Chicago Bears' secondary lacks needed playmakers
Aside from the Bears' defensive backs treating the football as if it were a live grenade, they weren't awful, especially if one considers how many young players were forced into vital roles.
The Bears had just 8 interceptions - only the Jacksonville Jaguars (7) had fewer. It's a cop-out to say the front seven didn't put enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks, because the Bears were a respectable 12th with 37 sacks.
Despite the dearth of plays on the ball by the secondary, the Bears were No. 7 in fewest passing yards allowed per game (224.9). So coverage wasn't as big of a problem for the secondary as was getting their hands on the ball.
The biggest culprits were the safeties, who combined for a grand total of 1 interception. That was by Harold Jones-Quartey, who lost his starting job twice, the last time to rookie Deon Bush, who started six of the final seven games.
"I honestly think we need to add more playmakers to our secondary," Bears general manager Ryan Pace admitted. "We need to add more ball skills to our secondary. That's on me, and we'll do that."
Adrian Amos, Jones-Quartey and Bush, who combined for all 32 starts at safety, had just 10 pass breakups all season. In only nine starts, undrafted rookie cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc also broke up 10 passes.
Those four are among the six players 25 or younger in the Bears' secondary who started a total of 54 games, including seven games when they opened with an extra cornerback.
Veteran cornerback Tracy Porter battled through a nagging knee injury to start 15 games, although he was not at 100 percent for several games, and it showed in his play. But he did tie for the team lead in interceptions (2) with LeBlanc.
Kyle Fuller, the 2014 first-round draft pick, was supposed to start at the other corner. But he inexplicably missed the entire season after having arthroscopic knee surgery in August.
"I had high expectations that Fuller would be healthy this year," Pace said. "Tracy battled some things this season. (Bryce) Callahan was another player that we had high expectations for, and he was in and out of the lineup (with hamstring, knee and groin injuries, in addition to a concussion).
"That's a position that's going to be a major need going forward. We just had too many injuries and bumps that kind of derailed that a little bit."
On a 3-13 team with many needs, none may be more urgent than the secondary, specifically safety.
In the last generation, the Bears have had one complete safety with the ability to be a presence when the ball was in the air - Mike Brown. Since then they've had an abundance of in-the-box safeties who were solid in run support but lacked playmaking ability.
Pace was talking about the team as a whole when he said: "We're not going to sit here and hide behind our youth and injuries. We need to evaluate everything and we need to get better."
Nowhere does that apply more than in the Bears' secondary.
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