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Former Georgia Receivers Produce in Allen Robinson's Absence

Riley Ridley and Javon Wims seem to be battling each other for a roster spot in training camp at a highly competitive position, and both of the former Georgia Bulldogs have made strides in recent practices well beyond what they'd shown through last season

If the groin injury suffered by David Montgomery hadn't occurred at Wednesday's Chicago Bears practice, all the talk would have been about two former Georgia Bulldog receivers.

With Allen Robinson II still missing work at practices due to an ankle injury, Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles needed targets besides the tight ends they've been heavily working. Both Wims and Ridley made big play after big play against the Bears' secondary. Both have lined up at different times in the X receiver spot where Robinson plays, but both have made plays at the Z position, as well during scrimmage.

"You know, we go out and try to take advantage of all our reps, whether A-Rob is there or he's not," Ridley said. "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."

Ridley, their 2019 fourth-round pick, made just six receptions last year as a rookie for five games. Drafted in 2018 in Round 7, Wims is the only player taken by GM Ryan Pace in Rounds 6 or 7 to have started a game, and went from four catches in 2018 to 18 last year.

Now both would like to step up into major roles but have plenty of competition from veteran free agent acquisition Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie fifth-rounder Darnell Mooney.

"Javon Wims, I'm excited about Javon," Bears receivers coach Mike Furrey said. "I think Javon has taken some of the deficiencies that he's been kind of a little bit stubborn about denying probably I would say over the last couple years of things that he needs to work on and 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.

"And he really has. I mean, he looks, to me right now, over the last couple days, he looks like a different player than he has been in the first two (years). He looks faster, he looks quicker, he looks stronger in and out of his transition."

Wims' problem was route running and it was related to his great size.

"I can tell you really the two biggest things is, you know, he's 6-foot-4, 220," Furrey said. "And a lot of those guys just feel like they can just start running around people and out-bigger people and it just doesn't work like that.

"So for Javon, in order to get to where he needs to get to, he needs to stay down low and he needs to take off and stay down like that—we call it the body deception—through the whole route. So what he's done in the past is he stands up and he gives away all his routes." 

Wims didnt exactly like Furrey's use of stubborn.

"I think stubborn is a harsh word," Wims said. "We'll just change that word to … we could use a lighter word, because when people are stubborn they think there's a back and forth but it's just something that's natural. When you're a 6-3, 6-4 guy, it's natural to play higher than normal.

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"But I wish I would have started this transition back when I was in college. 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."

Ridley ran a perfect route for a touchdown pass during scrimmage from Nick Foles, getting it in stride between defenders.

"It was like a little Cover-2 shell showed, you know, just get outside release and just run," Riley said. "The ball was on time. Great throw by Nick and we made a play."

Ridley had been somewhat hit or miss at different times through camp but Wednesday's work was his most extensive amount of production to date.

"He's come in, obviously like we've talked, he had that experience, he's been around the playbook, but this guy never misses and extra walk-through," Furrey said. "He's always there. He's trying to learn every single position.

"So I'm really proud where he's at. I think what's now going to happen is now let's go see that production and lets see how that carries over as we start really going full bore here, hopefully starting tomorrow. But I'm really pleased with where he's at right now."

Ridley's locker is near Robinson's and he's tried using every moment around the veteran standout to pick up tips to improve his own game.

"One thing about A-Rob is he's very consistent," Ridley said. "He puts the game first. He knows what he has to do. He knows how to get open. He can read coverages very well. I mean, he's an all-out, really good receiver.

"A lot of people probably sleep on him, I'm not sure, but if you're really next to this guy you can learn a lot from him, the way he comes at the game, the way he approaches his treatments, just the attack of the ball. He's an all-around great receiver."

The ironic and difficult part of this camp is both of the Georgia receivers could be battling each other for a roster spot. It would be difficult to imagine Mooney being cut because he brings too much speed to the roster, and Ginn is a veteran who does the same.

Moving Cordarrelle Patterson to the backfield has possibly opened up a receiver spot, but it still could come down to the two Georgia receivers battling each other for a spot on the 53-man roster.

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

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