Back-to-back completions from quarterback Nick Foles ended a crisp two-minute drill in practice Wednesday at Halas Hall that breathed a little bit of hope that the Bears might get this offense thing down. Maybe even by Sept. 13.
Foles thew a deep ball down the left sideline to Riley Ridley, who got a step on rookie Kindle Vildor to make a touchdown catch in the end zone. On the two-point conversion, Foles adroitly bought enough time to step up and find Javon Wims near the back of the end zone.
“We were just out there competing,” Ridley said. “It was like a little cover-2 shell showed — just get outside, release and run. The ball was on time. Great throw by Nick, and we made a play.”
With Allen Robinson sitting out practice with an ankle injury, Ridley and Wims were notable beneficiaries of Foles’ accuracy. Behind Anthony Miller, the former Georgia wide receivers are two key candidates to take big steps in 2020.
The 6-1, 192-pound Ridley, a fourth-round pick in 2019, spent most of his rookie season on the bench but had three receptions for 54 yards against the Vikings in Week 17 — including a game-saving 32-yard gain on fourth-and-nine in the fourth quarter that set up Eddy Pineiro’s winning field goal.
Ridley is hoping to parlay that success into a bigger role for 2020, but as Wims knows all too well, it doesn’t always work out. Wims also ended a quiet rookie season with a bang — four receptions for 32 yards, including two huge third-down receptions for 16 and nine yards in a key fourth-quarter touchdown drive that paved the way for a 24-10 victory. But last season, Wims was a bit player — 18 receptions for 186 yards and a touchdown.
Ridley looks ready to avoid that second-year pitfall. His better understanding of the offense and his role is making it easier for him to play fast, and that is showing in practice.
“It’s a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2,” Ridley said. “You know what to do. You know what to expect. All you’ve got to do is get to work.”
Though Ridley doesn’t have Wims’ size, he seems to have a good grasp of the nuances of his position that help him get open. That’s just one step toward success, but it’s an important one.
“[Ridley] never misses an extra walk-through; he’s always there,” wide receivers coach Mike Furrey said. “He’s trying to learn every single position. So I’m really proud of where he’s at. I’m really pleased with where he’s at right now.”
Furrey said Wims has improved “deficiencies” that were hindering his progress. He’s staying low in and out of his routes to avoid giving away the route and being physical to beat press coverage instead of “being too cute.”
“He’s added that to his game, and that’s been something that he’s been really stubborn about over the last couple of years,” Furrey said. ‘‘[His thinking was], ‘I’m bigger than everybody. I can just out-man them.’ And that doesn’t work in the NFL. He’s done a great job of [improving] those deficiencies. He’s worked hard on them, and you can tell in practice.”
Wims said he thought “stubborn” was a little harsh but acknowledged overcoming the natural inclination to lean on his size.
“It’s just something that’s natural,” Wims said. “When you’re a 6-3, 6-4 guy, it’s natural to play higher than normal. 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 to fix it. Maybe I’d have come in a lot more polished as a route runner vs. becoming polished now.”