Emma: Bears Could Be Facing Crisis Mode At Cornerback

By Chris Emma–

(CBS) By all indications, the Bears seem to have a good front seven.

During his year-and-a-half in the general manager’s seat, Ryan Pace has created a defensive front of his own vision, with players like Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman, Leonard Floyd and more forming an impressive group.

In dedicating themselves to building a better front, the Bears weren’t able to account for the secondary. In turn, their hope is that an improved pass rush will create disruption in the backfield and present more opportunities for a young group of safeties and corners.

Of course, the Bears are now realizing their worst fear — depth at the thin position of cornerback has already been compromised well before Week 1.

Say, how good can that defensive front be?

The Bears are without their top three cornerbacks. Kyle Fuller is recovering from a knee scope, Tracy Porter remains in the concussion protocol and Bryce Callahan continues to miss time with a hamstring injury. Porter was present on the practice field Monday and Tuesday, though he hasn’t been cleared from the concussion protocol. None of these three are assured to be back for the Sept. 11 opener at Houston’s NRG Stadium. In fact, it’s possible each could be out.

Enter Jacoby Glenn and Deiondre’ Hall, the replacements from the latest preseason drubbing. Glenn is an NFL veteran of one game — one more than the rookie Hall. Demontre Hurst and Sherrick McManis are on the border of either starting at cornerback or not making the cut for the 53-man roster, depending on health at the top of the depth chart.

Looking to fill some semblance of experience at cornerback, the Bears placed a claim on K’Waun Williams on Tuesday and were awarded his rights. Williams then failed his physical, a source confirmed.

Ideally, Brandon Boykin could’ve worked out. He lasted just a couple days of training camp before suffering a season-ending pectoral injury. His roster replacement, Joel Ross, was included in the Bears’ first round of cuts.

Don’t get any ideas, because Charles Tillman is very much retired from football. Count out Nathan “The Interceptor” Vasher, too.

Have the Bears exhausted all their options at cornerback? Not necessarily — cuts are still coming from 31 other teams bringing their rosters to 53 men by the weekend. Of course, each cut usually comes with red flags.

The Bears went into this season banking on what they have at cornerback, while hoping the front seven can make it better. In 2015, the Chicago defense intercepted just eight passes. Porter and Fuller — each inconsistent last season — must hold their own when they return. Porter is a veteran whose first campaign with the Bears was defined mostly by flash. Fuller was a first-round pick in 2014 who hasn’t lived up to that status. Callahan will be asked to man the nickel admirably like in his rookie season.

Those are concerns for later. The Bears have bigger issues right now.

If Wednesday marked Week 1, Texans star DeAndre Hopkins would likely line up against Glenn. Perhaps Hall, the rookie out of Northern Iowa, could become more than upside down the road, but it’s not fair to ask much in his first season.

Hopkins is licking his chops at just about any matchup the Bears could counter — health or no health.

Options are limited for the Bears at cornerback. Come Monday in Lake Forest, they will begin game planning for one of the league’s premier receivers and an explosive Texans group.

The Bears are stuck hoping their top three cornerbacks get healthy. Either that or wishing that front seven can be dominant.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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