Even though he is the best pure athlete on the 53-man roster and he possesses the size-and-speed combination coaches dream of for a free safety, Danieal Manning is just never going to live up to his potential.
Selected in the second round four years ago and showing a lot of promise as a rookie lining up next to Mike Brown, Manning will never be forgiven by some Bears fans for blowing an assignment that resulted in Reggie Wayne's 53-yard touchdown reception in Super Bowl XLI, which was the play that ultimately swung the game Indianapolis' direction once and for all. Ever since that mistake of borderline biblical proportions, the former Abilene Christian Wildcat has been jerked around from safety to corner to nickel and back again too many times to recall. While he has done well at times at nickel back and is an accomplished kick returner, he simply can't be trusted at the free safety position on a week-to-week basis.
All three safeties general manager Jerry Angelo has drafted the last three Aprils are better suited to play strong, from Kevin Payne to Craig Steltz to Al Afalava, meaning it's time to find a pure center fielder capable of being the last line of defense.
Scout.com has confirmed that LSU safety Harry Coleman had an official meeting with the Bears during preparations for Saturday's Senior Bowl in Mobile.
Nicknamed "Hitman" by his teammates on the bayou, Coleman started the last 25 games of his career with the Tigers and was honored as the program's most valuable player in 2009. The Baldwin, Louisiana, native was simply a one-man wrecking crew in a win over Auburn on Oct. 26, registering nine tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles to earn an SEC Defensive Player of the Week nod. Coleman actually made the move from strong safety to linebacker late in the spring before his senior season, but he projects as a safety at the next level.
The 6-2, 206-pound Coleman is currently Scout.com's No. 17 safety prospect for the 2010 NFL Draft.
JC's Take: Like his former LSU buddy Steltz, Coleman seems to make most of his plays down in the box and may not be comfortable in coverage away from the line of scrimmage.
The Chicago coaching staff – and even some of the safeties themselves – has said time and time again that there isn't much of a difference between strong and free in this scheme, but nothing could be further from the truth. When the Bears put eight defenders in the box to gang up on the run, which is the call from the coordinator about a third of the time, that leaves a single-high free safety to help on every potential deep throw from sideline to sideline. Manning has the athletic ability to be that guy but suffers too many mental lapses, while the Payne-Steltz-Afalava trio can't cover that much ground.
Although Coleman seems to have a future playing on Sunday, the Bears already have too many players in the mix offering the same limited skill set.
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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.
Prospect Watch: Senior Bowl S
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