Positional Overview: Secondary

Despite suffering injuries to several key members of the unit, the Bears produced 14 interceptions and are poised for more in 2005.

The Bears feel they have enough depth in the secondary that they're on the verge of releasing R.W. McQuarters.

Fourteen interceptions is an accomplishment without Mike Brown for 14 games, Charles Tillman for 8 and Jerry Azumah for 4.

Brown has a knack for the big play and in his last game of the '04 season he returned a fumble 95 yards for a touchdown that helped spark a victory at Green Bay.

In the closing minutes of the game, Brown suffered an Achilles injury that required season ending surgery. His leadership was missed on several fronts.

Todd Johnson and R.W. McQuarters filled in for Brown and their lack of experience led to miscommunication in the secondary, meaning getting beat deep.

While Brown is expected back at this weekend's mini-camp, he will not line up at his customary position of free safety.

The Bears have decided to flip Brown and Mike Green from free and strong safety.

Brown has a physical part to his game that will allow him to be a factor in run support. Green has the ability to play cornerback and will be asked to go after the ball.

The starting cornerbacks are set with Tillman and Azumah.

After a great rookie season, Tillman looked ordinary while fighting a knee problem that limited his playing time and effectives. He failed to come up with an interception.

Azumah had to sit for the opening quarter of the season following neck surgery. He returned in fine fashion, as he tied a career-high with four interceptions.

The surprise of the group had to be Nathan Vasher. Despite having 17 interceptions at Texas, he fell to the fourth round because of a lack of size.

However, his 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame didn't stop him from leading the Bears with five picks while only appearing in about a quarter of the defensive snaps.

Vasher's development is the biggest reason the Bears are willing to part with McQuarters.

If McQuarters is traded or released, the depth behind the top three corners could come into question.

Although Todd McMillon is solid in kick coverage, asking him to play a major role as a cornerback is a stretch.

Alfonso Marshall is coming off a knee injury and is also more of a special teams performer than a cover corner.

Johnson, Bobby Gray or Cameron Worrell could step in the dime package, which would allow Green to play some cornerback.

Johnson has the hands and ability to deliver a blow, but whether he'll be able to develop into a starter remains a question because of inconsistencies in his game.

Gray is still a hitter rather than an interceptor, which is not what Lovie Smith looks for in defensive backs.

Worrell is an undrafted free agent that has stuck on the roster the past two seasons because of hustle.

The team's first defensive selection in last month's draft was safety Chris Harris. The sixth-round pick out of Louisiana-Monroe had 14 interceptions in college, including 7 as a senior.

Despite coming from a small program, the Bears have had success with defensive backs out of Louisiana. Green, Tillman and Gray all came to Chicago via the Bayou state.

Former secondary coach Vance Bedford will be missed, after he took the defensive coordinator job at Oklahoma State. His replacement, Perry Fewell, worked with Smith in St. Louis and knows how to get the most out of the scheme.

The Bears have a good mix of youth and experience in the secondary. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera should be able to take some chances with blitzes because he can depend on the unit for solid one-on-one coverage.


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