Bears Feel the Need for Speed

It will be months if not years before the Bears can say if they became a better team through this year's draft, but they definitely became faster.

And that was one of their goals.

G.M. Jerry Angelo used the fourth overall pick on Cedric Benson to immediately upgrade the run game, which was the immediate goal.

But the Bears got a couple other players who can fly in hopes of upgrading a grounded air attack. They might not make the immediate impact that the Bears expect from Benson, but it's clear the Bears want to become a team that can make big plays on offense.

"We didn't have people who, going into this draft, that we felt scared (opponents)," Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel said.

But with wide receivers Mark Bradley (second-round) and Airese Currie (fifth round), the Bears have enough speed to frighten most defenses if Benson can't run through them.

"With Mark Bradley, with Benson, with (Currie), we've got people who are adding an element of speed," Gabriel said.

Last season that dimension was missing from the Bears' offense, a major reason why it was the least productive unit in the NFL. The Bears were last in the NFL in passing yards, total yards and points. Only rookie wide receiver Bernard Berrian was much of a threat to stretch the field, but he caught just 15 passes.

Bradley's size-speed combination is unique to the Bears. He runs a 4.43 40, but Currie may be even more of a deep threat. He was an all-America track athlete at Clemson, and he was also the Tigers' go-to target last season with 61 receptions for 868 yards.

"We're trying to get fast; we're trying to get playmakers," Gabriel said. "He made plays at Clemson. When you put on the tape, you see the speed, and that's the important thing for us."

It was especially important on offense, which was the Bears' focus throughout the weekend. Even though they've got a glut of young quarterbacks in different stages of development currently under contract, the Bears added Purdue's Kyle Orton to the mix. Orton began last season as one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates, but he and the Boilermakers slumped badly, especially in an Oct. 30 loss to Northwestern.

"Going into the fall, a lot of people were saying, 'Heisman Trophy candidate, first-round draft choice, maybe worst-case scenario a second,' and then he's there in the fourth round," Gabriel said. "You have to take him. He was too good; he was too productive. He was just too good to leave go."

The Bears finally looked at defense in the final hours Sunday, adding safety Chris Harris from Louisiana-Monroe in the sixth round and linebacker Rodriques Wilson in the seventh round. Neither player is expected to do much more this year than help on special teams, but defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said his unit will be helped by Benson's presence.

"When I was at Philadelphia, they did a study, and they found that if the offense runs the ball four or five more times that accounts for about 2 1/2 more minutes that the defense (isn't) on the field," Rivera said. "When you've got a ground-control offense, they're grinding the ball out, they're crushing the other team, and it keeps the defense off the field. It keeps them fresh."

If the Bears' offense isn't crushing opponents this season, it hopes to have the ability to fly past them.

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