Trying to Find a Niche

Bobby Wade was a 14-game starter at wide receiver last year, but he seems like the forgotten man this off-season, with Justin Gage getting promoted to first team and second-year man Bernard Berrian challenging him for that spot.

Wade tied for second on the team -- and first among the wideouts – last season with 42 catches. But he failed to do much after the reception, averaging just 11.5 yards per catch with no touchdowns. He's small (5-10, 192) and not very fast. But he does have some redeeming qualities.

"Bobby Wade's steady," said wide receivers coach Darryl Drake. "He doesn't possess great speed, but he's where he's supposed to be, and he makes plays and makes catches. There's a place for him (on the team)."

That will likely be in a supporting role. Twenty of his receptions came on third down, which will give Rex Grossman a reliable slot receiver to look for when he needs to move the chains.

Wade is also part of the punt return competition, but because he lacks the speed of Berrian or moves of Nathan Vasher is running third in the derby. If Berrian wins a starting job and the Bears are worried about the depth behind Vasher at cornerback, Wade could take the spot by default.

However, Smith has never hesitated when it comes to using key players on special teams. Both Jerry Azumah and R.W. McQuarters returned kicks and punts while being in the starting lineup.

If Wade doesn't win the punt return job and falls to fourth on the depth at wideout, there are those that feel he could be on the bubble to make the team.

With an abundance of young unproven receivers on the squad, the Bears know what they have in Wade. He's not spectacular, yet his sure hands make him a consistent intermediate threat. It will be difficult to let that go when the coaches have to trim the roster down to 53.

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