Sun, 29 Nov 2020

Bears training camp preview: Receivers

Chicago Bears
09 Jul 2020, 16:37 GMT+10

The following is the third of nine position previews in advance of training camp.

Veteran Allen Robinson II returns for a third season as the Bears' undisputed No. 1 receiver, looking to build on a productive 2019 campaign.

The 6-2, 220-pounder caught a team-leading and career-high 98 passes for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns, joining Marty Booker and Brandon Marshall as the only receivers in Bears history with at least 95 receptions and 1,100 yards in a season.

In 2019, Robinson was named the Bears' nominee for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and won the Ed Block Courage Award and the Good Guy Award presented by the Chicago chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America.

"Allen Robinson's probably one of the most professional players that I've ever been around in my playing and coaching career," said Bears receivers coach Mike Furrey, who played seven NFL seasons with the Rams, Lions and Browns from 2003-09.

Beyond Robinson, the competition in training camp and the preseason for the second starting receiving spot and key reserve roles figures to be intense. The Bears bolstered the position during the offseason by adding a pair of speedsters in veteran free agent Ted Ginn Jr. and fifth-round draft pick Darnell Mooney.

They join a group that includes versatile veteran Cordarrelle Patterson and promising young prospects Anthony Miller, Javon Wims and Riley Ridley, among others.

"It's pretty self-explanatory," Furrey said. "When you have a team that's trying to continue to draft guys and bring guys in free agency in, you're trying to create competition to take people's jobs. That's not a secret. I've been around this league a long time with a lot of people in this organization, and that's what it should be like."

Ginn is an intriguing addition. The 5-11, 180-pounder has appeared in 187 NFL games with 83 starts over 13 seasons with the Dolphins (2007-09), 49ers (2010-12), Panthers (2013 and 2015-16), Cardinals (2014) and Saints (2017-19).

"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.

Ginn has 409 career receptions for 5,702 yards and 33 touchdowns. Last season with New Orleans, he caught 30 passes for 421 yards and two touchdowns while playing in all 16 games with nine starts. In Week 1, Ginn had seven receptions for 101 yards in a 30-28 Monday night win over the Texans.

Even at 35 years old, Ginn still possesses blazing speed.

"First and foremost, I wouldn't stand on the table for Ted Ginn to come here if I didn't think he had anything left in his tank," Furrey said. "You go back to last year and New Orleans and watch his film and watch this young man run. He can still run. He's still a 4.2 [in the 40], the high 4.2s, low 4.3s.

"When he lines up, DBs are going to be scared to death that he's going to take the top off on them ... T.G. and I were in the league at the same time, but I went from being a 4.4 to a 4.7 real fast. He's still a 4.3. He's still got it, and so that's that fear factor that he still has and we're glad to have it."

The Bears landed another fast receiver when they traded up in the fifth round of the draft to select 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.

Interacting with Mooney over video calls during the Bears' virtual offseason program, Furrey saw a rookie who is passionate about the game and his success, team-oriented and competitive.

"You can see that from just watching his film, but you can also see that by the way he's attacked in our studies, in our group meetings," Furrey said in June. "You know it's really important to him, too. We've spent four or five hours a day with these rookies three or four times a week and he's never wavered. He's always been very attentive. He's asked questions. He's brought questions into meetings. So there's a lot of exciting things in regards to that. Obviously now we've got to get it put on the football field and see how he responds."

Miller returns for his third year with the Bears, looking to pick up where he left off late last season when he caught 33 passes for 431 yards and two touchdowns during a five-game span. The stretch included a pair of nine-catch games with 140 yards against the Lions and 118 yards and one touchdown versus the Packers.

"In the middle of the season," Furrey said, "I believe Anthony really started getting an idea and having an idea and understanding what it takes not just how to step inside the four-inch line and go play football. But I think it was really how to start developing himself as a professional through a process leading up to a game. He started doing that and he started seeing the results from that."

At the NFL Combine in February, general manager Ryan Pace told reporters that Patterson's role on offense could expand in 2020. An All-Pro kickoff returner, the 6-2, 238-pounder played on 18.9 percent of the Bears' offensive snaps last season, catching 11 passes for 83 yards and rushing for 103 yards on 17 carries.

"That's a guy [coach] Matt [Nagy] and I have talked about, just making sure we're maximizing his talent," Pace said at the time. "Obviously, he's an explosive, talented player. That can be at running back, receiver, returner. We're going to make sure we're getting the most out of that player because he's too talented not to."

The Bears also have high expectations for Wims and Ridley. A 2018 seventh-round pick from Georgia, Wims started the final five games last season in place of the injured Taylor Gabriel and caught 11 passes for 105 yards in those contests.

Ridley, a 2019 fourth-round pick from Georgia, played in only the final five games of his rookie year, catching six passes for 69 yards, including three receptions for 54 yards in the season finale in Minnesota. In June, Furrey predicted that "the biggest growth we're going to see from anybody in our room is going to be Riley Ridley."

Furrey acknowledged that there were several factors that prevented Ridley from producing more as a rookie, including his transition into the NFL and to the playbook and the speed of the game, in addition to a lack of opportunities last preseason. But Furrey lauded Ridley's attitude, desire and passion for the game.

"I know this kid is working as hard as he possibly can right now in preparation for training camp," Furrey said. "I'm very, very excited to get Riley Ridley into camp, and I believe he is going to make some noise on our roster."

Other receivers slated to compete in training camp include veteran Trevor Davis; first-year pros Reggie Davis, Thomas Ives and Alex Wesley; and undrafted rookie Ahmad Wagner.

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