Bears rookie Isaiah Frey on tape

We go to the film room to get a better grasp on the all-around game of Chicago's sixth-round selection, former Nevada cornerback Isaiah Frey.

The Chicago Bears lost cornerbacks Corey Graham (Baltimore) and Zach Bowman (Minnesota) this offseason. They were replaced by veterans Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite.

With starters Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, as well as nickelback D.J. Moore, already on the roster – giving the team five corners, the same number they kept on the 53-man roster last season – it was assumed the club would forego the position in this year's draft.

Instead, GM Phil Emery used his last two selections on cornerbacks: Isaiah Frey, Nevada, in the sixth round; and Greg McCoy, TCU, in the seventh. So much for conventional wisdom.


CB Isaiah Frey
Douglas C. Pizac/US Presswire

"Our scouts and coaches worked very hard on that back end of the draft of those skilled players – the corners and the safety," said Emery. "We had a list of four and we were able to get two of them. We felt very good about that, in terms of knowing where we would be able to find them and what their upside was." Hayden and Wilhite are signed to one-year deals, and both Tillman and Jennings are under contract for just two more seasons, so Emery was thinking long-term with these picks.

As far as late-round value at defensive back, Emery said Frey was at the top of the list.

"We felt with Isaiah, we feel like that we've got the most skilled corner at the back end of the draft," he said.

"We have kept as many as six [cornerbacks], normally we keep five. There's going to be an awfully good competitive mix since we've brought in Jonathan and Kelvin to find out who makes that team and [McCoy will] be given that opportunity to along with Isaiah."

Let's go to the film room to see if Frey has a realistic opportunity to make Chicago's 2012 roster.

For a non-BCS school like Nevada, game tape is hard to come by. As such, we'll rely on a compilation of Frey highlights.

Notables:

-First two highlights: In both plays, Frey sets up in press coverage and makes an outstanding play on the ball, one of which he caught with one hand. Immediately, we're given a glimpse of his athleticism.

-3:50: Shows great speed tracking down Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas. Takes a great angle to knock the ball carrier out of bounds, saving a touchdown.

-4:51: Receiver uses a head fake that completely turns Frey around. Had the quarterback made an on-time throw, it would have been an easy touchdown.

-5:57: Frey is covering the wideout, yet breaks on a pass to another receiver nearby and makes the interception.

-6:19: He absolutely manhandles the receiver on a slant pattern.

-8:40: Receiver runs a 15-yard hitch. Frey is with him stride-for-stride, yet when the wideout makes his break, Frey is late changing direction. The play would have gone for a 1st down yet Frey is able to force the fumble.

Pros

-Looks comfortable in press coverage. -Active hands and very physical on receivers at the line of scrimmage, even those bigger than him. -Great closing speed. -Aggressive when ball is in the air. -Good hands. -Fluid hips. Gets out of his backpedal and into his sprint effortlessly. -"Looks" the part of an NFL cornerback. -Good awareness. Read quarterback's eyes well. -Knows when to turn and look for the ball on deep passes. -Confident.

Cons

-Not a strong tackler. Has tendency to drop his head. Goes to one knee on a lot of tackle attempts. -Double moves and head fakes really hurt him. NFL receivers will be able to take advantage. -Unrefined footwork. -Allows too much separation when a receiver comes out of his break.

Analysis

Frey (5-11, 188) has good size and great speed (4.45 40-yard dash at his pro day). His 18 bench-press reps shows decent strength for a cornerback. He's a three-year starter who led the Wolfpack in interceptions (5) his senior year and led the nation in pass breakups (21). For his efforts, he was named first-team All-WAC.

Physically and athletically, Frey has it all. Additionally, his on-field confidence will serve him well in the NFL.

Yet his game needs a lot of work. His recognition skills in man coverage are lacking. NFL wideouts will be able to abuse him with crisp cuts and head fakes.

If he can improve his technique and awareness, he has the tools to be a decent cover corner at the next level. His aggressiveness while the ball is in the air gives him the potential to be a playmaker, but it's not going to happen right away.

His biggest contributions as a rookie will come on special teams, where he can use his athleticism and speed as a gunner on punts and kickoffs. Yet he has the potential to be a decent nickelback in a few seasons, even if he has to spend next year on the practice squad.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and 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.

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