For Chicago Bears fans, concern about the safety position is certainly justified. There are a number of options at safety, although the lack of experience at the position is definitely an issue. That includes fourth-round rookie Deon Bush.
The Miami product had 103 tackles as a starter in 2014 and 2015 combined, with four forced fumbles in 2014. During his college career, he had four interceptions and 13 pass breakups.
To find out what the Bears have in Bush and how he might impact the defense, and special teams, I broke down film from three of his collegiate contests. Here's what I found.
vs. Virginia Tech
-0:48, kickoff, Bush shows good field vision and tracks the returner, he fights past a block and takes a good angle to make the tackle.
-1:23, press man coverage against the TE, gets in receiver’s face and chucks him for a full 6 yards, shows physicality and willingness to man up on a pass-catching tight end.
1:49, Bush walks up near to the line of scrimmage as ball is snapped, QB draw to his side of the field, Bush attacks the play and deftly sidesteps the lead blocker, drops the quarterback for a 4-yard loss. Very solid play in run support.
-0:00, Bush blitzes off the edge, play is a run up the middle, he has a chance to make the tackle after a short gain but he slides off the running back’s legs.
-0:07, Bush approaches the slot receiver pre-snap, WR runs a quick out, Bush is slow to react and it’s an easy catch for a first down. Poor positioning on this play, he needed to be more square on the receiver to cut off the quick out. Too easy.
-0:22, lined up in deep half, pass to the flat in front, FB runs over the slot corner but Bush has a chance to take a shot, yet he dives over the pass catcher, which results in 3 extra yards. Needs to be more in control on a play like this. Horrible tackling form.
-0:32, Bush lines up in the box and attacks the line of scrimmage at the snap, RT pulls and locks on, Bush rides the offensive lineman to the outside, carrying him on his back, and is able to cut off the corner from the RB, gets a piece of the tackle. Extremely impressive play here.
-0:48, lined up at FS, pass caught over the middle, Bush sticks him, no YAC. That’s an NFL-level hit.
-1:33, lined up in the box off right edge, play run right at him, FB targets Bush, who chooses to go around the block instead of taking it head on, RB has clear path inside. Bush took the easy way out here.
vs. Florida State
-0:22, WR bubble screen, blocker tries to cut out Bush’s legs, he absorbs the block and keeps eyes on the ball, makes the tackle.
0:58, kickoff, Bush stays in his lane and fights off a block, tracks returner and unloads on him, huge hit that forces a fumbles. Wow.
-2:33, QB scrambles, pass to the right flat, Bush closes but is out of control, WR cuts right inside of him and picks up an extra 25 yards.
-3:03, lined up deep middle, receiver runs a post corner toward left sideline, pass thrown deep, Bush closes quickly and gets in front of the WR, elevates and intercepts the pass. Outstanding recognition, positioning and execution.
-3:45, man coverage against TE, good positioning until the break, TE creates easy separation on the crossing route and makes the first-down catch. Bush again late to react to a receiver’s cut.
-4:15, lined up in press man across from slot receiver, WR tries to block him, Bush just tosses him to the ground.
-4:33, lined up in press, WR stems toward sideline, Bush turns his body, receiver then cuts inside and Bush cannot get his hips back around, easy catch.
Bush put together some inconsistent film at Miami. He's clearly at his best as an in-the-box run defender. He plays downhill against the run and strikes hard when finishing plays.
Yet inconsistencies exist when he's in run support. On one play, he'll carry a blocker on his back and make the tackle. On the next, he'll sidestep a fullback and create a wide lane for the running back. He's a willing player in the box but he needs to be much tougher against lead blockers in the NFL.
What Bush does very well is hit. He's not afraid of contact and obviously enjoys laying the lumber, particularly on receivers who dare to enter his area of the field. Those types of hits can jar balls loose, creating game-changing turnovers. That's a plus.
Yet again, Bush is an inconsistent tackler. There were a handful of plays in this film study in which he failed to break down properly and used poor tackling form. It's clearly an area in which he must improve his technique.
Man coverage is a problem for Bush. He does not anticipate well and is slow to react to receiver breaks. If I were a coach, I'd attack him every time he's lined up in press man. Bears coaches have a lot of work to do with Bush in terms of his coverage technique, awareness and recognition.
On special teams, Bush is a beast. In his rookie season, it won't be surprising if his biggest impact comes in the third phase. He tracks returners well and, just like on defense, he finishes plays with authority. The hit he puts on the kick returner in the Florida State game is something else.
Overall, Bush is a project. He has the physical traits you look for in a safety, one who brings pop as a tackler and who has enough range on the back end to cover sideline to sideline. Yet he has holes throughout his game, which the Bears must fill if he's ever to develop into a reliable all-around safety.