The Bears were rumored to be interested in Missouri's William Moore and Western Michigan's Louis Delmas, the two top safety prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft, but that plan of attack got scratched once Josh Bullocks was signed in free agency.
With Bullocks expected to start at free safety and third-year pro Kevin Payne moving back to his more natural home at strong safety, Chicago hopes to solve what has been a trouble spot for its defense in recent seasons – mostly because the departed Mike Brown had so much trouble staying healthy. A pair of Day-2 draft picks from this past April, fourth-rounder Craig Steltz and fifth-rounder Zack Bowman, are most likely to be the immediate backups at strong safety and free safety, respectively. Danieal Manning can also contribute at both positions, although he started to play well at the nickel back position this past year and the decision makers would like to keep him there.
But the Bears usually keep five safeties on the 53-man roster at the conclusion of training camp, so does the recently added Glenn Earl, a former Golden Domer as well as a Naperville North graduate, have any chance of making the team?
To help answer that question, Bear Report enlisted the help of Charlie Bernstein, who is the editor-in-chief of BattleRedNation.com on the Scout.com network.
Bernstein Says: He really hasn't played in a couple years due to a bad lisfranc injury. But when he did play, he was a hard-hitting, prototypical strong safety who struggled in pass coverage. He's a very good tackler, but he lacks instincts and he will bite on play action. Earl is not speedy or instinctual enough to be a star at the position, and with the further emphasis on passing, the need for a classic, play-in-the-box strong safety is fading. He can be a quality depth guy in Chicago if he can stay healthy enough. However, at his best, he wasn't nearly as good as Mike Brown. The Texans may have the worst safety tandem in football, and they weren't interested in bringing him back. That should speak volumes.
JC's Take: The Bears usually enter any campaign with nine defensive backs on the final roster, and right now Earl looks to be No. 10 at best.
As for the safeties, Payne and Bullocks are scheduled to be the starters, with Steltz and Bowman slated to back them up on the second unit. At corner, the starters will be Charles Tillman on the left side and either Nathan Vasher or Corey Graham on the right side. Trumaine McBride provides additional depth and a presence on special teams. Throw in Manning, who is listed as a safety but plays more of a third corner role these days, and that's nine DBs accounted for right there.
And even if the coaching staff finds room for a 10th body in the secondary, corner Marcus Hamilton was with the club last year and is also a known quantity on the coverage units.
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Insider Analysis: S Glenn Earl
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