Is Deon Bush the answer at safety for the Bears?
Though it didn’t work out last year, it looks like defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano still has faith in Bush, who in previous opportunities — six starts in 2016, two starts in 2018 — has warranted a better look.
We all have our “pick to click” in training camp — that unsung player who for whatever reason looks like he’ll be better than people think.
More often than not, it’s wishful thinking that reminds us why we’re covering the Bears and not in charge of the roster. My picks to click in recent years tell the tale: Dane Sanzenbacher, Joe Anderson, Al Louis-Jean, Marc Mariani, Deiondre’ Hall, Tanner Gentry and Ryan Nall.
Without officially participating in this exercise, Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano still made it pretty clear last year in Bourbonnais that reserve safety Deon Bush was his pick to click. He raved about Bush from the start of camp — unprompted — when he filled in for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who was out with a knee sprain.
“With Ha Ha being out, Deon Bush has done a phenomenal job,” Pagano said. “And we’ve all seen him come out every day and get better and better and better. All he’s done is make plays. He’s around the football all the time.”
Pagano backed up his faith in Bush by inserting him at safety in place of Clinton-Dix in the regular-season opener against the Packers — with the intention of using the 2016 fourth-round pick in at least a limited rotation.
Unfortunately for Pagano, it didn’t quite work out. In the one series Bush played against the Packers, Aaron Rodgers twice victimized him for key completions — a 47-yard pass play to Marquez Valdes-Scantling and an eight-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham, the only TD in a 10-3 Packers victory.
Pagano didn’t flinch.
“We’re going to get that kid some playing time,” he said the next week. “He’s earned it. He’s talented and can help us win games.”
As it turned out, Bush ended up playing only 58 snaps on defense last season (with eight tackles), though continuing to make an impact on special teams. Despite that, it looks like Pagano and the Bears still have faith in Bush, who in previous opportunities — six starts as a rookie in 2016, two starts in 2018 — has warranted a better look.
On Thursday, Clinton-Dix signed a modest one-year, $4 million contract ($2.5 million guaranteed) with the Cowboys — a deal the Bears could’ve matched if they really wanted to. On Friday, the Bears signed Bush to a one-year, $1.4 million deal. The Bears still can sign a more experienced safety in free agency or address that opening in the draft. But given Pagano’s affinity for Bush, it’s likely he’s at or near the front of the line to replace Clinton-Dix.
After losing Clinton-Dix and cornerback Prince Amukamara, the Bears need some cheaper options to fill those spots. Bush, a noted thumper coming out of Miami in 2016, is potentially a better complement to Eddie Jackson than Clinton-Dix. And he has grown up in the Vic Fangio-Pagano defense.
The Bears fortified the front seven by re-signing linebacker Danny Trevathan and signing edge rusher Robert Quinn, so the back end is where they’ll take some chances.