Arkush: Reasons for optimism abound in new-look Chicago Bears secondary
BOURBONNAIS — There is more than a little buzz around the Chicago Bears defense this summer, and the possibility it might just take a significant step forward.
The front seven is re-stocked and locked with Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Jaye Howard up front and Leonard Floyd, Jerrell Freeman, Danny Trevathan, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Nick Kwiatkoski all hoping to make a difference at the second level.
If Pernell McPhee makes it back, so much the better.
The questions are all about a secondary that will almost certainly feature three new starters and just might have four.
Free Agents Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper were signed to start at cornerback, and while it is not impossible it is unlikely Bryce Callahan, Kyle Fuller or Cre’Von LeBlanc would beat one of them out.
Minimally the Bears have the best depth at the position we’ve seen in years.
Quintin Demps is another free agent who was brought to town for the specific purpose of starting at safety, and while Adrian Amos is currently running with the ones at the other safety spot, remember, he was benched at one point last year, and Eddie Jackson was drafted in the fourth round to take that spot from him.
Last year’s rookies, Deon Bush and Deiondre’ Hall, can’t be ignored either.
Head coach John Fox appears lukewarm on Amos at best.
“He hasn’t had a lot of on-ball production in this league but he’s done a lot of good things,” said Fox.
The rookie, Jackson, on the other hand seems to have Fox’s juices flowing a bit.
“He’s a very sharp guy, very aware player, especially for a young guy.
“Kids [coming] out of Alabama get pretty much a good taste of a pro defense,” Fox explained, “in particularly from a coverage standpoint, Nick (Saban) having been a secondary coach in the NFL for a long time.
“Typically those guys—going as far back as a guy like Rod Woodson—they have good ball skills and he seems to do that pretty naturally.”
Amos says he sees the competition as a plus.
“For me it’s really like any other year,” Amos said. “Nothing is guaranteed. You come in, you’ve got to earn your spot, earn your keep. There’s so many good players.
“It’s probably better that this year there’s a lot more competition. That just shows we’ll have a lot of depth coming forward this year.”
Fox thinks the biggest improvement in the secondary this year will come from the experienced free agents, starting with Cooper.
“He’s a veteran guy. He’s been out there. He’s got a good feel for the game. He understands the NFL passing game. So I think he’s been a real good addition.
“A lot of those veteran guys that we brought in, whether it’s Quintin Demps or Prince Amukamara as well as Marcus helps those young guys understand situations, receiver locations, some of the nuances that sometimes with a young player takes a minute.”
In spite of Fuller being the forgotten man last year, Fox hasn’t quit on him either.
“I think last year was a tough year for him,” he said. “It was a tough year for everybody. There’s frustration whenever you’re hurt.
“But he’s battled through that. I think he’s healthier now. I like the way he’s looked.”
Certainly, no one will mistake this group for the Broncos, Patriots or some of the other top defensive backfields in the league.
But a few more takeaways no longer seems like an unreasonable ask.