. The big injury news was Akiem Hicks, who missed 11 games in 2019 while battling knee and elbow injuries and sat our practice today. Nagy revealed that the injury is minor, related to his quad, and the training staff turned it into a “vet day” as they “don’t want to make anything worse than what it is.”

When asked about Tarik Cohen’s performance in training camp, Nagy stated that he is impressed with how “dedicated” and “coachable” Cohen has been so far, and conceded that there were “some things we saw last year that we thought that he could do better.” He said that the later-round rookie draft picks are “all doing very well” even 7th-round draft picks Arlington Hambright and Lachavious Simmons, who new offensive line coach Juan Castillo feels are ready for the NFL already as opposed to “developmental.”

On the passing game, Nagy spoke about the benefit of having larger tight ends to throw to. Specifically referencing Jimmy Graham, rookie Cole Kmet, and former basketball player Demetrius Harris, who are all taller than 6’6”, Nagy described a taller tight end as an “extremely friendly target for a quarterback.” In addition to the tight ends he’s been impressed with, he lit up when speaking about his wide receivers, in particular 5th-round draft pick Darnell Mooney. Coach Nagy said that Mooney “reminds me a lot of Allen Robinson” in meetings, “asking very good questions.” Nagy said that Mooney is “very mature for his age.”

Mooney himself also spoke at today’s press conference, providing insight into his offseason workouts, respect earned at practice, and the quarterback competition. Sporting an orange WRLDINVSN pullover, and a smile that rarely leaves his face, he described the training camp so far from his perspective. On his trademark speed, he proudly stated that it causes defensive backs in practice to back off and give him extra space when lining up. More lightheartedly, he spoke on his speed rating in the upcoming Madden 21 video game, where he is ranked as the second fastest player on the Bears, ahead of Tarik Cohen. Mooney called the Madden rating “very accurate” and said that he “just got done talking to [Cohen] about that in the locker room.”

During the offseason, Mooney said he worked out with Allen Robinson and Javon “Juice” Wims in Tampa, FL. He was taken back by the Florida weather, saying “Tampa heat is crazy” and said that breathing that type of wind helped him train. The upcoming Buccaneers-Bears game on October 8 is in Chicago. Mooney described the difficulty of going up against the Bears “crazy good” defense in training camp. “We probably have the best defense in the league.”

When asked about the quarterback competition, Mooney said he was impressed by both quarterbacks so far in camp, and not surprisingly he stated that he sees them on equal footing so far in the competition. “I’m just glad I don’t have to make the decision.” He stated the biggest change from college to the NFL is coming from left-handed quarterback in Justin McMillan at Tulane to right-handed quarterback.

The Bears have two safeties competing for the starting spot opposite Eddie Jackson, and both spoke to the press today. First up was Deon Bush, wearing a blue pullover training jacket with the trademark C over the chest, was asked early about his “skirmish” with tight end Jimmy Graham on Tuesday, to which he admitted fault. “We’re supposed to stay up in that drill” and things apparently did get emotional in the scuffle. Bush shot down the possibility of lingering drama, calling Graham his “brother” and revealing that the two “worked out together, trained together the last three years.” He chalked it up to his competitive play style, saying “we compete in our Miami nature.”

On the subject of competing for a starting spot, Bush said he still had to “approach this year like every other year” and prepare “like I was trying to be the guy.” The difficulty, he said, lied in preparing for an NFL season during a national health crisis where facilities are closed. When asked where he trained this offseason, he said he worked out in the backyard with his cousin in Miami. The two of them “put a little weight room back there, had all our running stuff there” and were “getting it in right there in the middle of Miami.” He ended by praising his fellow safety Eddie Jackson, calling him “smart,” possessing “great ball skills” and a great teacher. The two have played together since Jackson was drafted in 2017.

After Deon Bush spoke, his competition for the starting safety spot Tashaun Gipson came up to the microphone computer screen. Clad in a white t-shirt with “BEARS” written in font similar to shutter glasses, Gipson opened by praising the “elite” defense he’s joined. He stating the unit exceeds even his own “sky high” expectations he had when he signed. He described his admiration seeing linebackers that run like safeties, his appreciation getting “up close and personal” with Kyle Fuller and Khalil Mack, and his respect seeing how nimble the Bears interior defensive linemen move. “There’s no reason that this defense shouldn’t be a top defense in the National Football League.”

Gipson had plenty to say about the Bears tight ends, starting with the difficulty of covering Jimmy Graham near the endzone. “He’s still the same Jimmy Graham who makes his hay in the redzone.” On the rookie tight end Cole Kmet, Gipson confidently predicted that “he’s going to be a star in this league.” The rookie tight end is a “bigger guy than you would probably imagine for a guy who can move and run like that,” according to Gipson.

To end, he stated that the competition is good for both him and Deon Bush, and hasn’t lost any confidence competing for a starting spot after starting 104 games already in his career. “I feel like I’m a week one starter, and I hope that Deon feels the same way.”