Predicting the Chicago Bears Secondary Depth Chart
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The position group that received the largest turnover of talent during the 2012 offseason has been the Chicago Bears secondary.
The Bears brought in two free agent cornerbacks, drafted two cornerbacks and drafted a safety while retaining starter Tim Jennings in free agency.
The roster turnover from the preseason of 2011 to 2012 is evident in the loss of safety Chris Harris, who was cut, and free agent departures of Zack Bowman and Corey Graham.
As such there is going to be a high level of competition during training camp to iron out who the starters will be at what positions and who will be the key backups at each position.
First we'll set the starters in the secondary:
Right cornerback will be as it has been for nearly a decade, manned by Charles Tillman. Tillman is coming off arguably his best season as a Chicago Bear where he earned Pro Bowl honors. Tillman has been working hard in the offseason and battling with Brandon Marshall to make both players better.
Tillman is locked in as a starter and seems to get better with age.
At the left corner spot, veteran Tim Jennings will earn the nod ahead of Kelvin Hayden. Jennings has been a top level player for the Bears for two years and is being asked once again to earn his starting role.
Jennings will keep his starting spot ahead of the oft injured Hayden.
At safety things aren't as clear as most Bears fans predict they would be. Chris Conte has locked down the starting safety position opposite strong safety Major Wright. The second and third year players will protect the cover-2 defense from being picked on by two of the best passers in the NFL in Rodgers and Stafford.
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The starting nickel will be D.J. Moore, who is ideally suited for the position because he is a physical presence on the smaller, quicker receivers, can blitz and is solid in run support. Moore gets the most out of his 5'9" frame and may one day, wind up being a starter on the outside.
No real battle exists at the starting positions based on a few simple facts; Brandon Hardin is learning at free safety and Major Wright has more talent than Craig Steltz.
The closest battle between the starters will exist at strong safety, but I'm confident Wright will nail down the position. There's not a lot of confidence in Wright, but Steltz is more one dimensional and is a proven liability in coverage.
Neither obviously inspires a lot of confidence, but the Bears are going to go into the season with one as the starter and the other on a short leash.
Diving into the rest of the depth chart will relatively easy, Kelvin Hayden will backup both Jennings and Tillman with his primary focus likely to be the right corner spot.
Jonathan Wilhite made some noise in OTAs and the main battle on the roster will be between him and the two rookies.
Last year, the Bears only kept five corners on the roster and that figures to be the same total they maintain in 2012.
This leaves one other roster spot open among three players in Wilhite Greg McCoy and Isaiah Frey. The battle will go down to the wire between these three with pre-season games being the ultimate decider.
The guess here is that McCoy edges out Frey for the final CB spot on the roster. McCoy already edged ahead of Frey during OTAs and minicamp running with the second team while the veterans earned some rest.
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Frey, likely gets stashed on the practice squad and gets another chance to make the 53-man roster next year.
The odd man out, is Wilhite the 28-year-old crafty veteran, is edged out in a youth movement by the Bears.
While most Bears fans would prefer to see Brandon Hardin starting sooner, rather than later that won't be the case this year. Hardin is a converted corner who must learn the nuances of playing safety before he can anchor arguably the most important position in the defense.
Hardin will get his chance and hopefully can prove the reason why the Bears spent yet another draft pick on a safety this year.
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