This is Danieal Manning’s make or break year. He’ll likely get THIS season to prove his value, and then the Bears could move on from him. I make this statement based on the same statement Jerry Angelo made about Dusty Dvoracek.
Not because Manning has been as injured as Dvoracek, but because with each passing season Manning seems to slip lower onto the depth chart. He currently has no true position on the roster. Kick returner and nickelback sure, but more was expected out of a player with some of the best athletic ability on the roster.
Manning should be the starting free safety this year, especially with the dire need for one and his speed. Talk about a true center fielder type, with his previously mentioned athetic prowess Manning should be able to cover a lot of ground in the secondary. Instead he looks completely lost out there at times, giving up the deciding touchdown to Andre Johnson in the final game of the season.
Among other mental errors he has committed, Manning has been a part of game deciding plays and has been no help in run support.
Manning’s worth has been bumped up slightly only because of Devin Hester’s descent from elite kick off return man. Manning led the league in kickoff return average last year and did score a touchdown on a return. That being said Manning’s worth needs to be added to the secondary.
Especially because of his second round draft status in 2006. The Bears traded out of the first round and then drafted Manning with their first pick. Manning fits into the mold of current athletic prospects Henry Melton and Jarron Gilbert. Players with elite level talent and athleticism that the Bears hope they can coach into players.
Manning to this point has failed to show up or take advantage of numerous starting chances. Due to Mike Brown’s constant injury problems, Manning has started and gained what should be valuable experience moving forward.
Instead the coaching staff is choosing to go in a completely different direction with Saints castoff Josh Bullocks and strong safety Craig Steltz getting looks at the free safety spot.
More recently has been the development of CB Corey Graham being moved to safety. The tenous situation there is a direct result of Manning’s failure to develop.
So now the question is, what's next for Danieal Manning? Can he be the team’s primary kickoff return man? Can he get enough value from his duties as the nickelback?
My guess is yes, Manning will be on the roster through 2010. However, he will not be in line for a comtract extension, and depending on the 2010 draft picks, may be gone before 2010.
Hopefully Manning can think of this as his one last shot and his play begins to reflect a player playing for his NFL life.