It feels like this happened 14 years ago, but it really was just two days earlier this week: The Bears released Ted Ginn Jr. Wednesday morning, and a few hours later, the NFL upheld Javon Wims’ two-game suspension.
Riley Ridley, come on down.
Ridley, the Bears’ fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft, has not played a single snap in 2020. He’s been inactive for all eight of the Bears’ games, at first a jarring snub that’s now become a routine part of gamedays. But just because he’s on track to be active for the first time this season does not necessarily mean he’s going to break out on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
Why? It’s not like Wims played all that many snaps before he starting flailing away at C.J. Gardner-Johnson last weekend. Wims hadn’t played more than one-third of the Bears’ offensive snaps since Week 2, and since Week 3, he hasn’t played more than 20 snaps in a game.
Ginn, meanwhile, was an afterthought in the Bears’ offensive plans even before he was de-activated on Sunday and then released Wednesday.
So it’s not like there are all that many snaps for Ridley to take. He has a different skillset than Wims, who Bears coached trust to play all three receiver positions and provide some rugged blocking on the edge. There’s a decent chance the Bears just toss out all those plays for Wims, lean heavily on Allen Robinson-Darnell Mooney-Anthony Miller and include Ridley in a smaller part of their gameplan.
“Riley has done a really good job at being able to be a professional,” Matt Nagy said in September – the last time Ridley was brought up in a press conference to the Bears’ head coach (it was before the Bears played the Falcons, where his brother, Calvin, is a budding star). “I love his attitude. I love the way he practices every day. He’s really close. Right now, for us, it’s just a little more of a numbers thing.”
Something else worth noting here is offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said the Bears have periods every practice when practice squad/scout team players get to rep the same plays the first team offense is working on that week. So it’s not like Ridley hasn’t had *any* opportunities behind the scenes at Halas Hall to impress his coaches. While those chances are limited every week, it’s not exactly encouraging that Ridley was not able to beat out a former seventh-round pick to be active on gamedays, let alone for playing time.
We’ll see what kind of role Ridley does have this weekend. It might be small – smaller than what we’re accustomed to from Wims. But it will be an opportunity, and if he takes advantage of a handful of plays, he can start expanding his role in the Bears’ offense.
And sometimes, players like Ridley do break out when finally given an opportunity.
But Ridley’s opportunity might not last long, either. The thought here is if the Bears were to get rid of Wims for his embarrassing actions against the Saints, they would’ve done so swiftly after that game. While Matt Nagy said earlier this week the Bears are still talking through the potential for more internal discipline for Wims – on top of the league’s two-game suspension without pay – it does seem like he’ll return Week 12 against the Packers (the Bears are off Week 11).
Ridley realistically has two weeks to prove himself. Otherwise, it'll be back to that dreaded "inactive" designation on gamedays for him.
“It almost goes without saying because we all assume, hey, when your shot comes up, you gotta make it count because you never know how many you’re going to get,” Lazor said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for Riley.”