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Snap judgment: Bears WR Darnell Mooney rises in bigger role

A weekly look at how the Bears split up their playing time and what it means.

Mooney caught his first career touchdown pass in the first half against the Giants.
AP Photos

Bears coach Matt Nagy is reworking some of his plans for the offense on the fly, and the emergence of fifth-round pick Darnell Mooney is making his job easier. Mooney showed over the first two games he’s ready to contribute as a rookie, and Nagy rewarded him with about double the playing time during the 17-13 win over the Giants.

Mooney played 60% of the snaps Sunday after getting 32% the week before and was on the field more than any wide receiver other than Allen Robinson (82%).

He turned that into three catches on three targets for 36 yards and a touchdown. He has caught all six balls thrown to him this season and is averaging 12.3 yards per catch.

There seemed to be a correlation between Mooney’s rise and the Bears making veteran Ted Ginn inactive. Nagy said that was part of the equation, but vowed Ginn will still play a significant role in the offense.

Meanwhile, fellow wide receiver Anthony Miller continues to be an enigma in his third season.

Miller was the star of the opener despite playing just 42 percent of the snaps, and Nagy kept him close to that number with a 40% share of the playing time against the Giants. He played less than Javon Wims at 45%. Mitch Trubisky threw to Miller three times, but he had no catches.

Last season, when coaches openly talked about Miller’s shaky grasp of the playbook, he played 64% of the snaps.

Quinn wins

The Bears were opportunistic when it came to outside linebacker Robert Quinn’s debut, and that’s likely indicative of their philosophy with him for the season. Quinn is a pass rusher, plain and simple, and there’s not much point in wearing down his energy in non-passing situations.

The Giants’ opening drive was telling, as the Bears used Barkevious Mingo (42% of the snaps) the first two plays before turning to Quinn on third down. On his first snap of the season, Quinn raced in for a strip-sack.

He played 25 snaps (38%), which was probably a reduced workload as he continues working through an ankle injury. The last five seasons, Quinn played between 58-68% of his team’s defensive snaps. Given that the Bears signed him for $70 million, they’re probably looking to get that type of usage out of him.

For context, Mack played 86% of the snaps in the opener and 83% against the Giants. He averaged 85% last season.

Ground game

It’s still hard to figure out what Tarik Cohen’s role is. Even with David Montgomery out part of the game because of a neck injury, Nagy played Cohen just 32% of the snaps. That’s down from 46% in the opener.

Maybe Cohen doesn’t have a concrete role. It might vary by opponent and by how well he plays. He got five carries for 12 yards against the Giants and caught a 15-yard pass the only time he was targeted.

Montgomery played 54% of the snaps and ran for 82 yards on 16 attempts, and Cordarrelle Patterson ran seven times for 25 yards while playing 22%.

Patterson played 18.5% of the snaps over the first two weeks, about the same as his 18.9% for the season in 2019, but his opportunities are up. He had 14 rushes plus targets the first two games, up from an average of 2.1 per game last season.

Graham leads tight ends

Nagy split it up like this at tight end:

Jimmy Graham, 62%
Demetrius Harris, 55%
Cole Kmet, 34%
J.P. Holtz, 11%

That’s a significant decrease for Graham (80% in Week 1) and increase for Harris (up from 40%). Kmet, the Bears’ top draft pick this year, held steady.

Regardless of who played, the position has not been especially productive in the passing game yet. Graham had an 18-yard catch, and Kmet caught one for 12 yards. That’s it.

So far, Trubisky has targeted his tight ends 12 times and they’ve combined for 55 yards on five catches.

Ups and downs

After playing between 85-100% of the snaps before his season-ending injury last season, linebacker Danny Trevathan played just 48% against the Giants. He was at 90 percent in Week 1.

Starting safety Tashaun Gipson played 100% of the snaps for the second week in a row.

Outside linebacker James Vaughters took some of Quinn’s snaps and has gotten the most extended run of his career the last two weeks. After playing just 26 snaps all of last season, he has played 59 over the first two games of this one.