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Training Camp Report

Wims, Ridley fight for bigger roles

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While the Bears quarterback competition rages on, training camp has been a proving ground for those hoping to be reliable targets for the eventual winner.

Allen Robinson II, the team's top receiver from last season, has been lightly used in the past week, as the coaching staff remains cautious with the proven veteran. That's been good news for Javon Wims and Riley Ridley, recent draft picks looking to solidify their standing in the offense.

"We go out and try to take advantage of all our reps," said Ridley, "whether ARob is there or he's not. But it's big, when he's down, to show the coaches and show the quarterbacks what you can do and how locked in you are."

Wims and Ridley, former college teammates at Georgia, fill out a receiving corps that includes Robinson, Anthony Miller and Ted Ginn Jr. Wims' game has drawn comparisons to Robinson, while Ridley strives to be proficient in several roles.

Ridley has absorbed mentorship from Robinson, Ginn and his older brother, Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley. On Wednesday, he caught a long touchdown pass from Nick Foles during a two-minute drill.

"I'm really proud of [Ridley]," said receivers coach Mike Furrey. "He's come in, obviously like we've talked [about], he had that experience, he's been around the playbook, but this guy never misses an extra walk-through. He's always there. He's trying to learn every single position."

Ridley caught six passes for 69 yards as a rookie, appearing in only five games last year. His output resembled Wims' rookie performance when he caught four passes for 32 yards in four games in 2018.

Wims was able to work his way into more playing time in his second year and caught 18 passes for 186 yards. Furrey believes that Wims is due for another step up.

"I think Javon has taken some of the deficiencies that he's been kind of a little bit stubborn about denying over the last couple years," said Furrey. "He's really been open to coaching and very receptive of those ideas of what he needs to work on in regards to those deficiencies."

Despite being the top receiver on a Georgia team that went to the National Championship, Wims entered the league with a reputation as a raw player with a high upside. While he feels that "stubborn" is a bit too strong of a word for his disposition, he largely agrees with Furrey's assessment.

"I wish I would have started this transition back when I was in college," said Wims. "Maybe I wouldn't have had to wait until Year 3 to try and fix it. Maybe I'd have come in a lot more polished as a route runner, versus becoming polished now."

Some of Furrey's critiques may trace back to Wims' history with basketball, which was Wims' focus until his senior year of high school. Wims then took a circuitous route through NAIA and Junior College football before playing two years in the SEC.

Furrey sees basketball's influence in Wims' tendency toward juking movements at the line of scrimmage, which Furrey calls "too cute," and overreliance on his height.

At 6-4, Wims is one of the Bears' bigger targets, with the ability to use his size to his advantage. However, to take a step forward, Wims will need to be more precise and forceful in his route-running, keeping a lower center of gravity. Furrey believes that Wims has taken his coaching to heart and is beginning to see the results.

"He looks like a different player than he has been in the first two [seasons]," said Furrey. "He looks faster, he looks quicker, he looks stronger in and out of his transitions."

While there may be limited spots at wide receiver, Ridley and Wims don't see themselves in a zero-sum game.

"To be honest with you," said Ridley, "I'm not really seeing it as competing. We're out there having fun and just lighting it up for our receivers room."

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