Bears Secondary a Concern...........
Bears' secondary a primary concern
Move to shore up defensive backfield confirms Angelo skittish about team's ability to stop pass
David Haugh's In the Wake of the News 8:01 p.m. CDT, September 5, 2011
Game week began Monday with the Bears finally telling the truth about their biggest fears.
Certainly that wasn't the intent of anybody at Halas Hall, where they welcome candor like Packers fans. Jerry Angelo would rather spend four hours stuck in an elevator with Drew Rosenhaus negotiating Lance Briggs' contract than reveal his innermost football thoughts.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...0-05115647.jpg Story: Bears' Harris welcomes Meriweather's arrival
But signing safety Brandon Meriweather one week before playing the first of three MVP-caliber quarterbacks left no doubt: The Bears worry more about their secondary than an offensive line considered by everybody south of 1000 Football Drive the team's weakest spot.
Nobody said as much, but Angelo's actions announced it louder than any words could.
When Angelo did nothing in free agency to address the offensive line, he gambled on the improvement of a unit that gave up only one sack in Jay Cutler's last 42 preseason pass attempts. By still scouring the league for quality veteran defensive backs over Labor Day weekend, Angelo confirmed the Bears feel skittish about their ability to stop the pass in a division that can wing it.
Go ahead and still set the over-under on Cutler sacks at 50, but realize the secondary has been the Bears' primary concern since training camp.
If the Bears felt good about their cornerbacks, they never would have entertained free agent Kelvin Hayden in early August. Hayden would be a Bear instead of a Falcon, probably starting opposite creaky Charles Tillman as the team envisioned, if not for concerns over a neck injury that surfaced during Hayden's physical.
If the Bear believed in starting-for-now free safety Major Wright, they never would have struck so quickly to sign Meriweather, a two-time Pro Bowl selection who doesn't seem like the mentoring type. Rhetoric aside, Meriweather didn't come to Chicago to support Wright. He came to supplant him.
Yes, he also came in case safety Chris Harris becomes a free agent in 2012 but, more than anything, because the Bears might be wrong about Wright. Just as they were wrong about the seven other opening-day safety combinations during Lovie Smith's eight years, but that's another story.
The Bears cannot afford to cling to the idea of letting Wright learn on the job, not with quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers relishing a chance to show a young safety just how far he has to go. They have to resist the urge to play Wright just because he's an Angelo draft pick. They can begin the process Sunday by rotating Meriweather and Wright.
Smith would be wise scaling back a defensive game plan that isn't as complex as many. The fact Meriweather studied his playbook with coaches until 10 p.m. Sunday indicates the Bears plan to use him against an athletic Falcons offense. It also made a strong first impression for a guy who didn't exactly arrive with a reputation for being bookish.
This move counts on Smith providing structure for a young man whose past suggests he lacks it, a step outside the Bears' comfort zone for a player who should fit comfortably in their system.
The Cover-2, zone-oriented scheme suits Meriweather's instinctive strengths better than one requiring him to play occasional man coverage as the Patriots defense planned. Suddenly safety threatens to become one of the Bears' deepest positions.
It isn't cornerback.
Tillman, 30, has been cut on more than a frog in a biology lab. A warrior, Tillman only has missed two games in the last three seasons. How long can that durability last? The Bears have no viable Plan B, no up-and-coming cornerback ready for a shot.
Starter Tim Jennings turned in a career season in 2010, but the Bears might regret counting on Jennings to maintain that level. We are in Year 4 of backup cornerback Zack Bowman's NFL career and potential still has a healthy lead on production.
The Bears apparently only trust Corey Graham to make tackles on kickoffs and punts. And to make room Monday for Meriweather, the Bears cut a prospect once considered the cover cornerback of the future, second-year player Joshua Moore.
It boggles the mind why the Bears cut Moore in a secondary desperate for young talent and kept Nathan Enderle, an overmatched No. 3 quarterback who has impressed nobody but Mike Martz. Under new rules this season, the Bears can dress 46 players, a big reason why 13 NFL teams kept two quarterbacks.
Was Enderle really a threat to get plucked off the practice squad? Is that maximizing every spot on a 53-man Bears roster that doesn't look as deep and talented as the one that ended the 2010 season?
Seems like the Bears need every able body they can find to defend passes, not throw them.
We know this because they told us so without saying a word.
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