By Chris Emma–
Editor’s note: This is the eighth entry in a series of positional previews leading up to the start of Bears training camp. Find the rest of them here.
(CBS) With largely the same personnel in place, can the Bears’ secondary be better in 2016?
The secondary’s fate may well be determined by the front seven, a vastly improved group that should create more opportunities to take the football away. Of course, that’s what the Bears are hoping.
Last season, the Bears struggled in the secondary. Their leader in interceptions was cornerback Kyle Fuller with just two. To the surprise of many, they didn’t go out and bring in reinforcements and stability to the secondary. Instead, general manager Ryan Pace put his trust in those returning.
Because of those question marks, there’s reason for great concern in secondary. The Bears are hoping added pressure up front will alleviate those.
In a season of many so-close losses, the Bears took the ball away just 17 times in 16 games — eight interceptions and nine fumbles recovered. That’s simply not good enough, and it cost them wins in 2015.
Can the Bears’ secondary take the football away this season?
Projected starters: Kyle Fuller, Tracy Porter
For better or for worse, the Bears have returning starters at cornerback. The jobs are Fuller’s and Porter’s to lose.
A first-round pick in 2014, Fuller showed signs of consistency toward the end of the 2015 season for the first time in his professional career. He was more active in coverage, though that didn’t lead to more than two interceptions.
Porter emerged as the option opposite Fuller after being signed as a free agent in 2015 mini-camp. He managed to stick with the roster and earn a starting spot, then eventually became the hero of the Bears’ Thanksgiving win over the Packers in Green Bay.
The Bears are counting on these two to bring stability to the cornerback position. If not, they have issues.
Nickel back Bryce Callahan is better suited in those sub packages, and the second-year player hasn’t proved his place as a matchup cornerback. Still, he enters training camp third on the depth chart for all intents and purposes.
Sherrick McManis is on the Bears’ roster as more of a special teams standout after struggling in the nickel role last season. It would take a series of injuries for him to return to the defense.
The Bears can hope for the potential of rookie Deiondre’ Hall, the Northern Iowa standout who has upside. He stands at 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds with long arms that can make a difference.
It all comes down to Fuller and Porter staying healthy and consistent at cornerback.
Projected starters: Adrian Amos, Harold Jones-Quartey
Last season, the Bears were forced to start two rookies at safety. The only aspect that has changed is that they’re both now second-year players.
Amos should be set to start at safety once again. He impressed in run defense as a rookie with 67 tackles — 57 solo — in 16 games started. Jones-Quartey was forced into action in an emergency role and held his own.
The problem is that Jones-Quartey had only one interception and Amos had zero while playing nearly every snap. The Bears failed to take away the football.
Veteran Chris Prosinski could push for a starting spot after earning the nod five times last season, but he’s more of a special teams fit for the Bears.
Rookies Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson will be interesting names to follow. A fifth-round pick out of Miami, Bush could emerge as the replacement for his idol, former Bears safety Antrel Rolle. Houston-Carson projects as a special teams ace after blocking nine kicks at William & Mary. However, he’s a sleeper to earn a starting spot.
Safety presents a key vacancy in the Bears’ defense — one of the few unsecured spots on the depth chart. There are many more questions and concerns in the secondary.