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Bears rookie DeAndre Houston-Carson could be a sleeper at safety

Keep your eye on DeAndre Houston-Carson. The Bears’ rookie from William & Mary, a sixth-round draft pick, is considered a special-teams upgrade because of his nine blocked kicks in college. But his disciplined approach, ability to learn and knack for being in the right place at the right time could put him in the running at safety, where the Bears have a wide-open competition to pair up with Adrian Amos.

The 6-1, 201-pound Houston-Carson has limited experience at safety — as did Amos when he came in as a sixth-round pick last year. But he learns well — in his first season at safety last year, he led the Tribe in tackles (109) and had four interceptions, returning one 94 yards for a touchdown and was named the co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Of course, last year he was playing against Lafayette, Stony Brook, Elon and Duquense. This year he’ll be playing against the Packers, Vikings, Patriots and Colts. But after participating in rookie mini-camp, organized team activities and the veteran mini-camp, Houston-Carson is confident he can make that jump.

“My first thought [after the offseason program] is that it’s still the same game,” Houston-Carson said. “There’s a lot of hype [about] making the transition from college to the NFL. I realize it’s [still] about the fundamentals you learned when you were 7 or 8 years old.  That gives confidence that as long as you can try to work on your fundamentals every day, you’ll keep improving.”

Bears head coach John Fox, right, bumps fists with DeAndre Houston-Carson during the team's minicamp at Halas Hall on Tuesday. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

It likely won’t be as simple as that once Houston-Carson starts competing in pads, but the opportunity is there. The Bears might have the most inexperienced safety corps in the NFL. Only Amos has been a full-time starter and that was his rookie year last season, when he led the Bears in tackles (109) but had no interceptions and only four pass break-ups.

The rest is a smattering of special-teams players and rookies. Only three others have started in the NFL. Harold Jones-Quartey, an undrafted rookie from Findlay University who was acquired prior to Week 1 after he was cut by the Cardinals, started four games in place of injured Antrel Rolle last season.

Chris Prosinski has started 14 games at safety in his five seasons, including five starts last year before giving way to Jones-Quartey. And Omar Bolden started one game at safety for the Broncos under John Fox in 2013.

But with Jones-Quartey and especially Houston-Carson and hard-hitting rookie Deon Bush, the Bears’ fourth-round pick, the Bears have opportunities for upgrades at a position that has been a revolving door for several years.

“They’re young and fresh and they have a lot of athleticism,” Prosinski said. “I think the biggest thing for them is just learning the NFL playbook and adjusting to that. But compared to where I was as a rookie, they’re sharp guys. They’re picking it up pretty well.”

Jones-Quartey is the reigning playmaker — he had an interception, a forced fumble and three pass break-ups against the Buccaneers in Week 16.

“Sky’s the limit,” Jones-Quartey said. “Once we all know our jobs, we can play a lot faster and help each other. We don’t have to be robots. That’s what I like about this group — we’re not robots. We all have a certain job to do, but when the play breaks down, you have to help your brother alongside you.”