At 2-9, the remainder of the Chicago Bears season is an evaluation period for next year and beyond.
Which players, particularly the rookies, have the potential to be long-term contributors?
With that in mind, the Bears elevated third-round rookie safety Deon Bush to the starting position two weeks ago, taking over for Harold Jones-Quartey with the first team alongside Adrian Amos.
I broke down All-22 game film from the past two contest to get a better feel for Bush's development and potential. Here's what I found.
This snap is Titans RB Derrick Henry's red-zone touchdown run. This will be a counter run, with the RG pulling in front of the play. Notable on this play are Bush (blue), OLB Sam Acho (red) and ILB Danny Trevathan (orange).
Bush sprints outside to cover the tight end. Trevathan doesn't recognize the counter and remains indie the tackle box. With the right guard pulling to seal Trevathan, Acho (red) will be left unblocked.
Trevathan (orange) can't get off the block and Acho's feet are stuck in quicksand, which gives Henry a path to the corner. Notice rookie ILB Nick Kwiatkowsk (black) who is immediately driven backward by the second-level block. Bush is shifting his weight outside to try and cut off Henry but ...
... Bush (blue) doesn't see the TE cracking down on him, which allows Henry to turn the corner. Kwiatkoski (black) is being pancaked to the turf.
Bush was hit at the 11-yard line and the collision bounced him to the 3-yard line, eight yards backward, before he eats turf.
This is a B-gap red-zone dive by Henry. Bush (blue) is lined up 9 yards deep from the line of scrimmage.
Kwiatkoski fires into the gap, which forces Henry to cut outside. FB Jalston Fowler is heading right for Bush.
At contact, Bush is driven off his feet.
Amos (yellow) takes down Henry at the 1-yard line, as Bush is buried to the ground.
An area in which Bush must improve is tackling technique. Here is the first of two examples, with Bush closing on Giants RB Rashad Jennings.
As Bush closes in for the hit, notice his head, which is bent so far forward, we can barely see it. Not only is this dangerous but, when you're looking down at the turf, it's impossible to keep your eyes on the ball carrier.
As he hits Jennings, Bush's head and neck are bent at a hard angle toward the ground.
This is a separate snap and once again Bush has his head and neck bent toward the ground as he makes contact with the ball carrier. Notice his arms, just dangling toward the ground. With this body positioning, Bush's spine will absorb all of the contact from the hit. If this nonsense continues, Bush will be on IR by the end of the season, guaranteed.
Let's shift gears and focus on Bush in coverage. On this snap, Bush (blue) is lined up near the box in two-deep coverage, with man coverage up front. Amos will be charged with covering the deep left half of the field, with Bush covering the right half. On the far side, WR Rishard Matthews will run a skinny post to the end zone. Bush is lined up on the 20-yard line.
We're now 2 seconds into the play and Bush has not yet moved, while Matthews is flying up the field right behind him.
Rishard leaves Bush and CB Bryce Callahan in his wake and makes a diving over-the-shoulder TD catch on a beautiful pass from QB Marcus Mariota.
With NFL coverages, it can be difficult to gauge who as at fault on a play like this. Yet I find it highly unlikely defensive coordinator Vic Fangio wanted to Bush to roam the intermediate zone, where there were already two cornerbacks, while leaving 100 square-yards of open space on the back end.
This snap is a flea flicker by the Titans offense. Bush (blue) is single-high, with Amos in the box. At the initial handoff, Bush moves forward. The slot receiver (yellow) is faking a block but will soon sprint down the field on a fly route.
At this frame, Mariota is getting the ball back from the RB. Bush is just now opening his hips to try and get back down the field.
Bush is caught flat-footed and the receiver is wide open by four yards. Luckily for the Bears, the pass was overthrown.
This snap is two-deep coverage with man-to-man up front. Bush (blue) has the deep right half, with Amos (orange) in charge of the deep left.
Giants WR Sterling Shepard (yellow) crosses underneath but then cuts back out and up the hash. Notice Bush has not moved. Amos has the deep orange area covered but Bush has left the deep green area unattended.
Shepard's double cut spins Callahan completely around, creating instant separation for the receiver. Bush still has not moved, leaving a huge are of space in the end zone wide open.
Shepard makes the easy touchdown catch as Bush opens his arms in Callahan's direction, clearly trying to place the blame on his teammate. Callahan was beat badly on this snap but, like before, I doubt Fangio just wanted Bush to sit in one spot the entire play, covering an area already occupied by two corners, thus leaving half the end zone unoccupied.
Our final snap has Bush (blue) lined up at free safety, with Amos crashing toward the line of scrimmage at the snap. WR Odell Beckham Jr. (red) will run a go route outside the right hash.
As Beckham crosses the 40-yard line, Bush turns his hips and breaks out of his backpedal. This is perfect timing for Bush, to begin his bail with the receiver still 10 yards in front of him.
Because he reads the play properly, Bush has time to take a shallow angle initially, closing ground on the receiver and staying behind the play at the same time.
Bush is stride-for-stride in Beckham's hips, never allowing the receiver to make a play on the ball.
Bush is a work in progress, to say the least. He showed a lot of toughness in camp and, while he's a willing tackler, his lack of form and power are evident on film. His poor technique may soon result in a serious injury as well.
In coverage, he does not have great field vision and his reaction time is painfully slow. In fact, he's often seen on the field frantically trying to motion Amos or other teammates in order to clarify his role on the play.
Fangio clearly sees Bush as a free safety. He has the athleticism and speed to play center field but his lack of instincts are worrisome and could lead to a number of big plays down the stretch.
Bush's physicality is admirable but his mental mistakes, in addition to his lack of presence as a run defender, will result in a steep learning curve going forward.