Chicago Bears Preseason Preview: The Safeties

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IJuly 30, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:  Thomas Jones #20 of the New York Jets dives for extra yardage against Chris Harris #43 of the Carolina Panthers on November 29, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Both of the safety spots in the secondary for the Chicago Bears should be some of the most competitive positions on the team in training camp and we may see some of the best play come out of this position for several seasons. Why? Because the talent is there, but we just don’t realize it yet.

The Bears brought back Chris Harris in a trade from the Carolina Panthers after he had left after their successful 2006 season. Harris should be slated to be the starter at one spot thanks to his familiarity with the Bears defense as well as his ability to play hard. Harris is a welcome addition to a position that hasn’t been that solid since he left the team back after the Super Bowl. The team and its fans are expecting some big things out of Harris.

Chicago went out and drafted Major Wright, out of the University of Florida, this year to help back-up at the safety position. However, it looks like Wright may end up being the starter opposite Harris and could make an impact right away as a rookie. 

Wright can cover in passing situations and isn’t afraid to come up and support against the run. As long as he develops well in camp and shows that he is more of an asset than a liability then he could get the start.

Al Afalava played most of his first year in 2009 as a starter and while some feel that he wasn’t the answer that the Bears were looking for, he did play pretty well. Afalava was injured at times during the season but he hit hard and picked up the defense quickly so he was an asset to the team last year even though many say he was a failure. Look for Afalava to be a valuable backup and a potential starter as needed in case of injury or ineffective play.

Craig Steltz remains with the Bears, for now and could have a tough go of it in being able to keep a spot on the roster in training camp. He has been tabbed as a potential starter (in the past) by management and the coaching staff but despite all of his promise, things just haven’t turned out well for Steltz. 

Depending on how the injury situation goes in training camp, Steltz may not make it past the final cuts after it’s all over and could miss out on a shot to stick with the team in 2010. He is definitely an interesting player to keep an eye on in training camp this summer.

Josh Bullocks was signed by the Bears last offseason in hopes of filling the void at the safety position but even though he played often he still wasn’t (and still isn’t) the long term answer for the Bears at the safety position. Bullocks has been an underachiever but has just enough talent to attract the Bears coaching staff enough so that he may end up on the roster as opposed to Steltz. He will be in a battle for a roster spot but the Bears seem to like what he has so he should stick on the roster another season.

The Bears went out and signed linebacker/safety Brian Iwuh for special teams play but could use him at the safety position if needed. He can be a decent enough backup and if they find that he needs to come in to help out when someone is injured, he might see some active time playing. 

However, he will start training camp as a special teamer who has to work himself into a backup position at safety. Things for him could go either way. He could make the roster or he could get cut but he will be another one of those interesting players to watch this summer.

Definitely not to be forgotten, Danieal Manning was almost a problem for the Bears this offseason as he started off by saying that he was going to hold out for a long term contract. That didn’t last long and soon he was back in OTA’s with a one year contract and a mission. His mission, to win the starting job and play even better this year. It doesn’t look like Manning is going to win a starting job but he’s definitely someone that the Bears will want to keep around.

Manning has the ability to play both safety and cornerback although he doesn’t excel in either role. He can also be the nickel back in this defense and this may be what he does in 2010. One other nice thing about Manning is that he has the ability to return kicks so he has a lot of value there for the Bears. Look for him to be an important part of this team in 2010.

Undrafted rookie free agent Scott Quentin is coming into training camp to help provide some depth at the safety position and with a good camp he could be considered to sit on the practice squad in 2010. If anything else, he provides depth to help rest some of the other guys ahead of him and gives the Bears a chance to look at some other talent at the position.

The safety position has been a contentious one for the past few seasons. The Bears have not been able to get any solid talent there for quite a while (as well as guys that stay healthy) so big hopes lie on what the guys they have at the two positions can do this year.

The Bears need to have some consistency at the position this season. If they don’t, they can have all the pass rush in the world and anything that gets by the first and second level will go all the way if there is no one there to stop them. The Bears have to have good play back there or it’s going to be a long season.