Gage Looking for Results

Justin Gage

Lake Forest - Justin Gage has been an enigma during his three seasons in Chicago. At six-foot-4 and with the leaping ability of a basketball player, he has big play potential, but that has yet to turn that into production.

Few players have done less to warrant more hype. Coming into this season, Gage had just 26 career receptions, yet the coaching staff thought they saw something more. He was named the starter before the team had one off-season workout.

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner thought Gage was underused by Terry Shea and had plans to take advantage of his combination of size and jump ball capability.

Despite catching just three balls in the preseason, he retained the starting role opposite Muhsin Muhammad for the first three games of the season. However, he caught just two balls and a drop in the third game opened the floodgates to Kyle Orton throwing five picks against the Bengals.

Rookie Mark Bradley took over for Gage and his demotion quickly became small news compared to being inactive against the Ravens.

Head coach Lovie Smith is hoping the move will serve as a wakeup call for Gage.

"I think sometimes we get in a comfort level," Smith said.

"Each week you're up and you get an opportunity to play you really need to do something to help the team win and make yourself known. Any time you're not dressing we're really saying we think we can win a game without you that week."

Gage has been down this road before. He caught five balls over the final 10 games of last season and became the forgotten man. He has had worked with a new offensive coordinator in each season since coming to Chicago as a fifth round pick in 2003.

"It's been tough, just adjusting and what not," Gage said. "But in this business you've got to learn fast and you've got to make things work."

Two weeks ago Michael Haynes was inactive against the Vikings for the first time in his career. He worked hard in practice to prove he was worthy of being on the game day roster and came up with a half a sack in the fourth quarter against Baltimore.

Bobby Wade was inactive in the season opener, but has since become the NFL's leading punt returner.

There could be a similar chance for Gage to get back in the mix. Bernard Berrian has been ruled out against Detroit, which means Gage will likely suit up against the Lions, a team he has had success against in the past.

As a rookie, Gage caught his first touchdown pass of his career against the Lions. Considering Detroit will be without their top cover man in Dre Bly, there could be the chance for the deep ball, something the Bears have been trying to develop with rookie QB Kyle Orton.

"I think we're close," Turner said. "I think it's a matter of just keep doing it. As I have said all along, we wanted to establish the running game and keep that going. We have to keep being able to run the football and getting the ball down the field would be the next part that comes."

With the Lions focused on Thomas Jones, the chance to go deep against an eight-man front could be the key to getting Gage on track.

"Make plays whenever I get opportunities," Gage said of what he took away with his meeting with Smith. "Whether that's a couple plays or a lot of plays, regardless just make things happen."

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