Positional Analysis: Wide Receiver

The Bears invested heavily at wideout last off-season, signing Muhsin Muhammad as a free agent and then taking Mark Bradley in the second round of the draft. However, the question still remains if there is enough talent at the position on the roster or do the Bears need to go out and find another playmaker.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Muhsin Muhammad, Justin Gage. Backups - Bernard Berrian, Mark Bradley, Eddie Berlin, Airese Currie.

The group accounted for 138 receptions, 1661 yards and 6 touchdowns. The numbers are an improvement over 2004 but that isn't saying much.

Muhammad did not live up to his $30 million contract, posting pedestrian numbers of 64 catches, 750 yards, an 11.7-yard average and four touchdowns, while proving to be a questionable teammate who cast doubt on other players while refusing to accept much of the blame for an impotent passing game. He will make some tough catches and do the dirty work, but he has way too many drops for a go-to receiver.

If Gage is a starter next season, it will be a strong indication that the Bears' passing attack again will be weak. He lacks speed, quickness and consistent hands and doesn't use his big body to his advantage. The jump ball route that he used so well as a rookie has completely disappeared from his repertoire. Pushing him down the depth chart would be best for the passing game.

Berrian is the Bears' best deep threat, and he showed flashes of being much more after he returned from a five-week absence because of a fractured thumb. If the skinny speedster can stay on the field, he's the ideal complement to Muhammad.

"I can make plays," Berrian said. "I am not just a deep route runner. I can run intermediate routes, and I can be the No. 2 receiver here.

"When people say (I don't) like to go over the middle, if you study film from Pop Warner days, I have taken hits over the middle and still hung on to the ball. It's just getting to the next level, stepping the game up. It's not taking the hits, it's concentrating on the ball."

As a rookie, Bradley emerged as a big-play threat but suffered a season-ending knee injury in his best game as a pro. He has an exciting combination of size, speed, but he might not be 100 percent by the start of next season.

Eddie Berlin could factor more into the offense with an opportunity. He looked to be on his way to that role after an impressive training camp, but an injury in the first preseason game led to his release and an injury settlement. When the Bears were hit hard by injury at the position, the Bears re-signed Berlin. He's a great special teams player and can be a limited threat as the slot receiver.

Currie failed to play in a game as a rookie because of injury. An off-season to get healthy should prove beneficial and make his sprinters speed an option in 2006.

The Bears young talent at receiver could develop into something special. While adding another draft pick to the mix doesn't make a lot of sense, upgrading depth through free agency is more likely to yield immediate results.

Antwaan Randle El is having an excellent postseason with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Chicagoland native will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and is rumored to be high on the Bears list of players to go after.

The team saw first hand what a speedy wideout is capable of doing to a great defense. In two games against the Bears, Carolina WR Steve Smith caught 26 balls for 377 yards and two touchdowns.

"Everyone needs a Steve Smith of course," said coach Lovie Smith. "We'll try to upgrade as much as we can at all of the positions."

By no means Randle El as polished as Smith, but he could add another dimension to a passing offense that finished 31st in the league.

Scout.com contributed to this report.


Bear Report Top Stories