The Chicago Bears defense is currently ranked 28th in the league in passing yards allowed per game. Through the first five games, the team has given up touchdown passes of 73 and 77 yards, both on third downs, and have allowed an average of 284 yards through the air.
Starting safeties Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather struggled mightily last week against Calvin Johnson and the Lions. As such, it appears the Bears are going to go with a younger duo on the back end. According to sources, Chicago will be replacing both Meriweather and Harris at safety with Major Wright and Chris Conte.
Harris didn't appear fully recovered from his hamstring injury on Monday and could use a little extra time off – although he emphatically stated the hammy didn't affect his play. Yet, injury or no injury, it looks as if he'll have to take a seat for at least one week.
"I wasn't taking the first-team reps [today]," Harris said after practice. "That's the way it went today."
It was Harris who allowed Johnson to get behind the defense for the receiver's game-changing, 73-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. And his over-aggressiveness against the run was the main reason for Jahvid Best's two big runs.
S Chris Harris
"Nothing that happens really surprises me," said Harris. "This is the third time this has happened to me since I've been here. It is what it is."
Despite the setback, Harris doesn't see any reason he can't win his job back in the near future.
"I don't see why not," he said. "Absolutely, just keep coming out here working. Keeping a good attitude. Adversity, it reveals character. I think I've got plenty of it. Whenever my number is called again, I'm going to be ready."
Meriweather, on the other hand, has looked lost in Chicago's Cover 2 scheme. He has taken far too many risks, putting himself out of position as a result. On top of that, he continues to leave his feet and lead with his head when tackling, which is going to get someone seriously hurt.
Wright was the starter heading into this season yet was very underwhelming in the first few games. He struggled keeping defenders in front of him and making tackles in space. He'll be sliding to strong safety for Sunday's matchup against the Vikings.
The rookie Conte will be making his first career start. If he can simply keep defenders in front of him, he will have done a better job than Meriweather. Whether he can take Minnesota's Adrian Peterson down in open space remains to be seen.
The moves at safety are just one more attempt by Chicago to find a productive pairing on the back end. The Conte/Wright duo will be the fifth different set of safety starters in the team's first six games. It's a desperate maneuver but what other option do they have?
The offensive side of the ball, specifically the offensive line, will also see at least one change. According to sources, RT Frank Omiyale has been benched and will not get another chance to start at tackle. After giving up countless pressures to opposing defenders the past two weeks, forcing Cutler into fire-drill mode for most of Monday night's contest, it appears Chicago's coaches have seen enough.
Gabe Carimi's dislocated knee is expected to keep him out until after the bye in Week 9, so the team will very likely slide Lance Louis outside to tackle and plug Edwin Williams in at right guard. Chris Spencer is still recovering from a broken hand, otherwise he would be starting at guard. Williams did not perform well in the three games he started last season. Yet Chicago's coaches are running out of options.
Like the safeties, the offensive line moves are being made out of necessity. Poor play has forced the coaches into desperation mode. It's doubtful any of these changes will have a marked effect on the field Sunday night, but one thing is for sure, considering how the team played last week, the new starters won't be able to do any worse.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.