Berrian Looking to Bust Out

The Bears are looking for a receiver to compliment Muhsin Muhammad. Although there are several applicants for the position, one is starting to prove he's a worthy candidate.

Second-year wide receiver Bernard Berrian is giving early indications that he will be more than just a deep threat in the coming season.

"I think I'm a lot better technique-wise and also being able to see more things happen during the course of a play," said Berrian, who had 15 receptions for 225 yards and two TDs as a rookie.

Berrian often stood out during last month's mini-camp utilizing not only his blazing speed to gain separation but catching the ball more consistently and running tighter routes than he did last year as a third-round pick from Fresno State.

"He's got the speed, the burst and the big-play capabilities," said first-year offensive coordinator Ron Turner. "That's huge; you've got to have that.

"I wasn't here last year, but from what everyone says he's catching the ball much more consistently and playing with more confidence right now."

Having Rex Grossman back under center has shown what speed coupled with an accurate passer can get accomplished. The quarterback and receiver have hooked up for big gains on multiple occasions over the past few weeks.

Berrian's main competition for a starting job is Justin Gage, who is coming off a season in which he had just 12 receptions for 156 yards.

The Bears will need both to improve their numbers dramatically. The wideouts combined for 111 receptions for 1,561 yards and three touchdowns in 2004.

While Gage's strength is his size and leaping ability, at 185 pounds Berrian's speed can be nullified at times because he has a tendency to get pushed off the line of scrimmage

"He's determined to prove that he can be an every-down receiver, that he's not going to be limited to certain types of routes and I think he'll be able to do that," Turner said.

To win a starting job Berrian will also have to show that he's ready to contribute when it comes to blocking. With Turner's offense being run first and pass second it will be difficult to keep him on the field if he can't slow down an opposing tackler.

Ultimately, if Berrian can provide the deep threat the Bears currently lack, he will play a key role. His speed will keep opponents honest by not allowing them to cheat a safety up to put eight-men in the box. Loosening up the line of scrimmage will allow the running game to be more effective and in turn launch the playaction game.

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