Bears Trying to Reverse Trend at Safety..............

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by soulman, Jun 17, 2014.

  1. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Bears trying to reverse recent trend at safety
    After a decade of constant turnover, several newcomers are looking to lock down positions.



    [​IMG]
    CAPTIONS Bears OTA practice
    Alshon Jeffery takes in a Jay Cutler pass at the Bears workouts. (Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune /June 11, 2014)

    (Interesting to see what a slimmed down #50 Shea McClellin looks like in pursuit. Now he looks the part of a LB or even a very, very large SS. Can't wait to see what he can do in this new role.)

    By Brad Biggs, Tribune reporter
    8:04 p.m. CDT, June 16, 2014

    The Bears might not settle on starters at safety until the preseason, and new faces working with the first team this spring already have an understanding of the team's recent history at the position.

    Asked if he was aware of the turnover the Bears have experienced, Ryan Mundy didn't pause.
    "Through the past decade or so?" he said. "Yeah."

    The Bears open mandatory minicamp Tuesday at Halas Hall, a three-day window that concludes the offseason program. Mundy, one of the team's first free-agent signings in March, and fourth-round draft pick Brock Vereen were practicing with the first team during organized team activities last week.

    Vereen is aiming to become the sixth rookie in 10 years to start at safety for the Bears, following Chris Harris (now a defensive assistant), Danieal Manning, Kevin Payne, Al Afalava and Chris Conte, who is expected to be in the mix once he is cleared to return from shoulder surgery.

    "(Harris) hasn't told me about it, but I know all about it," Vereen said of Harris' rapid ascent as a rookie. "I think it was the third quarter of his first game, if I am not mistaken, and he held on to that spot for quite some time."

    Lovie Smith's staff benched veteran Mike Green at halftime of the 2005 season opener at Washington, inserting Harris at a position he would hold until the Bears traded for an over-the-hill Adam Archuleta. That deal was just one of the wrong moves they have made at safety.

    It's interesting Vereen has picked up on what has transpired at the position, as much as he has had his nose in the playbook. He credits Mundy with helping him get up to speed. Because both players are new to the area, they've been staying at the same hotel. That makes it easy for the rookie to get pointers on the playbook, film and anything else.

    "He takes care of the young guys," Vereen said.

    Whether the Bears are substantially better at safety remains to be seen. There has always been some level of optimism, especially in the spring, but Vereen is the ninth safety they have drafted in 10 years. That includes one second-rounder, three thirds, two fourths, one fifth, two sixths — and no long-term solutions.

    General manager Phil Emery chose to stay out of the high-stakes safety market in free agency as Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward got big paydays. With bigger holes up front, the Bears wrote contracts with $34.35 million guaranteed to defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. If the front is dramatically improved, there will be less pressure on the back end.

    Skepticism persists. Senior Bowl director Phil Savage, the former GM of the Browns, ranked the safety tandems entering 2014 on SiriusXM NFL Radio last week. He had the Bears 32nd.

    Mundy has been almost exclusively at strong safety and Vereen at free safety, where M.D. Jennings has seen time. Conte is also a free safety.

    Mundy might not have commanded a big payday, but the Bears believe the 29-year-old will flourish. He was leading the Giants in tackles at midseason last year before a hip injury. Previously, he learned behind Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark in Pittsburgh.

    Scouts like the range Vereen displayed at Minnesota, and he's looking forward to pads going on in training camp to show what he can do.

    "This isn't football," Vereen said of wearing a helmet and shorts in OTAs and minicamp. "At the same time, what we are doing here is very important and I am trying to get better every day."

    Whether he can pin down a starting job doesn't concern him right now, and it's premature to handicap the competition.

    "To think about that right now would distract me from how far I have to go," Vereen said. "I have such a long road ahead of me that once training camp comes along, if that is an opportunity, I'll take full advantage of it."

    Rest assured, when the Bears reach Bourbonnais, the safeties will be eager to start a new trend at the position. Doing so, though, has proved difficult.

    "It's tough being a safety," Mundy said. "Sometimes the best thing that somebody can say about a safety is nothing, which means you are getting the job done.

    "We take pride in that. We don't walk around like there are stones in our pocket. We wear it like a badge of honor because everyone is depending on us and we have a big job to do."

    bmbiggs@tribune.com
    Twitter @BradBiggs
  2. The Benjamin

    The Benjamin George Halas Staff Member

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    Reversing trend.... In other words, be good?
  3. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I suppose because the players and the position are such an unknown quantity right now I can see some of the skepticism but not so much that I rank them 32nd. I don't think enough consideration is being given to who else is in the mix in that defensive backfield along with them.

    Mundy was learning the game playing behind two of the best Safeties in the NFL when he as in Pittsburgh then moved on to New York where he finally started and seemed to be doing well after that. Until I see otherwise I'm gonna look at Mundy as another one of those bargain picks like Slauson whose a much better fit for us than some outsiders believe.

    Conte just plain isn't as bad as his 2013 ranking indicates and with Vereen in their pushing for a starting spot plus the assembly of reserves we have I don't think we're as bad off as 32nd. I suppose if Uncle Phil gets a shot at upgrading off the waiver wire he won't ignore that possibility but as it stands I think we're going into battle with Mundy, Conte and Vereen as the top three.
  4. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    Vareen and then next year draft another 1 next year Conte/Mundy/Jennings should be depth guys, at best.
  5. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Assistant Head Coach SuperFan DBS Writer

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    And that doesn't include the FA and UDFA signings. Just seeing Archuleta's fiasco mentioned again was enough to make me sick too.
  6. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Well thinking back about how Lovie played his Cover-2 he wore Safeties out fast playing them as mini-LBs at times. It always seemed to me he put more emphasis on their ability to hit and tackle than their ability to cover. Maybe that's why they never drafted them early. They were as expendable as Bic lighters after a couple of years because they got so banged up.

    Chris Harris and Mike Brown may have survived and played as well as any of them but they rolled up enough battle scars to end their careers pretty early too. Hopefully we'll see a major change in that and we'll keep some guys around for a while. We still need to be drafting them though because even though he's been a low mileage backup for much of his career Mundy is 29.

    I trust Conte to pull out of his slump provided his shoulder is healed and I think we may have gotten a real good player in Vereen. Maybe even a Mike Brown kind of guy but with more speed and range. Maybe I'm being too optimistic but as thoroughly as Uncle Phil covered the other defensive bases I'd find it hard to believe that he doesn't see what he has as being workable.

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