Chicago Bears Insider: The Safety Dance

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IMay 9, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 20: Ryan Matthews #24 of the San Diego Chargers is tackled by Major Wright #27 of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on November 20, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears have had problems at the safety position ever since Mike Brown started getting injured on a regular basis and things just haven’t been the same since.  Chicago has drafted a safety in the NFL draft for the past few seasons but they just seem incapable of finding the right starting combination despite the fact they have acquired so much talent at the position.

So what’s wrong?  Are the Bears drafting players that don’t fit their defensive scheme?  Keep in mind that both safety positions are two of the most important positions in the Bears' cover two defense because they require the safety to not only support against the run but also drop back into coverage as needed.

The Bears' players currently on the roster at the safety position include Major Wright, Chris Conte, Craig Steltz, Jeremy Jones, Brandon Hardin, Trevor Coston and Anthony Walters.  Of this group, the only players with starting experience are Wright, Steltz and Conte.

It would appear as if Conte and Wright would be the starters at the safety position as we head into training camp.  Both are probably the best players at safety right now and both have the experience that the Bears want.  But throw in a dark horse into this mix and there might be a little bit of a shakeup here in training camp.

Brandon Hardin was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft to come in and do something for the Bears at the safety position.  It’s highly possible that he could compete with Wright for that starting safety spot but Hardin has a lot to prove.  First of all, he’s a rookie and doesn’t know a whole lot about the NFL.  He also comes in with a pretty significant injury history (shoulder damage that kept him out of the entire 2011 season) so his health is an issue.

Finally, can Hardin beat out Wright for that starting safety spot?  Wright has had injury problems of his own over the course of his career with the Bears and may not be cutting it talent-wise at the position.  If Hardin is able to stay healthy and contribute it’s possible he could supplant Wright and make his case on defense this year.

Conte looks like he’s pretty much a lock to start at the other safety spot unless someone else from this group steps up which is not likely.  Conte proved himself a few times last year and with one year under his belt in this defense he should be that much better in 2012.  The Bears will certainly hope he is able to hold his own out there in the secondary.

So at least one of the safety positions is up in the air as the Bears head deeper into their offseason workouts and closer to training camp.  Wright may not be the best fit for the team and that may be why the Bears drafted Hardin.  Perhaps Hardin will be able to make a statement in training camp and end up starting by the time the Bears play their first game to start the 2012 NFL season.

It cannot be stressed enough just how important the safety position is in the Bears' defense.  If Chicago has bad play from its safeties, it will significantly hurt the defense.  Hopefully the Bears will be able to put a combination back there that will do the job and help make this defense a solid one.