Wright Under the Gun to Step Up.......
Bears' Wright under gun to step up
With Manning gone, second-year safety will be counted on to reduce mistakes
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...732-400225.jpg Bears safety Major Wright is under pressure to perform. (Phil Velasquez/ Tribune photo)
By Vaughn McClure, Chicago Tribune reporter 7:08 p.m. CDT, August 18, 2011
BOURBONNAIS — He is only 23 years old, full of energy, athletically gifted and still a question mark.
Major Wright has all the tools to be a solid NFL free safety, yet there is something about the second-year player that makes some cringe at times
Calling him the weakest link of the Bears' often-suffocating defense might be a little unfair, but even Wright understands the high standards surrounding him. The front seven is stacked with three Pro Bowlers — Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, and Julius Peppers — and second-team All-Pro Chris Harris lines up opposite Wright in the secondary.
Talk about the pressure to perform.
"Being on this vet defense, you have to know what you're doing,'' Wright said. "Basically, you're just going out and showing the rest of the guys on this defense that you can play on this defense. That's what I'm trying to do.''
Training camp has helped sooth some of the concerns about Wright's ability to assume a full-time starting role.
He looks more comfortable. He's more in sync. He plays more instinctively.
"I'm feeling pretty good," he said. "I'm taking day by day, getting better every day. With my breaks, reading the quarterback, just being in the right spot at the right time.''
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has noticed the difference and credited secondary coach Jon Hoke and safeties coach Gill Byrd for Wright's rapid improvement.
"Major, we could see it last year, but he is really an outstanding tackler,'' Marinelli said. "Gosh, he takes great angles. He's fearless, and he breaks on the ball very well. He's going to impact us.''
In a good way, the Bears hope.
Everyone knows Wright can hit, but how well will he play the ball this season? He had 31 tackles as a rookie without an interception or a forced fumble.
"He still has a long ways to go in improvement from a technique standpoint,'' Hoke said.
Wright's development could be one of the keys to the team's defensive success this season. The former third-round pick made his share of rookie mistakes as a part of a safety rotation. Last year, the Bears had the luxury of sticking with starter Danieal Manning if Wright had a major hiccup.
With Manning now playing for the Texans and the Bears opting not to pursue a veteran safety in free agency, the onus is on Wright to minimize mental errors. One such breakdown led to the longest play surrendered by the defense last season: Tom Brady's 59-yard touchdown pass to Deion Branch in the Patriots' 36-7 thumping of the Bears.
"The huge thing for Major is just to make sure you can be accountable, that guys can trust you,'' Harris said. "He's slowly but surely winning that trust factor.''
Wright can ill afford to have lapses at the start of the regular season with the Falcons' Matt Ryan, the Saints' Drew Brees and the Packers' Aaron Rodgers first up on the schedule. Those quarterbacks had a combined 42 touchdowns on third down last season, and Brees and Rodgers each had 80-plus yard touchdown tosses.
The Bears allowed nine plays of 30-plus yards a year ago, three for touchdowns. They don't want to see those numbers increase because of Wright's inexperience.
"Any time you get a young guy in there, a new guy, you want to make sure they know exactly what they're doing, how to do it, and where they're supposed to be,'' Harris said. "For Major, it's just making sure you know everything so you're not thinking and it's strictly reaction.
"Major's a guy who has tremendous confidence in himself and in his ability, so I think that's going to bode well for him.''
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