After a 1-2 start and the offense producing just a touchdown in both losses, Coach Lovie Smith turned to Bradley for a much-needed spark. In three of his four starts, the six-foot-2, 200-pounder caught at least four balls and had his finest game in what at the time was the biggest game of the season.
In a battle for first place in the NFC North, Bradley had 5 receptions for 88 yards in less than one half of football against the Detroit Lions. The most impressive play came on a short reception in which he turned up field and ran away from defenders for a 54-yard gain. However, the breakout performance turned out to be a bad break when Bradley tried to pickup additional yardage on a catch over the middle and tore up his right knee.
Bradley finished the year with 18 receptions for 230 yards, which were good enough for fifth and fourth on the team respectively.
Nearly seven months after the injury, Bradley appears to be on pace for the first day of training camp. He will face stiff competition from Bernard Berrian in Bourbonnais.
Berrian had a slow start to the 2005 season because of injury, but became the biggest threat in the passing game down the stretch. While he had just three receptions heading into December, he came up with 15 catches for 290 yards over the final five contests of the year plus the playoff game against Carolina.
The speedy Berrian had two receptions of more than 40 yards, but proved he could be more than just a deep threat, making tough catches over the middle. The question with the six-foot-1, 180-pounder is whether or not he can take the punishment over the course of the season and stay on the field.
Without addressing wide receiver in the off-season, the Bears are betting their young crop of receivers will step up their game in 2006. It's a big gamble considering the passing offense produced just 125.1 yards per game a year ago.
If both Bradley and Berrian can become factors with Rex Grossman or Brian Griese under center, the offense could become a force opponents have to respect. The question is will health hold their talent back or will competition being out the best in both players?