Major Questions Remain at Wideout

Muhsin Muhammad was released. Bernard Berrian signed with Minnesota. They caught a total of 222 passes the past two years for the Chicago Bears, so who will replace them? Can Marty Booker still play? Will Brandon Lloyd grow up? Is Devin Hester ready? We handicap the wideout derby for 2008 ...

MARK BRADLEY
2007 Review: 6 receptions for 71 yards and 1 touchdown in 15 games. Head coach Lovie Smith raved about Bradley during the offseason program after two years of battling injuries, but the former second-round draft pick was buried on the depth chart behind Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad all season long.

Strengths: He offers the best combination of size and speed on the roster, measuring in at 6-2 and 200 pounds with enough giddy-up to run past most any cornerback. A big-play threat, he averages 15.3 yards on his 38 career catches and could be a solid red-zone target.

Weaknesses: He's never truly been the same since tearing his ACL as a rookie in Week 7 of 2005, plus he battled numerous ailments the following season. Although he looked to be relatively healthy in 2007, it's possible he doesn't have the coaching staff's full confidence because he has lapses in concentration from time to time.

Best Case Scenario: A starting job has essentially been handed to him on a silver player, but he needs to step up and claim it. If he stays healthy for 16 games and regains the explosiveness he showed as a first-year player, he could put up 800-900 receiving yards and score 6-8 touchdowns.

2008 Forecast: Look for Bradley to get the first shot at replacing Berrian as the primary deep threat. He was a track star growing up in Arkansas, but he's got to stay injury-free and ultimately prove that he can live up to his potential.

DEVIN HESTER
2007 Review: 20 receptions for 299 yards and 2 touchdowns in 16 games. Hester did an admirable job making the transition from defensive back to wideout, although offensive coordinator Ron Turner wasn't overly imaginative employing his most dangerous weapon.


WR Devin Hester
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Strengths: Perhaps the most electrifying open-field runner the Bears have had since Hall-of-Famer Gale Sayers, he is capable of scoring every time he touches the football. He runs pretty good routes and has reliable hands considering how little experience he has as an offensive player, and he should only get better.

Weaknesses: He still needs a lot of help with the playbook, as evidenced by the fact that he didn't know where to line up coming out of the huddle several times this past season. More playing time on offense could take away from his special-teams wizardry.

Best Case Scenario: He makes the leap from every-now-and-then gadget to every-down receiver, plus he continues to light the league on fire as a return man. If he catches 40-50 balls, he might find the end zone 8-10 times.

2008 Forecast: Smith said at the NFL Scouting Combine that Hester is capable of being a primary receiver in this league, but he'd be wise to reel in his expectations to some degree. He's certain to author a fair share of big plays because of his natural ability, but Bears fans should be very happy if he develops into a reliable No. 3 guy who can stretch the field and distract enemy safeties.

RASHIED DAVIS
2007 Review: 17 receptions for 165 yards and no touchdowns in 16 games. Davis made some clutch grabs during the Super Bowl run of `06, but he seemed to fall out of favor in `07 and was relegated to special-teams duty the last quarter of the season.

Strengths: He knows how to work the middle of the field pretty well, a skill set that is ideally suited for a pass-catcher lining up in the slot. He's never caught a ton of passes, but he's shown a flair for the dramatic in the past.

Weaknesses: His size makes him somewhat limited in what he can do, especially down the field since he doesn't possess breakaway speed. He's got good hands, but his average run-after-the-catch ability won't scare anybody.

Best Case Scenario: No other team makes him a decent offer as a restricted free agent, so he stays in Chicago as a reserve wideout and special-teams contributor. If he catches 20-25 passes and continues to make tackles on the coverage units, he'll more than earn his roster spot.

2008 Forecast: A few clubs are starting to show some interest in Davis, namely the Dolphins and Chiefs. Since the Bears didn't think highly enough of the former arena leaguer to place more than a minimum tender on him, it seems likely that he'll be wearing a different uniform very soon.

MARTY BOOKER
2007 Review: 50 receptions for 556 yards and 1 touchdown in 15 games for the Dolphins. He never put up the kind of numbers in Miami that he did in his first tour of duty with the Midway Monsters, but remember he was on the receiving end of passes from the likes of Cleo Lemon and John Beck this past season.


WR Marty Booker
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Strengths: Big enough at 6-0 and 210 pounds to handle punishment between the numbers, and he's always had excellent hands. One of the more prolific receivers in Bears history, he knows how to deal with the cold weather and was always a fan favorite at Soldier Field.

Weaknesses: He will be 32 years old by the time the regular season gets here and has never had elite speed. It's been six years since he last posted 1,000 yards, which means his best football is clearly behind him at this point.

Best Case Scenario: If he turns out to be a somewhat younger version of Muhammad with steadier hands, then signing him makes sense. He's the only wideout currently on the roster capable of being a possession target, so he could catch 60-70 passes for 700-800 yards.

2008 Forecast: Booker looks to be the No. 1 option on this team right now, although that's not saying very much since Miami didn't even feel he was starting material anymore. He did catch Rex Grossman's first career touchdown pass, so perhaps the two of them can find that chemistry again.

BRANDON LLOYD
2007 Review: 2 receptions for 14 yards and no touchdowns in 8 games for the Redskins. After signing a big-money deal to leave San Francisco for Washington, Lloyd was released after just two seasons and a total of 25 catches in D.C.

Strengths: He has a live body at 6-0 and 200 pounds, and his leaping ability is quite impressive. He's averaged 14.5 yards on 130 career receptions and has always had a nose for the end zone.

Weaknesses: On the field, he's not a burner and can't rely on speed alone to get separation from defenders. Off the field, he was considered a locker-room cancer at his first two stops in the NFL and is overdue for a major attitude adjustment.

Best Case Scenario: Turner recruited Lloyd at Illinois and has known him since the Kansas City native was 17 years old, so maybe a familiar face and a familiar system will help right his ship. If he humbles himself a little bit and wrestles a starting job away from Bradley, he might catch 50-60 passes and score 7-9 touchdowns.

2008 Forecast: The signing of Lloyd was a little bit of a head-scratcher because this organization always talks about assembling a roster of high-character guys. Since he's only inked to a one-year deal at veteran-minimum money, the Bears could easily cut him if he becomes a problem again.

MIKE HASS
2007 Review: No receptions. After making the team with a sensational training-camp performance, Hass was inactive for 15 of 16 games and is still yet to register his first professional catch.


WR Mike Hass
Harry How/Getty Images

Strengths: Fundamentally sound and a great route-runner, he has the best hands on the team and seemingly never drops the ball. After walking on at Oregon State, he set numerous school records in three years as a starter and won the Biletnikoff Award as a senior.

Weaknesses: He's simply not very gifted athletically, and his below-average straight-line speed prevents him from being any sort of downfield threat. And even though he was the talk of Bourbonnais last summer, the coaching staff was apparently not impressed enough to give him a legitimate shot in the regular season.

Best Case Scenario: He shows once again in the offseason that he belongs on an NFL roster, finally earning a spot in the receiver rotation. As a third-down target in three- and four-wide formations, perhaps he could catch 30-35 passes for 350-400 yards and a TD or two.

2008 Forecast: The front office didn't say goodbye to Muhammad and Berrian just to clear the way for Hass, especially since Booker and Lloyd were brought in shortly thereafter. Hass will have to fight tooth and nail for a job once again.

BRANDON RIDEAU
2007 Review: No receptions. Rideau spent 2006 on the practice squad and enjoyed a fantastic offseason program, but a preseason injury ended any hope he had of making the team.

Strengths: The tallest receiver on the depth chart, he is an easy-to-find target at 6-3 and possesses good leaping ability. He's not a speed demon by any stretch of the imagination, but he's fast enough to be effective on Sundays.

Weaknesses: He's had trouble staying healthy as a pro and – like Hass – is yet to log that first NFL catch. After being waived before the season, no other team deemed him worthy of a contract until the Bears brought him back early in `08.

Best Case Scenario: He recovers from all the health problems that have derailed his career to date, and he looks every bit as good this offseason as he did last. If he proves to be more valuable on special teams than Hass, he stands a chance to make the final roster.

2008 Forecast: It's hard to make predictions on a player who is yet to earn his keep despite wrapping up his collegiate career in 2004. Rideau certainly has some ability, but he'll have to leapfrog some more established names in front of him if he wants to stay in the Windy City.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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