DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 11: Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos is tackled by Chris Conte #47 of the Chicago Bears after getting a first down at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 11, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Here's a spoiler alert... I have one member of the Chicago Bears secondary on my 2012 Most Important Bears list. Originally it was Charles Tillman, but then I bumped him off because I think we all know the Bears will get a solid corner out of him. Tillman made his first Pro Bowl last year, and he is capable of making game changing plays. Then I had Tim Jennings on my list, because after being benched towards the tail end of 2011 I think he'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder. And I think all the newfangled statistical formulas that look at defensive back play show Jennings to be another solid corner. Both are good fit's for the Cover 2, and both will be OK in 2012. But the safety position has always been influx during the Lovie Smith regime, and they're hoping there can be stability with the defense's back end. Stability by way of 2nd year pro Chris Conte.
Conte flashed some of the traits the Bears need at safety during his rookie year of 14 games played with 9 starts. His closing speed and tackling are both good. He did have a tendency to play a little deep at times, but I'm not sure if that was by design, or if he was just a little nervous.
Chicago is good at disguising coverages, and they don't run as much Cover 2 as they used to. But they are still primarily a zone defense, and being in the right place at the right time is critical for the safeties. A blown coverage by them usually ends up with someone crossing the goal line.
If Conte were to falter, I'm not sure who next in line would be. The rookie, Brandon Hardin, was working at free safety in OTAs and minicamp, and they have veteran Craig Steltz who is capable of playing both safety spots. If Conte were to stay healthy, and take a jump in play, it'll go a long way towards solidifying their secondary.