Rookie wide receiver Dazz Newsome is well aware of his status — “I realize what pick I was,” he said — but he also should be able to see a path toward a role in the Bears’ offense.
There are clear openings in the receiver hierarchy after Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney, and even though Newsome is a sixth-round pick, it’s certainly possible he could leapfrog Anthony Miller, Javon Wims, Marquise Goodwin and Riley Ridley by the season opener.
“I guess I’m trying out,” Newsome said Saturday. “I’ve just gotta work hard and let everything play out.”
That was Mooney’s approach last season, when he rocketed from fifth-round pick out of Tulane to No. 2 receiver with the Bears.
After doing little to address their needs in free agency and using their top picks on other positions, the Bears are hoping for a similar surge from Newsome. They got him at No. 221 overall, 30th among receivers, but he was a tremendous weapon at North Carolina.
Newsome, 22, tore up the ACC for 72 catches, 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior, then followed it up last season with 54 receptions, 684 yards and six TDs. He also impressed in limited chances as a punt and kick returner, and the Bears will give him a look at both spots.
At 5-10 and 190 pounds with a 4.38 40-yard dash time, Newsome has the physical ability to be a good slot receiver. Those numbers are nearly identical to Mooney’s, but it took so much more than speed for him to overtake Miller and play 73% of the offensive snaps as a rookie.
There was virtually no transition for Mooney from collegian to pro, even with no in-person work last offseason. He showed up at training camp in ideal condition and had the playbook mastered. Almost every route was perfect, and he quickly showed coach Matt Nagy that he was more dependable than Miller.
“When the vets come in, [rookies] start losing out on the physical reps, and it’s more about mental reps, so it’s a matter of, can guys stay in tune with their mental reps?” Nagy said. “That’s going to be the same thing for Dazz Newsome.”
Nagy went on to paint an exceedingly rosy portrait of his wide receivers room. He said the Bears have “awesome” depth, noting that it’ll present a major challenge for Newsome. It’s nice to be optimistic, especially this time of year, but Robinson is the only certainty. Mooney is promising. After that, all bets are off.
Wims and Ridley haven’t so much as hinted they can be significant contributors, Goodwin had 12 catches in 2019 before opting out of last season and Miller’s future is cloudy at best.
Unsolicited, Nagy tried to perform damage control regarding wide receivers coach Mike Furrey’s comments Wednesday when queried about Miller.
Furrey said there’s such strong competition that if anyone can’t keep up, “We don’t need you.”
Nagy said Miller has been “super-motivated” in his offseason training and “has been doing a hell of a job,” but there’s obviously some truth in what Furrey expressed.
Coming off the 2018 and ’19 seasons, Furrey said publicly that Miller was unreliable in his routes. Then he bottomed out last season as he fell behind Mooney and saw his numbers dip before exiting on an ejection in the playoffs.
There’s no way Newsome is intimidated by that body of work, and the Bears know that if they hit the jackpot with him, they can move on from Miller before the opener or by letting him walk in free agency after the season. Given that Newsome was such a late pick, it would be a stretch to say the Bears drafted him to replace Miller, but that would be the ideal outcome.