In the first day of our Training Camp primer we also take our first look at the Chicago Bears defense, which got a new look this off-season especially in the secondary. The Bears safeties were some of the worst in the NFL and struggled for the majority of the season.
Major Wright is gone, Chris Conte is still here and the Bears have brought in a few guys via free agency and the NFL Draft. The positions seem to be up for grabs, with whoever winning the spots needing to solidify the last line of defense. It’s really no secret how bad the Bears were last season at the safety position. It HAS to be better this year if they want any chance at advancing to the postseason.
The Bears don’t have to have a dominant defense overall, they just need a solid one that can keep them in games. The biggest fix is the safety position, so camp should give us an early indication on what to expect.
Obviously this will change as camp progresses, but here’s a look at who will be competing when camp begins.
Consistency is going to be the biggest thing for the Bears this season regarding the safety position. It has been years since the Bears have had a solid duo back there and it’s about time they establish it.
We should know within a few weeks which way the Bears will go regarding who starts.
Despite displeasure from Bears fans after a dreadful season last year, Conte is back and will have the chance to win the starting job at free safety. An injury has set Conte back, leaving it a wide open competition between him and rookie Brock Vereen. Otherwise Conte would probably be the favorite heading into camp.
Conte has played well before for the Bears and that’s the main reason why he is back. But last season was a nightmare for the fourth-year man out of California.
The Bears brought in Mundy as a free agent with hopes he can solidify the strong safety position for the Bears. Mundy is on his third team and has won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The veteran is expected to help hold down the free safety spot but has struggled more recently with the New York Giants, when he saw Will Hill get his playing time. Mundy did start nine games for the Giants last year, but played sparingly down the stretch which eventually led to his departure.
Vereen has a legit shot to start for the Bears as a rookie. He has benefited from Conte missing time with his injury as he was taking first team reps at OTA’s.
The biggest question for Vereen will be his ability to cover. It’s something that needs to improve as camp goes on for Vereen. The draft pick is expected to make an impact, whether it’s as a starter or backup. Time will tell if Emery hit on this draft pick.
The former Green Bay Packers safety was brought in via free agency by the Bears and has started 26 games over the past two seasons. He started all 16 games last season.
Jennings has just one interception and three pass deflections in his career, so he isn’t really a ball-hawking safety which most teams look for. It’s hard seeing Jennings earn a starting spot coming out of camp.
The veteran was brought into camp via free agency and could surprise a lot of people who are doubting the signing. At worst, Wilson could help out with the safeties giving them someone to learn from.
If Wilson works out by earning a starting spot and playing well, it would be a great signing for Phil Emery.
Steltz is back with the Bears after starting just one game last season. He played sparingly at safety for the Bears but has been a special teams staple for a few seasons now.
He will have a shot at competing for a job, but special teams might be Steltz’s best option.
Trice was an un-drafted free agent signing by the Bears and as many would call a “camp body”. Trice was an all-conference safety for North Texas but is a long shot to make the Bears out of camp.
He’s undersized as a safety which is a disadvantage for him, but is an aggressive tackler which could help his cause. He’s also got a knack punching out the ball with three forced fumbles. Trice is likely competing for a special teams role.
McCray was signed as an un-drafted free agent by the Cowboys in 2010 and actually started 10 games at safety for them. He’s considered a prominent special teams player, which is likely his best shot for the team.
I wouldn’t expect too much from McCray in camp, but he could surprise some people.
Who makes the team?
The Bears are in a tough spot going into camp with a wide open training camp battle. They have only seen action from two of the players on the current roster at safety. Despite his bad year last year, I believe Conte stays on the team. He might not start, but he will earn a spot through camp.
It’s unlikely rookie Brock Vereen will get cut unless he has a horrendous camp, so he takes up another spot. Steltz is likely a special teams player that gives them an emergency backup.
Mundy was taking reps with the first team at OTA’s so he’s almost locked in the roster.
That essentially leaves four players fighting for two spots. Wilson and Jennings are likely fighting for the final safety spot, which could come down to the final preseason game.
Whatever happens, it will be an interesting battle throughout camp.