In the first of our 10-part Chicago Bears Positional Review series, we break down the play of the team's safeties in 2012. Starting strong safety Major Wright was very strong against the run, especially when lined up in the box. Conversely, free safety Chris Conte struggled stopping opposing ball carriers, often due to taking poor angles in pursuit.
Let's take a look at two plays, one for Wright and one for Conte, that illustrate this analysis.
Wright's run stop
This play comes from the Week 5 contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars. RB Maurice Jones-Drew is alone in the backfield with Wright (blue) lined up in the box, just to the right of the tight end. In essence, he's serving as Chicago's fourth linebacker on the play. MJD will run off-tackle right but will be forced to bounce the play outside.
Here you see Wright break down as he approaches the ball carrier. This is an area in which he improved dramatically this season. On numerous occasions last year, Wright failed to break down and was out of control when trying to tackle running backs. Here we see him using good form, legs wide and active, while keeping leverage to the outside.
Wright not only makes the tackle but he drops MJD, one of the top backs in the NFL, for a two-yard loss. This is just one of many examples from this season that demonstrates Wright's development as a run-stopping strong safety.
Conte's bad angle
Here you see the play developing with Peterson running to the left side. Conte is breaking toward the ball carrier. From the trenches, DE Julius Pepper (yellow) has broken free of his blocker and is supporting the run from the inside.
Here is another angle from the end zone. Peterson (white) is turning the corner, with Peppers to his right and Conte 12 yards away.
Conte is now just five yards across from AP and you can see the bad angle (blue) he took. The correct angle (red) would have forced Peterson to cut back inside, right to Peppers. Instead, Conte allows a lane to the outside, of which Peterson takes advantage.
Conte is able to reach Peterson before the first down marker but, because of the bad angle, he's unable to make the tackle. The running back is able to pick up an extra few yards before Peppers tackles him.
Here you see Peterson has picked up the first down, all because Conte failed to recognize the help he had on the inside, taking a poor angle in the process and giving up the sideline.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.