Chicago Bears Season End Review Part IX: The Safeties

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IMarch 8, 2011

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 10: Safety Chris Harris #46 of the Chicago Bears stands on the field against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on October 10, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Going into the 2010 NFL season, it was thought that the Bears would end up struggling in the secondary because they weren’t deep and lacked a lot of talent at the safety position.  Even with the acquisition of former Chicago Bear Chris Harris (from the Carolina Panthers) as well as drafting former Florida standout Major Wright, it was thought that the safety position would end up being the downfall of the team.

As it turned out, even though it wasn’t the most solid position it did turn out to be effective for the most part during the season.  Harris played well for the most part (although he did have some notable breakdowns at times during games) and he was an important part of the team’s defensive success in 2010.  Chicago was also helped out by Danieal Manning, an athletic player that still has his problems from time.

The Bears drafted rookie safety Major Wright in hopes that he would be able to step in and start at some point but he was injured off and on and didn’t get to see as much time as the coaching staff would have hoped.  Hopefully he will be able to stay healthy and contribute in 2011.

The following is a player by player look at all the players that the Bears had at the safety position during the 2011 season.  There is a look back at how they did in 2010, what their offseason looks like and how things look for them heading into the 2011 season.

Josh Bullocks-Bullocks was signed in 2009 as a free agent and has seen little action since coming to Chicago.  In 2010, he played in all 16 games but didn’t have any starts.  He recorded 11 total tackles with eight solo and three assisted all on special teams.

Bullocks provides the Bears with some depth at the safety position but he’s not someone that would be an ideal starter.  It’s possible that the Bears could let him walk this offseason and make an attempt to pick someone else that is younger perhaps and gives them better depth.  Consider Bullock’s status up in the air heading into 2011 and don’t be surprised if he’s not on the roster in 2011.

Chris Harris-The Bears brought Harris back into the fold during the offseason last year and he did a pretty nice job, for the most part, coming in as the starter at the free safety position.  He did suffer from some injury problems and some breakdowns at times last season.  He did come up with some big plays at critical times and was a leader on the team.

All told, Harris played in all 16 games with 16 starts and had 70 total tackles with 50 solo and 20 assisted.  He had seven passes defended, five interceptions and no forced fumbles.]

Harris is quite effective when he’s on and the pass rush is working well and for the most part he did have a good season back in Chicago.  As mentioned, there were a few breakdowns (in coverage) and that is to be expected.  Look for him to have a great offseason and be on the roster as the starter at the free safety position in 2011.

Danieal Manning-Manning played the strong safety position during the season last year and ended up playing in all 16 games with 16 starts.  He had 72 total tackles with 59 solo and 13 assisted.  He also had seven passes defended, one interception and no forced fumbles.

Manning is a free agent this offseason but has been offered a contract by the Bears.  The only question is will he accept it or not.  He is under the belief that he can go somewhere else and make more money (basically thanks to his ability to return kickoffs) and if the Bears don’t offer him what he thinks he’s worth then he may walk.

Right now his status for the 2011 season is up in the air until he signs that free agent contract.

Craig Steltz-Steltz was once thought to be a possible starter at safety for the Bears but he has slid down the depth chart a bit and now risks being out of Chicago if the Bears decide to bring in some additional depth and talent Steltz could be on his way out of Chicago.

In 2010, Steltz participated in nine games last season with no starts.  He had four total tackles, all solo and didn’t have any other stats.  His tackles came on special teams.

Depth is always and issue at the safety position for the Bears and with Steltz’s experience and the fact that they don’t have much around or behind him they may decide to keep him another season.  He could step in and play well for a short amount of time but he’s not a good option as a long term starter. Steltz will get to training camp and compete but if the Bears decide to bring in some new talent at the position he may have his work cut out for him.  Consider his status up in the air for next season.

Major Wright-Wright was drafted with the intentions of having him start or at least be a strong contributor at some point during the 2010 season but injuries derailed his progress and he ended up having a sub-par year.  All together, Wright played in 11 games with no starts.  He had 24 total tackles with 20 solo and four assisted.  Aside from that he had no other stats.

Wright showed flashes last season and now that he has some experience under his belt heading into the 2011 campaign he should have a much better year and could even move into the starting spot if things work out.  He’s got good talent and is very intelligent and just needs to get a chance and with that chance he could excel.

Wright will continue to remain with the Bears in 2011 and should get a chance to start next season. What happens with this group depends a lot on what happens with Manning this offseason.  If Manning doesn’t take the offer that was given to him by the Bears and decides to find work elsewhere then the Bears will have to bring some new talent in and have a competition for Manning’s spot.  That is where Wright might end up winning the job.

The safety position could use some help but it’s going to be one that sits on the back burner while the other larger needs are taken care of.  It’s doubtful that the Bears will do anything regarding the safety position in draft or in free agency.  They may look at some undrafted free agents or a player or two off of another team’s scrap heap but don’t expect them to do much with this position during the offseason.