22 Starters in 22 Days: Nathan Vasher

Nathan Vasher has more interceptions than any other player in franchise history during his first two seasons in the NFL. However, is the Pro Bowl cornerback as good as his numbers would have you believe?

Dubbed the "interceptor" early in his rookie season, Vasher has lived up to the billing. He has 13 interceptions over his first 32 professional games. Mike Brown's 14 picks is the only higher total by an active player with the Bears and he's been in Chicago for six seasons.

Vasher's eight interceptions last season were second best in the NFC and tied for third in the NFL. He also added 56 tackles and tied for the team lead with 18 pass break-ups. His play earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl, an honor that hadn't been bestowed on a Bear cornerback since Donnell Woolford in 1993.

Since coming into the league as a fourth round pick in 2004, no player in the NFC has more interceptions than Vasher. Only Cincinnati Bengals CB Deltha O'Neal has more picks (14) over that time frame.

Vasher's experience as a punt returner at Texas also makes him a threat when he gets the balls in his hands. He's averaged 24.8 yards per interception return with two touchdowns.

At five-foot-10, 180-pounds Vasher is far from an intimidating physical presence on the field. Still, it's his supreme technique and instincts that have allowed him to become one of the best ball-hawking corners in the game.

The Bears focused heavily on the secondary this off-season, but it wasn't because of Vasher's play. He may be only the sure bet in the starting lineup when the season starts.

Still, as an undersized cornerback Vasher will continue to be tested. Despite a lack of blazing speed, he's been able to stay with some of the best receivers in the game.

Even with a staggering list of accomplishments in a short period of time, there has to be some wonder whether Vasher has already reached his full potential. Without elite athletic ability, he's been able to succeed because of solid fundamentals and football intelligence. Hard work can keep him at the top of his game, but there is some doubt about his long-term upside.

Obviously the Bears would take the kind of numbers Vasher has produced, but that will also come at a premium. All the Lance Briggs contract talk has covered up the fact that there are several other young players in line for a big payday.

Vasher will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2007. Giving Ricky Manning $21 million over five years sets the bar high for what Vasher will demand in the near future. At this point, it would be hard to argue Vasher's not worth the price tag.

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