John Crist: You've got a new defensive backs coach this season in Jon Hoke. What's your relationship with him been like so far, and how are things different this year?
Kevin Payne: First of all, I just think he's a great teacher how he breaks things down fundamentally. Every coach has different ways of teaching. Just his points on how he develops the fundamentals to you and little techniques you work on. That's what we've basically been doing all offseason, just working hard and breaking down fundamentals. Just trying to get better at the small things that we can improve upon.
JC: Last year, you were forced to flip-flop back and forth between strong safety and free safety. During OTAs, it looks like you're lining up exclusively at strong safety. Have you found a home, and is that where you're comfortable?
KP: You never know. Like last year, I never knew I was going to play free safety. So I'm just trying to work hard at whatever position they put me at. If I'm at strong, I'm going to try to be the best strong safety. If I'm at free, I'm going to try to be the best free safety. Right now I'm at strong, so I'm trying to be the best strong safety and do what I can to help the team.
JC: Mike Brown is no longer one of the captains of this defense. Not only with the things he did on the field, but what's it been like so far off the field and in the locker room? Is there any way to replace a guy like that?
S Kevin Payne
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KP: It's hard to fill a role of somebody like Mike Brown. He's a great leader, and one person can't fill that role, so you're going to have to have two or three people stepping up. We've just got to come together as a secondary and try to fill that role that Mike Brown filled out there for so many years, but it's also an opportunity for some young guys to step up and make a statement.
KP: I never went from safety to corner. Whenever you make a transition, every position has their different techniques and assignments. So that's why it's kind of good to try to know what everybody's assignments [are], but it's always hard to make a transition. Those are great athletes, Corey and Danieal, so I think they did pretty good in making that transition. But I really can't tell you because I never made that transition.
JC: Corners don't necessarily need to communicate with each other because they're working on opposite sides of the field, but safeties work in unison on almost every play. How important is it for you to have complete confidence in what your partner is doing, no matter who it is?
KP: I think chemistry is everything. That's why all the guys have been here all offseason working hard together. You've got to have great chemistry to have a good defense. Just to know how a certain guy plays Cover 1, or how certain guys play a route – just that chemistry helps you out so much more. But to answer your question, I think it's very important for everyone on the defense to communicate. Not just the safeties or the corners. Everyone needs to know what's going on backside – if it's a tight split, if it's a wide split. I think that's very important. Like I said, that's why everybody's been here the whole offseason working hard, just building that chemistry together. That could make a difference this year.
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.