Chicago needs production at the free safety position.
RSSChicago needs production at the free safety position. Matt Bowen
Print ThisJUNE 13, 2012, 05:30 AM EST
The Bears need two things from the free safety position in 2012: consistency and play making ability. And I’m thinking they can get both from second-year pro Chris Conte.
ICONThe Bears need safety Chris Conte to develop as a playmaker in their defensive scheme.
I was up at Halas Hall on Tuesday for Bears mini-camp. A good practice session to take in with blitz period, some DB vs. WR one-on-ones, 7-on-7 and team drills. I wrote up some notes on Mike Tice's new offense in the Chicago Tribune, plus I had an opportunity to check out the secondary.
And when we talk about this unit under Lovie Smith, here’s a quick crash course in the Bears defensive game plan:
- Cover 2 (Tampa 2)
- Cover 3 (3-deep, 4-under)
- Cover 1 (man-free)/ Under 10 (weak side man)
- Zone/Man pressure (base and nickel sub package)
Looking at those base schemes, the free safety is key to production. Playing the deep middle of the field, working off the numbers in Cover 2, dropping down to the “seam-flat” technique in zone pressure, etc.
And watching Conte practice, the Bears have a safety that displays good footwork and moves like a corner. He has range from the middle of the field, solid recovery speed and will close on the ball playing from an outside leverage position in man-coverage.
Conte started nine games for the Bears last season and I expect him to make the ‘jump’ in his second season, improve his angles to the ball, become a more physical player and make sound, fundamental tackles in the open field. That’s what you get from a consistent football player in the secondary.
But it still goes back to play making ability. Drive on the throw; break on the 7 (corner) route in Cover 2, force turnovers. The Bears must get that from Conte. And I’m eager to watch him play and develop this year.
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I was just commenting about Conte in another thread. He has all the tools to become one of the best FS we've ever had. For a guy who only had one year at that position in college I thought he picked it up pretty well.
With him and Hardin we have two guys with the size and speed to be great Safeties. These guys are 6'2" and 6'3" and go 210-220lbs and both played CB in college. Those are two big CB's. We've taken a Safety in the 3rd round each of the last three drafts and all of them seemed like a bit of a reach but it hasn't turned out that way.
I think Conte was a guy who slipped under the radar just as I think Hardin did this year. Wright isn't a bad ball player either but he needs to become more intuitive and a more consistent tackler. Maybe he's just a late bloomer like Manning was. Anyway we've gone from Safety being a trouble spot to having four young guys all of whom are pretty good players and should get better with time.
Conte looks like he can be that "centerfielder" kind of guy who gets some picks and defend against the deep ball. I like the way we've beefed up that position over the last couple of years. It should be interesting to see how these guys develop this year.
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