Last Ditch of the Last Line of the Defense

There has been a lot of talk around here about getting pressure on the quarterback from the Defensive Tackle position, creating another formidable front line. I would like to make a counter proposal. I prefer drafting the safety position first and possibly more than once this year. I'm tired of ceding the center of the field and not giving the safety position its due.

What does a Safety do in football? This is a gross oversimplification, but generally safeties are the last line of defense. Think about that for a minute: the last line of defense. I looked the origin of the meaning up:

"On the last line of defense," 1715, attributed to William of Orange; if so, originally in a Dutch context. We have no space to enter into the detail of the heroic struggle maintained by the young stadtholder and his faithful Dutchmen; how they laid their country under water, and successfully kept the powerful invader at bay. Once the contest seemed utterly hopeless. William was advised to compromise the matter, and yield up Holland as the conquest of Louis XIV. "No," replied he; "I mean to die in the last ditch." A speech alone sufficient to render his memory immortal."

[Agnes Strickland, "Lives of the Queens of England," London, 1847]

It is a tremendously responsible position and one not to be undertaken lightly. The best safeties are students of the game, they study it constantly. They can read the positions and groupings of their opponent's team and determine tendencies from that positioning.They have to understand how oppossing teams try to camoflauge their intentions, they have to be able to change their own positions when an audible gets called. They have to disguise themselves sometimes, signaling one intention only to commit to another at the last moment. They're the special ops of the football world. They have to be able to do it all: stop everyone, understand everything and work together constantly.

There was a time when a quarterback on the opposing team threw the football and you didn't hope and pray; when you weren't an anxious ball of nervous energy, wondering if we could stop our opponent's air game.

Steltz and Conte do not make the caliber of quarterbacks we face on a regular basis flinch. It just doesn't happen. I want that doubt in the back of their mind, that "Hmmmm, maybe I shouldn't..."

There was a time when you would grin and say, "Yes! They're trying to air it out!" That was back when Mike Brown was on the team... And it seems like a long time ago, now, but our safeties and our secondary were a force. Our secondary inspired fear. They cultivated it. They put that fear in the other team and they used it to bring forth victories.

They have to be hungry for the ball, they have to need it. I want a safety who is a leader on the Chicago Bears, not just a talent. There is a leadership vacuum on this defense, I think, and it could be filled by a talented safety who produces.

Is there anyone in this draft like Mike Brown? Hell no. Do I hope I'm wrong and we end up drafting him? Hell Yes! Here's some decent Mike Brown tribute tapes. If you haven't seen them, go check out what a real safety looks like.

And here's what they say about the top safeties in this year's draft and I like what's being said about them:

1. HaHa Clinton-Dix

He's a leader, good hands, quick to react, secure tackler, doesn't shy from contact, well-coached, good angles.

2. Calvin Pryor

Pryor is the Punisher apparently. Physical, lights-out hitter. Aggressive tempo setter. Devastating.

3. HaHa Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor are the annointed ones. HaHa seems to be getting all the press, but Pryor is sometimes rated above him... It's a classic floor and ceiling comparison. I think Pryor has a higher floor, but a lower ceiling and the reverse is true of HaHa Clinto-Dix: he has a lower floor, but a higher ceiling. Here is an interesting article comparing the two:

4. I have heard the draft class drops off after HaHa Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor. But there are a couple of other intriguing prospects in the later rounds...

Jimmie Ward? Terrence Brooks? I don't buy the "he's too short", sounds like smoke and mirrors. But then, I went to NIU, so I'm a little biased.

Deone Bucannon? 114 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, one pass broken up? Yes please.

Ed Reynolds? Smart. He went to Stanford after all... Instincts, man, instincts.

Brock Vereen? He sticks to receiver's like glue.

Dezmen Southward? He's an athlete

This is going to sound weird, but with losing Major Wright to the Bucs and Chris Conte's surgery putting his return way past training camp... What do we have? Ryan Mundy? M.D. Jennings? Craig Steltz? This does not inspire confidence... and it is a result of a decade of dedicating nothing higher than a third round pick to the position. Brandon Hardin? Al Afalava? Yeesh...

I think we should draft two safeties.

Don't bother with the offense! Pick up either Pryor or Dix if available at pick 14 (and depending on which one of them is taken and who is available) then draft another safety in later rounds.

I know a lot of people are interested in Aaron Donald or Timmy Jernigan at Defensive Tackle and I agree it is totally a need. We got burned on the ground and we had trouble getting pressure. "Even after the top layers, the depth at the position is good with a mix of potential and low ceiling players." I understand the argument in favor of creating pressure up front, but I feel like no one has been pointing out the value of the safety positions.

Well, bookend a second round selection at Defensive Tackle with two safeties at first and third. This is what I would prefer: a safety that is dedicated to dying in the last ditch of the last line of defense. What do you guys think?

Front Line or Last Line? Something to think about with regards to

<em>This FanPost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member, and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.</em>

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