In this week’s edition of ‘Take 2,’ Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times and Kevin Fishbain of Pro Football Weekly analyze the Bears’ secondary heading into the second half of the season:
Fishbain: I know, Patrick, hindsight is 20/20. The Bears couldn’t have predicted Kyle Fuller would go on injured reserve or Deiondre’ Hall would have an ankle injury or Bryce Callahan would struggle to stay on the field. However, I couldn’t help but wonder while watching Aaron Rodgers pick apart the young secondary last Thursday night that the Bears could have spent more resources during the offseason on the secondary. We saw flashes from the group vs. Detroit, but the Bears are 25th in interception rate. Am I being too negative?
Finley: Yes and no. I wouldn’t blame the Bears’ defensive backs alone for the team’s ugly pass coverage. They’re nothing without a pass rush; while Willie Young’s been a stud this year, no other Bears player ranks in the top 51, league-wide, in sacks. I look at it this way, Kev: the Bears gave cornerback Tracy Porter, who is historically oft-injured, a three-year deal this offseason and did not bother to add veteran roster depth behind him. Porter has started every game, and limped through the past few, but the Bears can’t be shocked they need reinforcements at his position. The safeties — well, at least one — are just as concerning to me. Remember when Deon Bush was supposed to start? What happened to him?
Fishbain: Vic Fangio said, bluntly, that Bush wasn’t there yet from the mental standpoint of the game to put out there. The staff likes Harold Jones-Quartey, but didn’t like him enough in Indianapolis, hence the Chris Prosinski substitution. Fangio expected big things from Adrian Amos, and while we’ve seen some great hits, he hasn’t forced a turnover. (Granted, he hasn’t made a big mistake, either). You would think that in a lost season, we should see some of the team’s fourth-round pick at safety. Follow the money, Patrick, and the Bears spent on the OLBs. Those guys need to make it easier on the secondary, but defensive back has to be a big need heading into 2017, right?
Finley: Well, this is where it gets interesting. GM Ryan Pace wasn’t the one that drafted cornerback Kyle Fuller in the first round in 2014, and I get the vibe the new regime isn’t particularly high on him. They have a choice to make in April: to pick up his fifth-year option, force him to be a lame duck, or look for a trading partner. This was supposed to be a huge year for Fuller; instead, he’s likely to not play a snap all season. Is there anything they can learn about him, or is it a lost cause? And how hard is it to build a good defensive backfield when your first-round pick flops? I think I know the answer to that last one.
Fishbain: I was looking forward to seeing what Fuller could do this season. He’s always had the size and athleticism for the position, and the Bears thought highly enough of him to wait until the fourth round to add someone (while ignoring the position in free agency). In Fangio’s final two years in San Francisco, the 49ers drafted a DB in the first round, and it wouldn’t be an offseason in Chicago without discussing the annual need for a safety!
Finley: Watch how I tie this up with a pretty bow, Kev: the answer at safety, perhaps, is Fuller. Fangio has said that Fuller has the size and ability to play the position; it might more closely resemble the Cover-2 tasks he was drafted to fulfill than it does the current cornerback responsibilities. There seems to be little financial motivation for the Bears to do it, though. Until they have to make that decision, the Bears should spend the second half of their lost season seeing if Bush can push Jones-Quartey at safety. Tryouts for 2017 are upon us already.