So, about that preseason resting and snap fervor. Maybe Matt Nagy should’ve just started the Bears’ No. 2’s all along! If they’re going to come onto the field and smack his mentor in Andy Reid’s Chiefs starters around, who knows what they’re capable of full time?
The Bears’ backups walloped the Chiefs last Saturday. That we know for sure. The offense itself, led by Chase Daniel, never punted and scored three touchdowns in one half. Whatever Nagy did to motivate his group in lieu of most of the Bears’ major stars not contributing, it worked wonders. Chicago’s starters didn’t have to take notes at the performance. They had to be there for their teammates as they put on a show.
The main standout from the Bears’ offensive onslaught was rookie seventh round pick, Javon Wims. Coming into the game, it was assumed Chicago may have kept him on their final 53-man roster anyway. After roaring through the Kansas City back line, that’s no longer in question.
How did Wims do it exactly?
A combination of terrific athleticism he already possessed, to go with fantastic route and technique discipline: aspects many thought Wims would struggle with at the NFL level.
Let’s take a deep dive look at the film of Wims from the Bears’ first game at Soldier Field in 2018.
What was most impressive about Wims’ play against the Chiefs is that each of his four catches for 115 yards went for first downs. Each, while not always a deep bomb downfield, was a crucial play for Chicago’s offense in a needed moment. Wims knew he would effectively be the Bears’ No. 1 wideout with this stripped-down offense and he didn’t disappoint.
Wims’ first catch, a short nine-yard curl early in the second quarter, showed he came to shine against the Chiefs. By far his smallest gain of the day, it was more an illustrator of how difficult it would be to bring down the 6-foot-4 receiver.
There’s nothing fancy about what Wims does here aside from quickly recognizing where the open hole in the Chiefs’ defense is. He takes a curl towards the middle of the field, sits, takes the timing play from Daniel, and then does the rest of the hard work to get past the marker. All information processed within a blink of an eye. Many receivers struggle with that sudden informational adaptation. Not the flashiest of receptions, but a fantastic indicator of Wims’ growing awareness and instinct.
Later in the same drive and three plays later, Wims made a mockery of the Chiefs’ secondary. If the aforementioned purely red zone target in college at Georgia was a one-trick pony before, he certainly isn’t now.
What helps Wims on this route is again, awareness. Nagy’s offense and scheme is all about timing and being in the right place at the right time. We’ve previously heard Adam Shaheen how it’s more about being there for the quarterback rather than how you get to your destination in route running. This was another perfect example.
Wims had a deep crosser to run on this third down play for the Bears, worked his way past the helpless Kansas City corner, and the rest is effort and history. None of it works if Wims doesn’t get to this spot by the time finishes his drop. Timing, timing, and more timing.
Everything after the catch with Wims finding a seam up the sideline as Chiefs defenders flailed their arms in pursuit Madden style was not how the play was drawn up. That was Wims taking matters into his own hands and turning a possession third down catch, into a 54-yard chunk play. If he was slow as an amateur, once again, he certainly isn’t now.
Finally, with Wims doing the heavy lifting on this drive, he saved his best of the three receptions for last. That mentioned red zone dynamo? It makes perfect sense as to why Wims has always thrived in such a fashion.
How does Wims get so open on this touchdown?
It’s the crossing routes that throw off the Chiefs’ defensive backs. Since Kevin White and Marlon Brown are lined up to the left side of Wims, their responsibility on this play is more to draw attention away from Wims if they’re not getting the ball. White at the bottom takes his man to the outside to clear space while making sure not to veer too far into the end zone, while Brown next to him runs a short slant to clear out room for Wims to get to the left corner. Both fill their roles to allow Wims breathing room as the pass develops.
This is what is called a Double China concept, where the two outside receivers’ main goal is to get room for the wideout running the over corner route, in this case Wims, by going inside. It’s about drawing attention away for the slot playmaker making the deepest of breaks running over the top.
At that point, it’s on Wims - who had lined up in the left short slot - to make the play and beat his man once his receiving teammates have done their jobs. Beat his man like a drum he did.
No. 24 David Amerson actually did an okay job of sticking with Wims. Once the ball was in the air, only the big-bodied receiver Wims could get it and make the graceful toe-tapping touchdown. A sublimely executed play by the Bears’ main receiving trio this game, with a stellar capper by Wims.
After the hoopla of that one second quarter possession, the Bears’ offense would go quiet for most of the rest of the game. These kinds of plays from Wims came around more sparingly for everyone. Tyler Bray isn’t Daniel in experience and execution, another fact we know.
However, Bray and Wims would combine for one last magic trick late. A play that would be remembered more from this preseason contest if not for the more meaningful show Wims put on earlier.
With the Bears backed up near their own goal line on a 3rd and 16 halfway through the fourth quarter, Chicago’s third quarterback and fifth (or sixth) receiver in Wims played catch with each other in the backyard. It just so happened a defense was trying to stop them from bonding.
What’s notable about this 44-yard completion near the end of the game is that I’d argue the catch was more impressive than Bray’s beauty to drop the ball into a bucket. That type of over-the-shoulder snag with a defender in your back pocket is among the toughest plays in football to make. Wims makes it look routine while breaking a tackle or two in the process.
Quite frankly, Wims won on this route at the start, as most receivers do on most pass plays. Your technique at the line of scrimmage ends up determining most successes or failures.
No. 43 Makinton Dorleant tries to jam Wims at the line of scrimmage, but the freakishly sized receiver has none of it. Wims doesn’t let Dorleant take him off schedule, uses his hands to slap away Dorleant, and tightly turns on the burners towards the outside.
It’s here where Wims had to make sure he left himself enough blades of grass to eventually make the catch. He can’t take the outside lane from Dorleant on the go-route but only afford himself the tiniest margin of error once the ball’s in the air. His lane had to be precise and tight for outside leverage. Knowing where you are on the field sounds simple enough, but so many players lack that positional awareness. Once Wims adequately created enough room with Dorleant trailing, he appropriately looked back for the ball, and again, the rest was effort and history.
Kansas City tackled poorly all afternoon. Not by coincidence Wims had a field day.
The Chiefs’ defense isn’t the best in the NFL. In fact, it might be one of the worst, especially the secondary.
Does that take away from Wims’ virtuoso performance? No, because someone had to make the plays. The young receiver still had to show he had the talent and capability to maximize on the opportunities afforded to him. In doing so, he found his way with the Bears as a late draft choice. In doing so, Wims became a young playmaker to keep an intent eye on as the 2018 season develops.
Robert is an editor, writer, and producer for Windy City Gridiron, The Rock River Times, The Athletic Chicago, and other fine publications. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski and reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.