Moose on the Loose

Will Muhsin Muhammad be able to come close to matching the numbers he put up in Carolina last season?

There's no doubt Muhammad will be the focus of the passing game. His 578 career receptions dwarf the combined career total of 122 by the other 10 wideouts currently on the roster.

Despite not having a complimentary target after Steve Smith went down in the Panthers' season opener last year, Muhammad posted career highs in yardage (1,405) and touchdowns (16) on 93 receptions. The Bears would settle for 80 percent of that production.

"He's our No. 1 receiver and when we throw the football, we're looking to him first," said head coach Lovie Smith. "He had a great year and we think he has great football ahead of him."

Putting an athlete opposite the ten-year veteran seems to be the plan.

"We're trying to get some size and speed," Smith said about the position. "I think you can get both, a guy that can make plays with speed. Of course, Moose isn't the fastest guy, but he's fast enough."

"Our other receivers -- we're talking about, Justin Gage has good speed, Bernard Berrian, Mark Bradley, Bobby Wade has good quickness -- we feel like whoever we put on that other side will be a good complement to Moose."

Rex Grossman and Muhammad have hooked up on a number of completions throughout mini-camp and OTAs. Although a strong running game is to be the focal point of the offense, Muhammad will provide Grossman with a reliable target he didn't have in his three starts last season.

Muhammad has been able to average 75 receptions, 1,004 yards and six touchdowns over the past seven seasons while working with seven different starting quarterbacks, many of which were nothing more than journeyman.

The Bears have started at least three quarterbacks the past three seasons and six of the last seven, so Muhammad may find himself working with Chad Hutchinson and Kyle Orton.

There is some thought that the Bears overpaid for the 32-year-old. The six-year $30 million deal he signed in February set the market for other free agent receivers, but give the Bears credit for being bold and striking before the competition for Muhammad's services drove the price higher.

It's true that his best seasons have come during contract pushes. He's had seven touchdown catches in a season only twice, but over the past 21 years Bear receivers have reached that total just seven times.

The belief is that Muhammad will set an example for a young crop of receivers by putting up big numbers on the field and being a leader in the locker room.

"I know the hardest thing for a wide receiver is to come into the game and have to learn by trial and error," Muhammad said upon signing with the Bears. "It always helps to have some good veterans around you, some good veterans that know how to get the job done. I've been a pretty good receiver throughout my career and I want to bring those things here and help the guys here."

The Bears are hoping he can help to turn around the NFL's worst offense.


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