Know Your Bears — The Safeties
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11th in a position-by-position series of training-camp capsules on every player on the Bears’ 90-man roster. The Bears open training camp July 27 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.
Safety 10th year
5-11, 210 Texas-El Paso
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, 2017.
NFL experience: 107 games (41 starts) in nine seasons.
Background: A fourth-round draft pick (119th overall) by the Eagles in 2008, Demps was a part-time player in his first five NFL seasons, but has emerged as a solid starter in the last four with the Chiefs (2013), Giants (2014) and Texans (2015-16), with 15 interceptions and 32 pass break-ups. Demps started 26 games for the Texans the past two seasons.
Notable: Demps is coming off his most productive season in the NFL. He was second in the league with six interceptions last season and was the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in December, but missed the Texan’s 34-16 playoff loss to the Patriots with a hamstring injury.
The skinny: Demps has the best resume of any of the Bears’ 2017 free agents, but he’s still an odd fit on a rebuilding team — a 32-year-old journeyman playing on his fourth team in five seasons. But he’ll provide leadership on a team that needs it and can mentor young safety prospects Eddie Jackson, Deon Bush and Deiondre Hall among them.
Safety Third year
6-0, 201 Penn State
Acquired: Fifth-round draft pick (142nd overall) in 2015.
NFL experience: 31 games (30 starts) in two seasons.
Background: Looked like a real mid-round find when he started every game as a rookie, when he led the team in tackles (albeit generally not a good thing) and was named to all-rookie teams. But he was unable to take the next step in 2016 and was benched in Weeks 13-14 before starting the final three games. His tackles dropped from 108 to 60 (the addition of Jerrell Freeman, Danny Trevathan and Akiem Hicks was a factor) and he struggled to make plays on the ball — Amos had no interceptions for the second straight year and four pass break-ups in 2016.
Notable: Amos has been penalized once in two seasons — a pass interference call. But some would argue that he’s just not around the ball enough to get penalized, like a shortstop with bad range who has the fewest errors in the league.
The skinny: Amos isn’t universally panned — Pro Football Focus loves him — but he’s been average at best in two seasons as a starter and the Bears need much more than that. He enters camp with the widest range of all — if he’s better he’ll be a starter. If not, he could be cut.
Safety Third season
5-11, 210 Findlay (Ohio)
Acquired: Claimed on waivers in 2016.
NFL experience: 29 games (16 starts) in two seasons.
Background: Signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2016, Jones-Quartey was released in the cutdown to 53 and signed by the Bears off waivers prior to Week 1. He started four games as a rookie — two after Antrel Rolle suffered an injury in Week 4 and two more in place of Chris Prosinski in Weeks 16-17. His interception of Jameis Winston against the Buccaneers helped spark a 26-21 victory. Jones-Quartey was the Week 1 starter in 2016, but was generally ineffective — just one interception and five pass break-ups and was benched four times in the second half of the season.
Notable: Given the start in the season finale because of an injury to rookie Deon Bush, Jones-Quartey had six tackles and two pass breakups vs. the Vikings.
The skinny: Jones-Quartey did not take the next step after showing promise as a rookie and now has to fight for a roster spot, as the Bears fortified their safety corps with veteran Quintin Demps and rookie Eddie Jackson and also moved Deiondre Hall to safety. It’s unlikely he’ll get the same shot this year as he did a year ago.
6-0, 201 Alabama
Acquired: Fourth-round draft pick (112th overall) in 2017.
NFL experience: None.
Background: Overcame academic issues in high school — he didn’t start until his senior year — and started four games at cornerback as a true freshman. Jackson was switched to strong safety as a junior by new secondary coach Mel Tucker and returned two picks for touchdowns and was the defensive MVP of the national championship game. Had another pick-6 in 2016 and returned two punts for touchdowns in eight games before suffering a broken leg on a punt return.
Notable: Has a history of injuries but also recovers well. Jackson suffered a torn ACL in April of 2014 and returned by Week 2 of the regular season in September. Has grown up quickly. Though he had academic issues in high school, he graduated in four years at Alabama.
The skinny: Coming off the broken leg it remains to be seen what Jackson can do and when, but he is an intriguing prospect as a playmaker at safety and as a returner who has a huge upside. Jackson has the potential to develop into not only a playmaking safety, but the kind of face-of-the-franchise leader the Bears have lacked.
Safety Second year
6-0, 200 Miami (Fla.)
Acquired: Fourth-round draft pick (124th overall) in 2016.
NFL experience: 11 games (six starts) in one season.
Background: Drafted by the Bears as a noted thumper, but a preseason neck injury held him back and the learning curve in Vic Fangio’s defense proved problematic — Bush was inactive in four of the Bears’ first five games last season. He ended up playing 11 games and starting six, but with little impact on defense (22 tackles, one pass break-up) or special teams.
Notable: After not playing any defensive snaps in the Bears’ first five games last season, Bush played 98.7 percent of the defensive snaps in five consecutive starts in Weeks 11-15 before suffering an ankle injury.
The skinny: Though Bush showed little as a rookie, the Bears still believe he can developinto a productive player with a fresh injury-free start to the season. Based on offseason practices, it appears they’ll give him a good shot in training camp. He eventually had a chance to make a lot of rookie mistakes. Now we’ll see how well he’s learned from them.
Safety Seventh year
6-1, 213 Wyoming
Acquired: fSigned as a free agent in 2015.
NFL experience: 85 games (15 starts) in six seasons.
Background: A fourth-round pick (121st overall) by the Jaguars in 2011, Prosinski has excelled as a special-teams player in his NFL seasons. As a street free agent, he has made an immediate impact on special teams with the Eagles in 2014 (after being cut by the Jaguars in Week 4) and the Bears in 2015 (after being cut by the Eagles). He was third in special-teams tackles in 2015 (nine) and 2016 (seven).
Notable: Prosinski has started 15 games at safety in the NFL — including six with the Bears in 2015-16 — but almost exclusively as an emergency player and with little distinction. His lone interception came in 2012 with the Jaguars.
The skinny: As usual, special teams will be Prosinski’s ticket to the 53-man roster. His experience, leadership and cool head also are valuable to a developing NFL team. He’s a survivor, but this will be his biggest challenge in three seasons with the Bears. If the Bears’ roster truly is upgraded, Prosinski will have a tough time making this roster.
Safety/cornerback Second season
6-2, 201 Northern Iowa
Acquired: Fourth-round draft pick (127th overall) in 2016.
NFL experience: Eight games (no starts) in one season.
Background: A playmaker at safety, cornerback and linebacker at Northern Iowa who had four interception returns for touchdowns, the long-armed Hall became an intriguing prospect in the preseason last year (with an interception vs. the Lions) before his rookie season was de-railed by a severe ankle injury that forced him to miss nine weeks. He returned in December for the final four games, but clearly was impacted by the long absence and never got in a groove. a victory
Notable: Hall was moved to safety in the offseason — a nod to the need at safety more than any dissatisfaction with his play at cornerback, the Bears say. Hall has an October court date after being charged with three misdemeanors following a bar fight in Cedar Falls, Iowa in March.
The skinny: Hall is a candidate to pick things up quickly at safety — the only question is how much opportunity he’ll get in a crowded secondary. Still, unless he’s totally out of place at safety, Hall’s versatility gives him a leg up on a roster spot.
Safety Second year
6-0, 211 William & Mary
Acquired: Sixth-round draft pick (185th overall) in 2016.
NFL experience: Eight games (no starts) in one season.
Background: Came in noted for his nine blocked kicks on special teams at William & Mary but didn’t even make a dent there as a rookie with the Bears. He played in eight games and had two special-teams tackles. Houston-Carson was active for the first five games last season but inactive for eight of the next 10 games before playing in the season finale against the Vikings.
Notable: Houston-Carson was on the field for 118 snaps as a rookie, just eight on defense.
The skinny: It’s easy to write off Houston-Carson as a goner after he was virtually invisible last season. He’s not a great natural athlete and depends on smarts to make an impact. But he did not play safety until his senior year at William & Mary and the jump to the NFL even on special teams is a big one. He’ll have to make the most of every opportunity to have a chance to make the roster.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.