Matt Forte doesn't break down again like he did toward the end of his rookie season, and Dunn can fill that role capably.
The knock on Dunn coming out of Florida State was that his 5-9, 180-pound frame wouldn't be able to handle the down-to-down pounding running backs are subjected to in the NFL, yet he's missed just 11 games in his 12-year career and only one since turning 29 years old – when most tailbacks start to run out of gas. While Dunn was a victim of the long-overdue youth movement down in Tampa Bay once new head coach Raheem Brock took the reigns this offseason, he was still quite productive in 2008 by averaging 4.2 yards per carry and catching 47 passes out of the backfield. Not only would his diminutive stature and open-field slipperiness be a nice complement to Forte, but he's a first-rate citizen off the field and will be a welcome addition to the locker room.
All the better, Dunn is also originally from the state of Louisiana, so he and Forte can trade gumbo recipes and make plans to meet up at Jazz Fest.Devin Hester can become a primary target in this league, and who better to teach Mr. Ridiculous about the finer points of running the entire route tree than Harrison.
Harrison isn't a 100-catch wideout anymore and has averaged no better than 12.4 yards per reception the last two seasons, but he is one of the best the NFL has ever seen at knowing how to get open and could be a wealth of information for the likes of Hester and second-year pass catcher Earl Bennett. Even in what everybody called a "down" year for the 13-year pro out of Syracuse, Harrison, still caught 60 passes for 636 yards and five TDs as the third option behind fellow receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark – those numbers are just about identical to what Hester produced this past year as the supposed No. 1. Even if he only put up 45-50 catches in 2009, that would still be more than the failed combo of Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd in '08.
Instead of waiting around to see if the slightly younger Torry Holt gets the release he's seeking from the Rams, jump on Harrison and watch the receiving corps get a noticeable shot in the arm from a credibility standpoint.Nick Roach, veteran Hunter Hillenmeyer and special teamer Jamar Williams will all be in the mix come training camp.
Since he had to name three different 'backers when talking about the potential third Musketeer alongside Brian Urlacher in the middle and Lance Briggs over on the weak side, that's a pretty good indication Smith doesn't have a lot of confidence in any of them. Like his former teammate Dunn, June was jettisoned by the Buccaneers despite his reputation as a quality player with a few good years left in him, even though his production has tailed off recently. June has played his entire career in the Cover 2, having lined up with the Colts from 2003-06 – he earned a ring in Super Bowl XLI, too – before a two-year stint in Tampa Bay.
While Hillenmeyer has never been very much of a playmaker and battled injuries most of 2008, both Roach and Williams appear to be better suited to play weak side – June played strong side next to Derrick Brooks and Barrett Ruud for the Bucs.Craig Steltz when asked recently about the current state of the free safety position, although he has some big shoes to fill now that the Mike Brown cord has been cut.
Brown has been the quarterback of the secondary and the emotional leader of the entire defense for quite some time, as the defensive backfield simply never looks the same when he's not back there doing his thing. Not only is Sharper quite familiar with the NFC North having started his career in Green Bay before moving on to Minnesota, but he also brings some of the same intangibles to the table Brown did and has found a way to continue being a difference maker despite diminishing physical ability. Sharper could be a calming influence for strong safety Kevin Payne – a Payne-Steltz duo, on the other hand, would be awfully inexperienced and somewhat lacking with regard to coverage skills.
Even though it would still be wise to look for a pure free safety in the first two rounds of the upcoming NFL Draft, Sharper can hold down the fort for a year or two and should fit in well with this veteran defensive unit.
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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