What a difference an off season makes...
Last year at this time the Chicago Bears had two young starting safeties returning that were hoping to build off solid 2012 campaigns. Did both Major Wright and Chris Conte regress at the exact same time or was it the poor front seven that doomed them last year?
I think the lack of a pass rush put more pressure on them to makes plays, then they started thinking too much, and when a football player is thinking more than reacting with confidence it leads to mistakes. They both had their fair share of errors in 2013, none bigger than the blown coverage from Conte against Green Bay, but neither were in a very good situation with all the injuries around them.
It wasn't just the pass rush troubles that affected them, the run defense in front of them was atrocious as well. Wright and Conte were second and third in tackles last season and that's never a good thing. If the Bears' safeties are 2-3 in tackles this year, that'll mean another dumpster fire took place on the defensive side of the ball in 2014.
Regardless, the Bears need better play from their back end this season.
So far it's only Ryan Mundy that has been consistently lining up with the ones at safety. For what it's worth, the Bears list him as a free safety, but the Mel Tucker system is similar to the Tampa 2 with the safeties being interchangeable.
Rookie Brock Vereen was getting some burn with the ones early in camp, but he's been replaced by Danny McCray the last couple of days. I'm pretty certain that both these guys are locks to make the final 53 man roster, Vereen because of his upside and McCray because of his special teams experience.
A good bet to make it
The aforementioned Chris Conte has to get back on the field and not only prove his shoulder is healthy, but prove he's 100% focused. He admitted he lost some confidence last year and that's not going to work in 2014. If he loses his starting job, he's still a relatively cheap and athletic player that could assist the special teams.
On the bubble
I think the only way Adrian Wilson makes the cut is if he wins a starting job. Backup defensive backs need to be active special teamers and I just don't see a 34 year old former Pro Bowler covering punts and kicks.
Craig Steltz is currently nursing an injury, so he'll need to get back soon and prove he's a better special teams option than the other bubble players.
Packer fans weren't all that impressed with M.D. Jennings' 2013 season, but he'll be in the mix for a spot as a backup and special teamer in Chicago.
Undrafted free agent Marcus Trice is an intriguing prospect. He's short (5'8") and stocky (193 pounds), but had a nose for the ball at North Texas. College Football Reference had him down for 5 interceptions, 9 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles, 4.5 tackles for loss including a sack, and 91 total tackles. The Bears list him at defensive back, so he may project to nickelback as well.
Two years ago the Bears went with five safeties and five corners on the final 53 man roster. In 2013 the split was four at safety with six at corner. How many safeties do you think the Bears carry this year and whom do you think makes it?