Questions Remain Opposite Muhammad

The Bears have a crop of young talent at wide receiver, but their potential has yet to translate into production on the NFL level. Who will emerge as the second receiver behind Muhsin Muhammad and allow the passing offense to take a much needed step forward?

It appears to be a three-man derby between Mark Bradley, Bernard Berrian and Justin Gage for the right to start across from Muhammad.

"There are questions but they're good questions," said wide receivers coach Daryl Drake. "We know who those guys basically are competing to be that clear-cut No. 2 guy. We know which group that's going to come from. We know it's going to come from Bradley, Berrian and Gage."

Bradley seems to be the odds on favorite to open the season as the second receiver, but he's coming off major knee surgery. He impressed by returning to work for mini-camp seven months after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee. When healthy, he's the most complete option in terms of brining speed and size.

"Mark's probably 90 percent," said QB Rex Grossman. "He doesn't have that explosion that he normally does, but it's good to see him out here because we're still quite a few days away from training camp."

Berrian came on strong at the end of the season to become Grossman's favorite target. He proved to be more than just a deep threat by making tough catches in traffic, but at six-foot-1, 180-pounds failed to stand up to the punishment of going over the middle.

"I think Bernard goes over the middle and catches over the middle," Drake said. "Although you see him outside, where Bernard lacks is strength over the middle. But he can make plays over the middle."

Gage finished second on the team with 31 receptions, but lacks the speed the Bears want from the position.

"No Justin Gage is not going to run away from anybody," Drake said. "But you look at it, Justin had a really good year. He had a productive year. When those other guys went down and were hurt, he stepped up and played adequately."

One thing is for certain, the group will have up their numbers in order for the passing game to improve from their 31st ranking last season. Aside from Muhammad, Chicago wideouts combined for 74 receptions, 911 yards and two touchdowns.

"The face of this group will be different than it was last year," Drake said. "As long as we can keep guys healthy, I don't know who is going to be here or who is going to last, but it's going to be different than it was last year."

After not upgrading the position in the off-season, the Bears have to hope so.

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