Breaking Down the Bears: Secondary

The secondary is arguably the deepest unit on the team. Their success could be the difference between a good defensive unit and one that is among the league's best. The only thing in their way appears to be good health.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Charles Tillman, RCB Jerry Azumah, FS Mike Brown, SS Mike Green. Backups -- CB Nate Vasher, DB R.W. McQuarters, S Todd Johnson, S Bobby Gray.

This is an excellent group when everyone's healthy, but that was never the case during 2004. Azumah started the season rehabbing from neck surgery, Brown was lost for the season in the second game with a ruptured Achilles tendon and Tillman missed half the season with a fractured leg.

Tillman could be special as a cover corner if he's healthy next season. At 6-foot-1, he has the size to matchup with the league's more physical receivers. Although he failed to intercept a pass in '04, he tied for the team lead as a rookie.

Azumah is inconsistent but is a willing tackler and former Pro Bowl kickoff returner. He finished second on the squad with four interceptions.

McQuarters could very well be a salary-cap casualty even though he does well on punt returns and played some free safety toward the end of the season after starting games at both corner spots and playing nickel. Aside from Thomas Jones, McQuarters scored as many touchdowns as any member of the team with two.

Brown is a smart team leader who always seems to be around the ball and has a knack for big plays. His presence could turn the secondary into a dominant unit.

Green has improved in coverage and has always been a fine tackler and a heady player. He's also a versatile performer, being able to play both safety spots and nickel back.

Based on his exceptional rookie season, few observers would be shocked to see Vasher starting in '05 after he led the team with five interceptions. His emergence could make McQuarters expendable because he also has the ability to return punts.

Johnson and Gray are both big hitters, but neither is adept at coverage. Johnson started 10 games when Brown went down, but didn't show well and was eventually replaced by McQuarters. Gray, who is a restricted free agent, always seems to be hurt.

Bear Report Top Stories