The Chicago Bears are in need of a free safety. You can listen to people argue and reason that the competition among the current players will provide us with a satisfactory player who can be effective if the defensive line gets pressure.
Bollocks! and no I didn't just misspell Josh Bullocks last name. The reasoning is flawed. Lets break down who the players are that will be competing for the privilege of being the Chicago Bears starting Free Safety come September:
- Josh Bullocks: Bullocks was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 2005 and was a starter for them up until the 2008 season. Most Saint fans seemed pleased with the departure of Bullocks after he never lived up to his potential.
While a strong athlete, Saints fans cited his inconsistent pass coverage and failure to wrap up as main reasons they were happy to see him go...Not exactly the sparkling recommendation I was looking for out of a free agent that is supposed to compete for the starters spot.
(Personal note: It is bad when your brother, Daniel, is considered a better safety and he started for the 0-16 Detroit Lions)
- Glenn Earl: Released by the Texans after five season, Earl hasn't played in an NFL game since 2006. Injuries held him off the field, including one inflicted upon him during a preseason game by Cedric Benson, for the past two years.
Considered his last real shot in the NFL, Earl is going to have to show a lot if he wants any chance to succeed here.
(Personal note: Let me repeat that "...inflicted upon him during a preseason game by Cedric Benson"...BENSON! If he couldn't tackle Benson without getting hurt, how on earth is he supposed to survive trying to tackle REAL running backs? He also seems to be INJURY PRONE)
- Danieal Manning: Drafted by the Bears to be in the defensive backfield, Manning has looked lost when playing free safety and what is worse, he hasn't gotten any better since we started playing him there. How can I be so sure? Let me prove it.
Super Bowl Sunday. Bears vs Colts. Bears are winning. Danieal is put in it free safety for a couple plays and gets burned for a long touchdown after letting Reggie Wayne run right past him. I don't know if he thought there was someone behind him or what, but it was ugly.
Fast forward to the final game of this past season against the Texans. Second quarter. Manning lets Andre Johnson run right past him and then make a catch without any Bear being within 15 yards of him. Same play was run, same action taken by Manning, same result, but two full seasons apart.
Either move him to nickle/kick returner or shoot me now... PERIOD.
- Craig Steltz: Took over for brief periods when Mike Brown went down with a couple injuries. He made a nice interception at the goal line against the Lions (I know, they lost every game, but an INT is an INT) and showed some flashes.
But in his brief time, he made me cringe every time he tried tackling someone in the open field. I mean, he could not wrap up and bring a guy down if his life depended on it. Steltz was literally run over at one point by the Vikings Adrian Peterson.
I know Peterson is a beast, but anytime a running back trucks you and leaves tire tracks, you have to know you are doing something wrong.
- Al Afalava: A sixth round pick out of Oregon St., Afalava is known for his hitting more than his coverage skills (If you youtube him, there is a great video of him leveling some guy from Oregon).
But, of course, he also has trouble finishing tackles in the open field. If he makes the team, which I believe is a long shot, Afalava will be joining up with fellow Hawaiian boy, Olin Kruetz.
The last option at safety is a popular one, and that is converting a corner. Popular choices include Zach Bowman, Nathan Vasher, rookie DJ Moore, or Corey Graham.
Bowman or Vasher would be best suited to make the change. Both are excellent at reading QBs and reacting. They both have shown ball hawking abilities (admittedly, Bowman has only played one game) and it would allow another playmaker to get on the field. Although both players have shown to INJURY PRONE!
DJ Moore... to be honest, I just do not see what is so special about Moore. He is slower than the most corners and shorter than the rest of them. He is supposed to be a ballhawk, but I am a dubious observer at the moment. At least until proven otherwise.
Moving Corey Graham from corner to safety is just stupid in my opinion. He came in and played exceptional last season and he got better as the season progressed. With him and Peanut at corners, Vasher or Bowman at FS (the other would be an excellent choice for nickle) and Payne at the SS, we could be alright.
That said, having to take a player out of his natural position and teach him something new worries me. There will be a learning curve and it could be costly.