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Fierce battles expected for receiving jobs in camp


Allen Robinson II remains the Bears' undisputed No. 1 receiver. But the competition for the spots behind him on the depth chart promises to be intense in training camp.

The battles for the second starting position and other contributing roles will feature returning veterans Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley and Javon Wims; and speedy offseason additions Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie fifth-round pick Darnell Mooney.

"I really do believe in our room that there are enough guys who look around and understand that there are going to be some good players who aren't going to be here," receivers coach Mike Furrey said last week. "So you better show up and you better try to take someone's job."

Miller ranked second among Bears wide receivers last year with 52 catches for 656 yards and two touchdowns. During a five-game span from Weeks 11-15, he caught 33 passes for 431 yards and two touchdowns—a breakout coaches attributed to improved preparation and maturity.

Patterson caught 11 passes for 83 yards while playing on only 18.9 percent of the Bears' offensive snaps last season. But during the offseason general manager Ryan Pace, coach Matt Nagy and Furrey have expressed a desire to expand the All-Pro kickoff returner's role on offense.

"I think we all have realized that [regardless of] how we do it or how it happens, the guy has to have the ball in his hands," Furrey said. "He's one of the most elite, explosive, dominant football players with the ball in his hands in this league, whether it's kick return or whatever he does on offense. Those are the traits that he has, so we have to get him ready and get him going."

Expectations are high for Ridley. The 2019 fourth-round pick from Georgia only played in the final five games of his rookie season, catching six passes for 69 yards. But in June, Furrey predicted that "the biggest growth we're going to see from anybody in our room is going to be Riley Ridley."

"I just think Riley's makeup is the makeup of a professional," Furrey added last week. "He really understands what it means to be in the NFL, kind of grateful in that aspect. He has a high football IQ. He's a competitor. He's really tough. And he has a mindset to succeed and compete. I just think that when you can put all those traits together on a young man after he's experienced the NFL for a year, that's where you ultimately should make a pretty big jump."

Furrey is eager to see how Wims progresses in his third season. The 2018 seventh-round pick from Georgia started the final five games last year in place of the injured Taylor Gabriel and caught 11 passes for 105 yards in those contests.

"I think the big thing, and Javon knows, is not just be on a level pace," Furrey said. "Not to just accept the fact that he's in the league, but the fact that he can play and take over. It's time for Javon Wims to start pushing people for their jobs, by the way he practices, by the way he shows up every day. The biggest thing that we're going to have to find out over the next three to four weeks is how badly does he really want to become a great player in this league? That's something I can't wait to find out."

Ginn brings experience and speed to the Bears. The veteran free-agent addition has 409 career receptions for 5,702 yards and 33 touchdowns over 13 NFL seasons with the Dolphins, 49ers, Panthers, Cardinals and Saints.

"You're talking about an instant veteran leader that's a complete team player that is here to win a Super Bowl that will be vocal enough to be able to call some of these guys out so that I won't have to do it, if that makes sense," Furrey said in June.

The Bears landed another fast receiver in the draft in Mooney. A four-year starter at Tulane, the 5-11, 174-pounder had a breakout junior season in 2018, catching 48 passes for 993 yards and eight TDs. Last year Mooney followed with 45 receptions for 670 yards and five TDs.

It's a talented and diverse group of receivers that will bear watching throughout training camp.

"There is nobody in that room who can take a day off," Furrey said. "Everything they do, from the way they study, to the way they answer questions in meetings, to their walk-through reps, to the details and reps they have in practice, everything is going to be evaluated. And I think the coolest thing about that is you provide pressure and you're going to be able to find out who responds to that and who can get through that."