The Chicago Bears have been desperate for competence at the safety position since the Bill Clinton era. The team has drafted a safety in 12 of its past 16 drafts, showing just how eager each of the past four regimes have been for quality play from the safety position.
That search continued in last year's draft when GM Ryan Pace selected Adrian Amos out of Penn State in the fifth round.
Amos was a three-year starter at safety for the Nittany Lions, who also occassionally played slot corner. He was touted as strong and versatile in coverage, while some evaluators questioned his ability in run support.
He didn't light it up at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, which caused his draft stock to tumble from a potential third-round pick all the way to the fifth round, where the Bears were all too happy to select him.
Chicago's coaching staff took a shine to Amos almost immediately and began rotating him with the first team during OTAs. By training camp, Amos had cemented himself as the starter ahead of Ryan Mundy - who led the team in tackles the previous season.
Amos held on to the starting gig through training camp and the regular season, and started all 16 contests. He ended up playing the most snaps (1,046) of any defender on the roster.
While the scouting reports questioned his tackling ability, Amos quickly erased those doubts, showing very well as an in-the-box safety. He was aggressive in run support and showed a willingness to lower the boom on pass catchers who dared cross his part of the field.
He led the team with 10 missed tackles, yet that was a product of volume as much as it was his skill set as a tackler. Based on the eye test, Amos is one of the better young tackling safeties in the NFL, one who isn't afraid to stick his nose in the pile and serve as an extra interior linebacker.
He finished his rookie year with 67 total tackles - third most on the team - along with 1.0 sack and 2 pass breakups.
Due to his prowess as a tackler, Amos was voted by the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) to the 2015 All-Rookie Team.
Yet Amos did not fare as well in coverage as he did in college. He was targeted 25 times last year and allowed 20 receptions. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), of the top 38 safeties in the NFL, Amos' 80.0 completion percentage against was second worst, behind only Seattle's Kam Chancellor.
Opposing quarterbacks had a 117.0 QB rating when throwing at Amos, which was fifth worst among those top 38 safeties. He did not display great instincts in coverage and had trouble tracking and making plays when the ball was in the air.
That said, Amos wasn't a total liability on passing downs, as he allowed just one touchdown all season, while his solid tackling skills resulted in just 88 yards after the catch (4.4 avg.).
Going forward, the Bears can rely on Amos as a run defender but his struggles in coverage must be resolved. He's a talented, intelligent young player with potential but at this point, he's dangerously one-dimensional, just like many of the Bears safeties that preceded him.
Amos has the ability to be a better defender against the pass, and one of the best safeties in the NFL, but only if he develops confidence in coverage next season and beyond.