Coaches spoke glowingly about Bears safety Adrian Amos during his rookie season.
When Amos secured the starting job for Week 1, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he “looks like an NFL safety should look in all phases.”
In October, secondary coach Ed Donatell even said Amos was rare for a first-year player.
“Amos has been just so steady and mature beyond his years,” Donatell said.
Even when mistakes cropped up and concerns arose, the team still had confidence in Amos.
“He’s a competitor,” coach John Fox said in December. “He’s a professional.”
But those same coaches are demanding more from Amos, the only returning starter at safety, and they never really described him as a playmaker despite all their praise.
Amos led the Bears in tackles, according to coach reviews, but he had no interceptions and broke up only four passes. Linebacker Jonathan Anderson (five), cornerback Alan Ball (five) and nickel back Bryce Callahan (seven) broke up more passes than Amos, who was on the field for 142 more defensive plays than the three players combined. Amos missed only three defensive snaps all season.
Amos’ lack of big plays doesn’t diminish what he accomplished as a rookie. His chief responsibility is to be a reliable tackler. He also was a fifth-round pick out of Penn State without a set position who turned into a 16-game starter for one the NFL’s best defensive coordinators.
But the playmaking deficiencies had to be addressed.
“We’re looking for his ball production,” Donatell said recently. “He had his [right] shoulder fixed a little bit, which we think will make a better player, being able to play freer at full range of his shoulder.”
Amos said this week that his shoulder feels much better than it did at this point last year. He didn’t divulge many details, but he acknowledged that his surgery was more than a scope, saying “I had to get something fixed.”
“It was something that has been going on for a while,” said Amos, who has been limited during organized team activities. “[I] finally got it fixed [to] get it better. It’s just day-by-day. [But] I’m feeling good.”
Those good feelings also carry over to his comfort level at safety in Fangio’s system. He had different responsibilities at Penn State, where he also played cornerback and nickel back.
“I understand a lot more right now than I did when I first came in,” Amos said. “I understand football, but I never played safety to this magnitude before. Getting a year under my belt, learning the system better [and] learning the movements of safety better, it’s just seeing myself on film and knowing where I can improve now.”
He sees where plays can be made.
“It’s just my knowledge of the game, feeling better and more comfortable at safety with the movements,” Amos said. “In college, I was more of a coverage guy. Now I’m more in the box. It’s different. There are opportunities there [to make plays], but it’s just different opportunities.”
The Bears are expecting these factors to make a difference this season. Their belief in Amos remains sky-high.
“The thing that made him a good player in Year 1 is that he’s the same player every day,” Donatell said. “This guy is a very mature player. He’s going to develop into an excellent pro. Year 2, a lot of things slow down for you [on the field].
“From everything I’ve seen, he’s on the proper path to improve this year. I’m looking for excellent ball production from him this year.”