22 Starters in 22 Days: Chris Harris

In the final part of this series, we examine Chris Harris, who came out of nowhere to start 13 games at free safety as a rookie. However, after some struggles with the deep ball he will have to prove he's worthy of holding onto the top spot.

As a sixth round pick, Harris' goals were originally little more than to make the team. After locking down a roster spot, he quickly rose up the depth chart.

Following the Week One loss at Washington where Mike Green struggled mightily, Harris replaced him in the starting lineup and never looked back. Harris finished the season with 70 tackles, 3 interceptions, 8 pass break-ups, a sack and fumble recovery.

Still, there were moments where Harris left his cornerbacks out to dry. He had a tendency to get out of position on the deep ball, which led to long completions. The Bears are working with Harris on the fundamentals to cut down on the errors.

"He needs to work on things in the field as far as with his range," secondary coach Steven Wilks said of Harris. "Those are the things that we've been talking about working on, the eye discipline, seeing what's developing during the course of a play and being able to get a jump and break on the ball."

At six-foot, 205 pounds Harris brings a physical aspect to his game. He's earned a reputation as a hitter but at times looked as if he passed up opportunities to play the ball in order to put a big hit on an opponent. The team also asked him to drop a few pounds in the off-season to make him quicker.

Of the 11 starters returning on defense, Harris is the most likely to face serious face competition in training camp. Second round pick Danieal Manning is a raw prospect from Division II Abilene Christian, but has enough natural athletic ability to overcome his lack of experience at a high level.

Although Harris is likely to open the season as the starter, this year he could be the one pulled in favor of a younger player. Under Lovie Smith, the Bears have shown little hesitation to go with talent over experience. Harris could be replaced by Manning if opponents continue to use the deep ball to exploit the defense.

In just his second season, Harris still has room to grow. Over the long haul, his physical style of play could be better suited for strong safety. With questions about Mike Brown's health, Harris could ultimately pair with Manning to become a starting duo.

For now, the Bears will take similar production from Harris if it means fewer mistakes.


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