Bradley Gets Starting Nod

Lake Forest - The Bears believe they've answered one of their biggest questions since the start of training camp. Who will start opposite Muhsin Muhammad? Mark Bradley will fill that role Sunday against Cleveland and the Bears hope it's the first of many to come.

After an early bout of drops during May and June workouts, Bradley came on in training camp. The second -round pick out of Oklahoma led the NFL during preseason in receptions (17) and yardage (331).

"He has big-play potential," said head coach Lovie Smith of Bradley. "He's done that throughout the preseason really from the Miami game on but as a rookie you have to earn your way up and we feel he's done that and I'm anxious to see what he can do now that he's moved in a different role."

Despite the gaudy numbers, the Bears didn't want to hand Bradley the job without some experience during the regular season. He has just four receptions for 57 through three games, but took the vast majority of reps against the Bengals.

"I understand the transition that they put me through," Bradley said of his timeline to assume a starting role. "Everybody that comes into this league has to go through a transition into becoming a starter."

Although Justin Gage opened atop the depth chart, the Bears have always admitted that at six-foot-1, 200 pounds, Bradley has the best combination of speed and size among the young group of receivers on the roster.

Gage didn't produce as a starter with two receptions in three games for 31 yards. He also dropped a Kyle Orton pass on the first offensive play of the game against Cincinnati that led to an interception.

"That was a change that they needed to make so I've just got to go with it and keep rolling," Gage said of his demotion.

The Bears are looking for an offensive boost and believe Bradley can bring an added dimension. He averaged 19.1 yards per catch and had six receptions of 25 yards or more, with the bulk of the throws coming from Orton.

"This is something that hopefully will give us a chance to get off to a fast start," said wide receivers coach Daryl Drake. "Bradley has done some really good things. He's demonstrated that he has some explosiveness, which we need at that particular position and so we've just got to give him the opportunity to go do that."

The Bears rank 27th in total offense, first downs and yards per play. So inserting Bradley will not cure all the problems, but it's a start. Gage and Bernard Berrian, who has just one reception, have to get involved in the offense. The Chicago tight ends have five receptions, all of which are from Desmond Clark.

The lack of production can be attributed to the fact that Orton has locked onto Muhammad, with 16 of his 46 completions going to the two-time Pro Bowl wideout.

"Right now it's easy for teams to stop the run against us and take care of Muhammad that's why we need the other receivers to step up, too," Smith said.

Bradley is not taking the promotion lightly. He knows that if he doesn't produce he could end up back in a supporting role.

"The more plays you make the more you're putting your team in the situation to win games and that's the most important thing," Bradley said.


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