A lot of praise gets thrown towards the Bears defensive line and linebackers, and its quite understandable considering some of those guys (Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, and Lance Briggs) could be future Hall of Famers. You can make a case that the secondary, specifically the safety position, was one of the main reasons why the defense rose back to one of the top-10 in the league in 2010. Fans had their concerns about Danieal Manning and Chris Harris being the last line of defense, but they ended up being a solid tandem. Manning ended up settling on a position at SS and winded up becoming the Bears best secondary player on the team. There was questions about whether Harris had the range to play the FS position, but his instincts and experience in the system proved valuable, as he had his best statistical season as a pro and helped raise Manning's game to another level. Despite the Safety position being a strength on the defense, it hasn't stop General Manager Jerry Angelo from addressing the position with this year's 3rd round draft pick Chris Conte, and last year's 3rd rounder Major Wright. There's a possibility that if a new CBA is reached, Daniel Manning might find a better offer with another club.
That's why today player spotlight series features possibly the Bears new starting SS Major Wright. Wright did an alright job rotating in and out with Harris and Manning, but is he ready to fulfill Angelo and Lovie Smith expectations of being a full time starter at one of the safety spots?
Who is Major Wright?
At 5-11 206 pounds, Wright was notoriously known as an athletic hard hitting safety that displayed very good instincts and range at Florida FS position. He's a liability if he's force to come down and cover the slot receiver which is why his best position in the NFL might be at SS. His ability to come down and the box and effectively make tackles on the RB, blitz the QB, or come down and cover the TE makes him almost a perfect match at SS.
Appeared in all 41 games in his three-year career at the University of Florida (2007-09), with 33 career starts at free safety... Collected 165 career tackles (111 solo), 10 PBUs, 4 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery... Added 8 INTs, returning them for 69 yards including 1 TD... Recovered a blocked field goal... National champion as a sophomore with the Gators.
JUNIOR: Appeared in all 14 games, making 12 starts at safety... Finished with 32 tackles (28 solos)...Posted 3 INTs and 2 PBUs... Recorded 4 solo tackles and 1 PBU in the Sugar Bowl win against Cincinnati...Tied for third among teammates after collecting 8 tackles (7 solo) in the SEC Championship versus Alabama... Pre-season all-SEC third-team selection.
SOPHOMORE: Started all 14 contests at free safety and was third on the team with 66 total tackles (36 solo)... Tied for second on the team with 4 INTs... Earned honorable mention all-sophomore recognition from College Football News... Collected 9 tackles and an INT in the BCS National Championship Game victory against Oklahoma... Recorded 4 tackles in the SEC Championship Game versus Alabama... Returned a blocked field goal 37 yards against Florida State... A member of the 2008 UF Football Leadership Committee.
FRESHMAN: Appeared in all 13 games at free safety (7 starts) and on special teams... Ranked third on the team and first among freshmen in total tackles with 67 (47 solo)... The 67 tackles were the fifth-most by any freshman in the SEC and his 47 solo stops were the second-highest total among freshmen in the SEC... Led the team and tied for first in the SEC in forced fumbles with 4, which were the most by a Florida player since Guss Scott had 5 in 2003 and the most by any Florida freshman since the statistic began being kept in 1982... Named to the coaches' freshman all-SEC and as a second-team freshman All-American by Rivals.com... Also garnered first-team All-American honors from CollegeFootballNews.com and the Sporting News' freshman All-American honorable mention... Played the Kentucky game with a cast on his hand due to a broken thumb... Selected to the SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll.
Realistic Expectations for Major Wright
Fans should expect Wright to be a heavy favorite to get one of the safety spots by the end of training camp. There's a reason why Wright was being rotated in much last season and it's because Angelo and Lovie want to desperately see Wright succeed. The most interesting question is who do Wright replace in the secondary if he's most certainly prime to be a starter next season. Do you bench arguably your best secondary player from last season Manning or do you replace Harris who's knowledge of the scheme is valuable for this defense? I honestly don't know, but what I do know is the Bears are very deep at the safety position with Wright, Manning, Harris, and the rookie Conte.
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