CANTON, Ohio — Javon Wims grew up idolizing how Randy Moss played the game, so getting to share the same field for a brief moment with the soon-to-be Hall of Famer on Thursday night was a special moment for the seventh-round rookie.
“It was amazing to see somebody I looked up to since I was a kid,” Wims said. “One of the reasons I played receiver is because of the things he was able to do.”
After the pregame festivities ended, Wims perhaps had the best night of any offensive player on either the Bears or Ravens in Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game. He showed strong hands and the go-up-and-get-it ability he put on tape at Georgia, and finished the day with seven catches on 10 targets for 89 yards.
There’s no sweeping conclusion to be made off Wims’ strong performance, though, given it came against second/third/fourth-stringers in a game in which neither side did any gameplanning. Him catching seven passes for 89 yards in a bonus preseason game won't get him on the Bears' Week 1 roster.
Still, anytime a player produces in a game, it’s a positive, coach Matt Nagy said.
“Javon is a kid that has excellent hand, really, really good hands, phenomenal ball skills,” Nagy said. “And he showed that in college. Now he’s a receiver that’s a good route-runner, he can become better, he knows that. Again, when you get out on the stage and get some guys that are going to come up and press you, how are you going to play agains the press. I thought he made some big-time catches over the middle in crucial situations. He’s a big target, so it’s nice throwing to big guys.”
Wims will continue to face an uphill climb to a roster spot, with four receivers (Allen Robinson, Kevin White, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel) well ahead of him on the depth chart and Josh Bellamy serving as a key contributor on special teams. So Wims is competing with guys like Bennie Fowler, Tanner Gentry and Marlon Brown to potentially force Nagy to take a sixth receiver.
But what Wims did on Thursday was significant in that it wasn’t a practice in Bourbonnais, the film of which only the Bears have access to. Any of the other 31 teams in the NFL, some of whom likely scouted Wims when he was in college, could’ve seen something they liked, whether it was Wims’ hands, ball skills, route running, etc. That may make it more tricky if the Bears hope to stash Wims on their practice squad come cut-down day.
In the big picture of 2018 for the Bears, it’s probably not a big deal if Wims does or doesn’t stick (the same could be said for Gentry a year ago after his good preseason didn’t result in a Week 1 roster spot). Most seventh-round picks don't, or if they do, they're hardly key contributors in Year 1 -- though general manager Ryan Pace has seen a seventh-round rookie receiver have a huge impact as a rookie with the New Orleans Saints when Marques Colston had 70 catches for 1,038 yards in 2006 (this is not saying Wims will be the next Colston, not by any stretch).
But for Wims, these next few weeks are his best — and perhaps only — chance to prove to the Bears or another team around the NFL that he deserves a shot. Wims, though, is doing what he can to not look at things that way, trusting that if he continues to do what he’s done to date he’ll get his opportunity in the league.
“I don’t view it, I don’t pay attention to it,” Wims said. “That’s out of my control. The only thing I can control is going out there, getting better every day, learning, becoming a sponge, soaking up as much information as I can get and putting out a good effort.”