More so than the young wide receiving corps, the question mark for the Chicago Bears is the secondary. Jay Cutler will work with what he's given offensively and make them productive, but the corners and safeties have so much uncertainty surrounding them. Not necessarily because there isn't talent in the group, but because we haven't seen the talent in the group this off-season. Charles Tillman, Zackary Bowman, and Danieal Manning have all been hurt and look to be starters once healthy. I wonder if these three were 100% and playing up to their capabilities, would there still be the uneasiness in the air about the DB's?
Last year the Bears carried 10 defensive backs, five safeties and five corners. This season I see them going with the same numbers of DB's, just with a different allocation.
With Tillman and Bowman yet to return from their injuries and with Nathan Vasher struggling to regain his Pro Bowl form I think the Bears will go with six corners on the roster in '09. First the obvious 2009 corners; Tillman, Bowman, and Corey Graham. Graham has had a somewhat quiet preseason, but after his solid '08 campaign and since he hasn't done anything to hurt his chances at sticking, he'll be back. I'm not sure if the Graham to free safety experiment is over, but he's an option at corner, he's capable of playing the nickleback, and if the other corners ever get their health straightened out, he can go back to taking reps at FS.
Of the obvious cuts, you have to expect Rudy Burgess to be gone, along with Marcus Hamilton and Trumaine McBride. McBride had a rough game in Denver, and even though he looked capable in some spot starts the last couple years, it's all about ‘what have you done for me lately?' in the NFL. He needs a good game tonight against the Browns to give the coaches something to think about. I think the Bears are looking for a reason to cut him rather than a reason to keep him.
I think Woodny Turenne will be cut and brought back to the practice squad if he goes unclaimed. Yes, I know. Woodney has looked decent this preseason, so before his fan club pipes in, please realize he was finishing out games against some soon to be unemployment statistics and future UFL players. He has some size and skills that would be a welcome addition to the 2010 Bears. But let him hone his craft on the practice squad for a year.
Which brings it down to newly signed Roderick Hood, rookie D.J. Moore, and Vasher for the last three spots. Hood brings experience to the table, Moore has his draft status and potential behind him, and Vasher has the... big money contract? I'm rooting for Vasher to return to form, I really am, I'm just not sure if he will. I am expecting the Bears to give him the benefit of doubt and he'll be back this year. If McBride was looking more impressive so far, it'd be a much tougher call. The Cleveland game may be an important one for a couple of these corners.
So... If the Bears go with six corners, as I believe they will, that leaves four spots for the safeties. Manning, Kevin Payne, and rookie surprise Al Afalava will be on the opening day roster and Dahna Deleston most definitely will not. What to do with Josh Bullocks and Craig Steltz? Steltz was crammed down our throats as the FS starter all off-season, but now he's listed as #2 along with Bullocks. I think this evenings contest may go a long way in determining their fate. I do see a scenario where both make the final 53, (keeping only 3 TE's, or 3 RB's, or 2 QB's...) could open up a roster spot. I think I'd take Bullocks at this point because his experience is at free safety, but Steltz's draft status might keep save him.