Today we take a look at the Bears’ secondary in our final roster projection to see where they will project on the official depth chart opening week.
Active secondary players on the roster:
- Chris Conte - 2nd-year player
- Trevor Coston - Rookie
- Isaiah Frey - Rookie
- Brandon Hardin -Rookie
- Kelvin Hayden - 8th-year veteran
- Tim Jennings - 7th-year veteran
- Jeremy Jones - Rookie
- Greg McCoy - Rookie
- D.J. Moore - 4th-year veteran
- Craig Steltz - 5th-year veteran
- Charles Tillman - 10th-year veteran
- Anthony Walters - 2nd-year player
- Jonathan Wilhite -5th-year veteran
- Major Wright - 3rd-year veteran
Projected left cornerback starter: Tim Jennings
Jennings was named the starter over Kelvin Hayden going into training camp and hasn’t looked back. Jennings’ problem last season was not completing plays, which is one of the main reasons he was benched for 1.5 games in favor of Zach Bowman.
When Bowman proved to not be an upgrade over Jennings, Jennings was inserted back into the line-up for the final game of the season and finished with a strong showing. The competition between Jennings and Hayden in training camp hasn’t been much of one; Jennings is proving to be the superior player.
Projected right cornerback starter: Charles Tillman
10 years in the league, it was refreshing to finally see Tillman the recognition he deserve by being named to his 1st Pro Bowl. Usually the LCB is the position that takes on the opposing teams best WR, but depending on the match-up, Tillman should be able to shadow the likes of a Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald when he faces them this year.
Projected nickelback starter: D.J. Moore
Since the Bears are in their nickel formation a majority of the time, you can virtually look at Moore as a starter on the defense. Moore will give up a lot of size against most slot receivers, but what he lacks in size; he makes it up with his instincts, quickness, and ball-hawking ability.
What’s underrated about Moore’s game is his ability to pressure QBs on NB blitzes. He should be even more effective in that area considering the personnel that head coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will throw out in their nickel package.
Projected free safety starter: Chris Conte
Conte was a bit of a surprise last season, performing admirably in his rookie campaign. Expectations in his 2nd year should be for him to become a more aggressive FS, making big plays against the pass. At 6-2 203, Conte is a lanky, athletic FS with the ability to be a centerfield threat for the defense.
His quickness, speed and instincts are there for him to become a breakout player in his 2nd year in the scheme.
Projected strong safety starter: Major Wright
Wright enters his 3rd season on a short leash. Back-up safety Craig Steltz came in toward the end of last season and performed well, and reports from Camp were that he picked up where he left off.
Wright’s problem last year was just simple inconsistency from one game to the next. He could go on streak where he looks like a solid tampa-2 SS, but also go on to play undisciplined, and then the whole D suffered. Mentally, Major Wright needs to put it together if he ever wants to take that next step.
Kelvin Hayden CB - Hayden should be able to provide the Bears with depth at either of three CB positions.
Isaiah Frey CB - Frey has the ability to develop into a starting corner down the line. He has displayed good pass break-up skills, and is an aggressive CB willing to come down and make a tackle.
Jonathan Wilhite CB - This spot was a toss-up between Wilhite and 7th round rookie Greg McCoy. I picked Wilhite mainly because of experience, but wouldn’t be least shock if they pick McCoy for his return ability.
Brandon Hardin FS/SS - Hardin showed flashes of his potential in the first preseason game, but also showed why he’s a project at the safety position.
Craig Steltz SS - I’m a fan of Steltz, but unfortunately I don’t believe he’s a full-time starting safety. When he’s coming up to the box he’s the best SS on the team. However, when you put him in coverage you get TEs like Jermichael Finley making highlight reel catches on him.
Overall analysis on secondary:
As a whole, this group has a lot of potential starting with young safeties Chris Conte, Major Wright and Brandon Hardin. Conte-Wright was obviously the Bears best safety tandem last year as the two athletic players hardly allowed big plays to be completed on them.
Both guys have to improve their game; Conte has to make more plays on the ball, while Wright needs to be more consistent. It would be great if Hardin wasn’t that raw at the position because it gives the Bears a big, strong, athletic safety tandem to combat the TE trend in today’s NFL.
Jennings in my opinion performed well last season, but like Conte, you want to see him create more turnovers. Opposing QBs are going to pick on Jennings a lot mainly because he’s occupying the spot where the CB more often than not take on the team’s best WR. There will be plenty of opportunities for him to make plays on the ball this year.
Steltz, Hayden and Wilhite gives the team veteran depth, while Frey is a young player the team hopes can develop and challenge for a starting spot down the road.
Current Standing: above average