Safety is by far the most prominent position Chicago Bears fans will be watching as the off-season reaches the home stretch. What is there to know?
Free Safety: Chris Conte vs. Brock Vereen
For the sake of mentioning M.D. Jennings can be lumped in here as well but it’s perfectly clear to anybody that the Chicago Bears free safety job will primarily be resolved between former starter Chris Conte and incoming rookie Brock Vereen. Conte is coming off a rather unusual season. Most remember the painful miscues he had in the final regular season game against Green Bay, including a blown coverage that resulted in the winning touchdown with seconds left. At the same time he did finish the season with career highs in every stat category including 90 tackles, and three interceptions. He’s only 25-years old and played part of last season with an injured shoulder. Is it unreasonable to think that fully healthy and playing behind a better front seven that he won’t improve?
That all depends on Vereen. The 4th round pick out of Minnesota comes in with a lot of upside based on scouting reports. They love his intelligence and his athleticism. He played both safety and corner in college and has football in his blood. Brother Shane Vereen is a running back for the Patriots. So far in practice he has taken the bulk of the first team reps, signaling he’s adapting quickly to the pro game. The question is can he show his ability to make plays and can Conte recover quickly enough from shoulder surgery to make it a battle?
Strong Safety: Ryan Mundy vs. Adrian Wilson
The situation for the Chicago Bears at strong safety is no less wide open. Initially it seemed nobody was going to threaten 29-year old free agent acquisition Ryan Mundy for the job. A career backup in Pittsburgh and New York, he became the instant favorite to start on the strong side given his toughness and tackling ability. There was nothing to indicate the team was displeased with his play through the first weeks of practice but apparently the Bears weren’t satisfied with just handing him the job before training camp even started.
Hence the late signing of Adrian Wilson. A five-time Pro Bowler who spent the bulk of his career in Arizona, he suffered an unfortunate Achilles injury last year in New England. At 34-years old many are skeptical of whether he can even sniff the dominant form he used to show for the Cardinals. The Bears are at least willing to give him that chance, and by extension put a little heat on Mundy to see how he responds.
Winners in either battle should not be expected until at least the middle of the preseason.